THE BLOG

Is Your Privacy Up For Sale?

06/09/2016 11:20 | Updated 06 September 2016

Social Media channels are a remarkable cultural phenomenon that has blossomed in our era. Every single social media platform is apparently making it easier for us to connect with other people and share information on a global scale. However, almost none of them tell us at what cost!

The pay to play game

Owners of Social Media platforms tend to convince us that we share information willingly. Is it really true? To their (owners of Social Media platforms), it is partly true! However, if we dig deep and deeper, we'd realise something that we don't want to admit! Most Social Media platforms tend to take advantage of our very human trait of gregariousness! Simply, because they treat us as products for some businesses to buy. We're being sold to marketers around the world, whom won't share their own personal information with anyone online!

Sadly some marketers have been acting like hypocrites and brought a bad name to the profession and somehow ignored the true purpose of Social Media.

Just a tip of the Social Media iceberg

We reveal lots of personal information on Social Media channels, sometimes without realising the privacy and security risks arising from such actions. The European Commission data protection legislation is a means for protecting social media users against the unlawful processing of their personal information, although a number of problems arise regarding its applicability - and this is probably due to different legal frameworks and cultures.

At the end of the day most of Social Media platforms are based in the US and they follow the US Federal Law. As you can imagine dealing with law is quite complicated and it takes a lot of time and of course money to adjust and readjust things in different countries. The next big challenge is culture and I'm sure you lot know the significant role of culture in whatever we do.

For example, Facebook uses the State of California's laws as their applicable law in their general terms and conditions and aggregates huge amounts of data about it's users from both inside the Facebook network, which we assume is shared willingly) and from external sources (which we probably have agreed to by accepting the Ts&Cs. Check out 98 personal data points, so far known to us, that Facebook uses to make the most out of our personal data. Quite shocking!

Social Media channels are used at global level as a virtual place where people interact online, discuss, exchange photos or music or share their experience. The fast development of this type of communication gave rise to certain concerns towards the safety of using the Internet for the disclosure of personal data.

Due to the fact that the information posted on Social Media channels becomes accessible to the public, we've got to pay extra attention to the information that we disclose about us. Becoming known to a large number of people is a risk to our privacy or even physical safety.

The legal and legislators' standpoint

Georgeta Basarabescu (President of The National Supervisory Authority) stresses that Social Media platforms should collect and process sensitive data, concerning the racial or ethnic origin, political, religious, philosophical beliefs, trade-union allegiance or personal data regarding state of health or sex life.

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Data protection is mostly a legal and liability issue to Internet and Social Media providers. When it comes to your rights in the Internet world, including Social Media, things can be quite complicated.

While we enjoy the aspects that allow us to share content on Social Media, we must be diligent about how and with whom our data is shared without our knowledge. For example, after you've read an article online, you often have the option to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, etc.

Websites that embed social plug-ins have a 3rd party connection to the social network offering the plug-ins. Facebook "Like" buttons integrated as a graphic on these sites download data from the website's server every time that site is visited. Facebook then has the ability to collect IP addresses and our personal data from websites with Facebook plug-in integration.

A possible way forward

European Data Protection Commissioners are asking for better information about how users' data is used in third party apps, improved transparency concerning data for advertising purposes, and increased control for users over their personal data. Information is considered to be personal data if it can be connected and linked to a certain and specifically identifiable person.

This is simply because privacy is personal and global organisations, Social Media platforms, can't deal with it on their own at a global scale. This requires local and regional legistation. In order to help this process every business must own a Media House. Simply because, legislators won't have to spend a long time investigating to locate the elephant in the room and businesses operate more efficiently; while people will be more confident about their personal data.

So what are the 'protections' that we hear about regarding our personal data? It seems that the providers' Ts&Cs is mainly concerned with their rights to have access to and share our data for the purposes of enhancing their value. While businesses are required to provide us with privacy statements, do they actually protect our privacy? Do we pay enough attention to such statements to make and keep businesses accountable? Are businesses totally transparent when it comes to informing people?

Isn't the aforementioned connected to changes to our attitude and the way our data and privacy is perceived by the legislators as well as businesses?

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