Common questions that emerged as I told my friends about my blog – “aren’t you worried about your digital footprint”; “what if your opinions are in conflict with your future employer”; “do you really want to be so vulnerable to the world wide web” – all of which eventually led to further deep dives into one’s online presence, marketers mapping your every move, google, facebook and twitter selling your information for profit and of course, privacy in the virtual world.
I will be honest; this phenomenon is not on my mind 24/7, although I have started to wonder if it should be more often. I feel impervious to data and privacy breaches, or that it could be used against me, even after reading (pretty consistently these days) about multiple security breaches, stolen credit card information, identity theft, twitter prying and privacy hacks all over. I tried to ask myself why that is, and honestly I don’t know. It could be that the “good” stuff is out there more – big data, analytics, machine generated info graphics are extremely useful to enhance business productivity. It could be the idea that I think if I am at risk with my social media presence, so are all of my peers and data in many cases will be used in an aggregate form versus being disintegrated into a miniscule level to reach me. Or it could be paradoxes like the IBM / Twitter relationship, where IBM is tapping into the Twitter bank to retrieve relevant “user data” to help its enterprise clients make big data driven business decisions as part of its cloud based services, where interestingly as a client “your data only belongs to you”.
To a certain extent we created this hole for ourselves – no one asked us to open a Twitter or Facebook account, but I also don’t recall Twitter and Facebook ever promoting “hey, thanks for joining, but beware we will be using your information, sell to advertisers and make money. Don’t worry about it though because we will get you likes from your friends and who are we kidding, you know you care way more about that. Also we are only doing it to better your life experience – you are getting targeted ads only which are so much better than non-targeted ones, right?”
It sounds like me bitching but I am not exiting Twitter or Facebook anytime soon, and it seems I do value being in touch with my friends and knowing what they are upto in a jiffy more than I value being in my private shell (all about that opportunity cost theory). For the people who are spooked by online prying, do check out Ello (a counter Facebook social media platform where they promise your data will not be sold to marketers”) and Facebook’s newly launched “dark web platform” (you almost wonder if this was in response to Ello) where your data cannot be tracked if you log in through Tor, a free software enabling online anonymity and resisting censorship.
"The Internet isn't free. It just has an economy that makes no sense to capitalism." - Brad Shapcott