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The dark side of social media platforms

by Alissa Muller April 3, 2018
The dark side of social media platforms

The recent Facebook scandal highlights the ways our privacy doesn’t exist online

The hashtag #DeleteFacebook was trending on social media last week, raising awareness of how much private information the platform knows about its users. It began when the Observer reported that the private data of more than 50 million Facebook users was obtained by Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm. The data was used during the 2016 American presidential elections to profile voters, predict their behaviours and target them with personalized political advertisements. Similar tactics were used for the Leave campaign leading up to the Brexit vote, reported the Observer.

According to Global News, Cambridge Analytica worked for U.S. senator Ted Cruz’s campaign as well as Donald Trump’s campaign. Christopher Wylie, the whistleblower, told the Observer the firm acquired data and used a software system to target specific Facebook users’ “inner demons.” On top of that, Global News reported that Facebook has since stated there is proof Cambridge Analytica hasn’t deleted the data used during those political campaigns, which is problematic. Why are they still holding on to that information?

It’s not surprising that Facebook’s response is trying to draw attention away from the platform itself. Nor is it surprising that Facebook was involved in this type of scandal to begin with. As Facebook reiterates its commitment to privacy, users need to be smart and stop burying their heads in the sand. Everyday, I witness users sharing their most personal thoughts and details about their life on Facebook. People need to realize just how accessible Facebook is to strangers and how privacy settings only do so much in the age of big data. How can users be upset about this situation if they are basically an open-book on Facebook?

Ever since I’ve had access to the internet, my parents always told me to be careful about what I post on social media. We live in a technological era where it’s easy to go on a computer and find someone’s personal information. Users must always be aware of the dark side of social media platforms like Facebook.

Facebook is a double-edged sword. It allows people to connect with whomever they like, but it also makes their personal life publicly available. It’s hard to ignore that social media, specifically Facebook, has a creepy reputation of knowing its users activities.

I believe Facebook needs to strengthen its privacy settings to gain back the trust of its users. Third parties like Cambridge Analytica should not be able to obtain data—especially without the users’ permission or knowledge. Nonetheless, private information will always be more easily accessible on the internet, and I believe society will have to deal with these kinds of problems more frequently. Everything about a person’s life can be found on the internet, which has become an extension of the individual.

People’s entire lives are plastered across the online world. But even knowing the dark side of social media, I will not delete Facebook. I am aware of the privacy risks, but to me, the perks surpass the downsides. Of course, I always think twice before posting or liking anything on Facebook, and I encourage everyone to do the same.

I think the hashtag #DeleteFacebook is legitimate for everyone who felt betrayed by the platform. I understand why these users are angry. People’s Facebook profile data had been stolen to fuel political agendas without their permission, which is just plain wrong.

Even though Facebook is to blame for lacking safeguards to protect user data, these users have a duty to be informed about what happens when they publish information online and agree to use a website. It’s important to not blindly trust Facebook or other social media platforms. I take it upon myself to make smart decisions and be critical about how I interact with my Facebook feed—everyone should do the same.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin

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