The Facebook Data Scandal is Just the Tip of a Far More Terrible Iceberg

Recently, the Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared in front of a US lawmakers, and insisted that users have enough control over their data. What utter nonsense.

This isn’t the first time that Social Media has been scrutinised due to the platform’s worrying track record over privacy, and Zuckerberg’s insistence here seems utterly devolved from any sense of reality. After all, isn’t the very reason he was appearing in front of US senators because it had been shown that user’s data was not sufficiently under control?

Why are things getting worse, rather than better?

We cannot pretend this is a sudden problem that has sneaked up on us, the first time social media has been shown to be untrustworthy. We seem to have a handful of scandals annually about user data being misused in some form or another. This simply seems to be the tip of it.

We cannot then also pretend its been hidden from view. After all, I recall headlines from during Obama’s presidential race proclaiming political tailoring – that is social media assessing your political views and recommending content accordingly – as the future of campaigning.

The scandal over Cambridge Analytica is simply another branch climbed of the tree we’ve been going up since the explosion of social media, and there seems to be little sign we are going to attempt to descend.

Not that I wish to phrase this as an assault on social media in general, since I believe that, when used neutrally, it can be a good platform for interaction. The reality we are continually being presented with is that, for far too many people, social media is a tool with which to manipulate.

The worst part is, most seem aware of it, but apathetic. How many jokes and memes can you see online joking about Zuckerberg reading Facebook users’ personal data? I’ve seen a plethora of them, and I get the sense of grim acceptance of this state of affairs.

Many seem to believe that there is little that can be done.

And watching the hearing Zuckerberg attended last night, it was hard for me not to see where it was coming from. The best that the US Government, supposedly one of the most powerful in the world, could offer in challenge of Zuckerberg were Senators that sounded like they had only just found out that ‘WWW’ stood for world wide web.

In fact, very little of substance seems to have been achieved at all, at one point Zuckerberg even outright stated that his ‘team’ would answer a question that was offered, rather than himself. Not only was that very suspicious, but incredibly unbecoming of the situation.

It seems that this will simply blow itself away, and within a few months it’ll have returned to business as usual as the scandal retreats into memory, as many others have, with little real change to the industry.

Data will likely continued to be mishandled, and used to create propaganda, censor views and tailor products in an unethical sense.

If this continues, where will we be 20 years down the line? Forgive me if I sound dramatic, but we will be in a situation where companies such as Facebook will have access to years of your data, such as posts and personal messages, and they will have it for nearly an entire generation.

They say that information is power, and it appears that we will be proving that theory in the coming decades very literally, as we hand these companies more information about more people than has possibly ever been held by a company or individual in the past.

I am not a conspiracy theorist, before I am accused of being one, and am merely marking out the trend we have seen, and has been illustrated recently. It should be a huge warning to many to start to be concerned about exactly how much data is being handed to these companies, and whether we are truly holding them to account over their actions in regards to that data.

A hack is one thing for instance, that was a forceful entry, which can be used to steal data from the company. Handing data over to other agencies is something else entirely, and I am not convinced that the latter doesn’t take place, along with a variety of other misuses.

The fact the industry is so unwilling to truly discuss the issue should be evidence enough to be suspicious.

So, we need to become more vocal about this, because the longer we sit back and do nothing, the more and more difficult this problem will be to fix.


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