Who is Watching You?
by Nicola Haw
Music, books, address, hometown, phone number, email, social clubs, jobs, education history, birth date, age, sexual orientation, interests, political affiliations, friends, schedules, location. Today social media knows more about you than your granny does.
We all remember those skinny vacuum salesmen waddling into our houses with their revolutionary products that promise to instantly change our lives. “Buy the Super-Suction 1999, Deluxe Edition and you’ll never go dusty again”. Just peachy!
And for some illogical reason if you aren’t going to buy the Super-Suction 1999, deluxe edition, at least fill in this detailed questionnaire that sucks up all the personal information about you in existance.
The salesmen would then use this personal information to plague you for the rest of your life with phone calls about everything from the new household detergents on the market to a new range of lingerie that your husband will simply “die for”. So much so that in your grave you will rue the day you ever said no his dramatic sales pitch and yes to the broom.
Unfortunately for your sanity, today the vacuum cleaner salesman doesn’t have to convince you to let him into your house. He doesn’t need to suck-up to you so you will share all your deepest darkest, dustiest secrets and personal information with him.
Today the vacuum cleaner salesmen comes in the form of a multi-million dollar corporation. Today he is Facebook.
Facebook has access to reams and reams of personal information on basically everyone.
In 2011 a 24 year old student from Vienna decided to request all the information about him that Facebook had. In Europe, if you request information Facebook is required to give it to you by law. The student ended up with details about him from Facebook that totalled over a thousand printed pages. More than enough information to write a book on himself.
Facebook has access to your private messages. Even after you delete these the company can still access them. When you upload photographs onto Facebook, using GPRS it can track exactly where you were and the exact time the photo was taken. It was found that 7 percent of Facebook users even went so far as to list their full street address on their Facebook profiles. Clever.
In addition if you are posting from mobile Facebook, your exact location can be tracked. Great for debt collectors and stalkers. Awkward for everyone else.
Facebook quizzes for example are one of the most effective ways in to gather behavioural information on people. And you thought you were just trying to figure out if you were more like Snooki or J-Woww right? Quite wrong.
Do you know of any marketing company that would pass up the chance to gain access to such detailed information about their clients? Probably not.
So does this mean we should abstain from Facebook?
In the words of Chris Rock, “not really”. It is just be more logical to change the way we are using this social media as to prevent other people from knowing too much about us. You wouldn’t want to arrive back from Mauritius to a burgled home thanks to your, “I’m so excited for two weeks in Mauritius” status update. Also translated as a “My house is about to be unoccupied for two weeks” status update.
At the very least attempt to adjust your privacy settings on Facebook. In a 2010 study it was recorded that 23 percent of active Facebook users weren't aware of the privacy settings on Facebook or didn't use them. Adjusting these may not save you from prying eyes but it will at least clog other Facebook users’ access to information about you.
And if all else fails more life stories and dirty laundry for your granny and less for Facebook.
This post first appeared on the student's MyDigitalLife blog.