Let’s talk Privacy Matters! or is free content more ideal?

I was told once by a good friend, that the worst political positions are those in your HOA, local zoning and your local school board.  Why?  Because these positions make decisions best for a group that affect homes and children personally and individually.  You can never get it right for all.  The solutions lie somewhere in the middle and your best chance is to reach a decision by separating yourself from the emotion or the money to be gained (or lost).

Facebook’s latest issues bring together these same concerns.  We love the ability to communicate with family and friends, share our likes and dislikes with anything and everything – for free. The problems start when a security SocialMediaelement is implemented which leads the consumer to believe they have control of what people see.  Although that is true with the app itself, it is not true with how the company makes money and becomes profitable for the shareholders.  We have the choice to screen who sees our posts, can send us requests, can view our pictures.  But none of those screens hold true when it comes to our information being sold to a research company, marketing efforts, malicious organizations, etc.

So, is privacy paramount? Or would we prefer free access using the application?  Security is all about managing the balance between total lock down versus open freedom.  It is not a binary choice.  To lay it out on clearly, the value to the business rarely is the same as or clearly protect their customer’s values when it comes to the use of data.  The business wants to crunch data to place their products closer to us in every move we make.  And if they have data about us that is valuable to someone else, it can be further distributed at the right price.  We love when, coincidently, the product we were searching for on the web is now in every web site ad we see.  Most of the time we just typically turn a blind eye to these issues until something painful occurs.

Now Facebook is meeting with Congress, Apple is taking cheap shots at Facebook, Zuckerberg tries to drag in Amazon and worse than that we are entering an election season.  In my opinion, the government only gets involved when there is an opportunity to take a political shot at an opposing party, group or individual typically at a time that can cause the most damage.  Nothing will come out of this but a boat load of distractions and grandstanding, because the government also gains from data extraction and monitoring such as this.  Not only of people here in the U.S., but we often interfere in elections and other political events to try to steer them to our best interest.  All of this aside, is there a solution to be achieved?

It is difficult to take the right road going forward now that we are this far along.  It no longer matters if your birthday is in their database, all of the birthday wishes are documented.  The same goes for where you live, because of all of the local businesses you frequented and liked.  All of this information can be consumed using AI technologies and can track your steps not ever needing any profile data you entered.  We need to find a way to connect with each in a positive manner but not give out the keys to my personal security.  We have a social problem that needs to be fixed and technology alone cannot do this.  My blog doesn’t step over into this people problem, but I feel our solution will only get us part way there.

Facebook on Wednesday said that the data of up to 87 million users may have been improperly shared with a political consulting firm connected to President Trump during the 2016 election — a figure far higher than the estimate of 50 million that had been widely cited since the leak was reported last month. – NY Times, April 4, 2018

 My question is how many other companies purchased or gathered the same information to use in other ways?  Is Facebook saying this is was the single mis-use of their trust with their customers?

Cambridge paid to acquire the personal information through an outside researcher who, Facebook says, claimed to be collecting it for academic purposes………Facebook verified the leak and — without publicly acknowledging it — sought to secure the information, efforts that continued as recently as August 2016. That month, lawyers for the social network reached out to Cambridge Analytica contractors. “This data was obtained and used without permission,” said a letter that was obtained by the Times. “It cannot be used legitimately in the future and must be deleted immediately.”- NY Times, March 17, 2018

Did Facebook send a few attorney letters and assumed all would be safe?  As intelligent as they are all are over there, I cannot believe this to be the case.  It became, how can we hide this so no one finds out.

“We could’ve done this two and a half years ago,” Sandberg admitted. “We thought the data had been deleted and we should have checked. They gave us assurances and it wasn’t until other people told us it wasn’t true … We had legal assurances from them that they deleted it. What we didn’t do is the next step of an audit and we’re trying to do that now” – Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO on NBC’s TODAY show April 6, 2018

In the world of compliance, there is no way they simply forgot to do this.  It would be interesting to know how many meetings this was brought up and tabled, someone was hushed, how quickly it became known to not bring this up again.  I have read some reports (not confirmed as accurate) that Mrs. Sandberg stated if given the opportunity to sell to a business such as Cambridge would do it again.

Still seeking a solution.

I have a hard time balancing where the line is drawn on what products such as Facebook can gather from me when they offer me so many opportunities to connect, share for free.  There must be a line, but they are business, often criticized for not making a profit.  Now as the product evolves so does much of our breadcrumbs and posted data and pictures.  How can we suddenly cry foul?  You cannot turn a blind eye to these things for so long then blame them for taking us too far. In their efforts to fight fake accounts, they need to verify each account holder deeper than before.  Where can we draw lines at what can be sold? Facebook users, we share responsibility with Facebook for everyone’s benefit (and protection). We’ve developed our lives around this free platform, never asking why we were getting so much value for free. I’m not mad at Facebook for making money. I am mad at Facebook for letting things get out of hand. A responsible platform would look at all of these fields being tracked and block those that are considered personally identifiable (PII) and never allow those to be sold or traded with advertisers.  As an example, you can include age, but not my birthday.  You can include my state, but nothing more local than that.  You should also parade this decision and business model around so that everyone can get comfortable with what is shared and how you are keeping this service free to me.

What are your thoughts on this subject?  What level ownership should Facebook take in this?   Does government involvement help or hinder?

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