There are lots of folks decrying the Facebook “breach”, where a third party company abused the terms of service and leeched a bunch of data to the seemingly shady Cambridge Analytica. I love how people are referring to this as “their private data being stolen”. IT’S NOT YOUR DATA.
Well, at least not in the United States. In the US, when you give your private data to a company, it’s no longer private with the exception of healthcare data (HIPAA), children’s data (COPPA), and some credit data (FACTA). So, when you logged into Facebook and told them all the things you like, you gave them that data.
The true deception here is Facebook’s “privacy” setting. It gives you the false pretense that it’s your data to decide what you want to do with it. Google, Microsoft, Apple, just about everyone has created this false pretense, and we all gleefully ignore that there are no legal protections in the United States about this so-called private data.
I have an easy solution! Turn off all the privacy settings. Set everything to public. Don’t fool yourself into a false sense of privacy. If you want to be private, don’t post it on social media.
You should think of three people before sharing something online: your mother, your boss, and your kid. If any of those three people shouldn’t see it, then it shouldn’t be posted.
I’m not saying that online privacy doesn’t exist. The US does protect private information that is meant to be private from one party to an another and in other situations covered by a patchwork of laws.
I’m also not saying that online privacy shouldn’t exist. I consider myself a privacy advocate. All the actions we take online leave a digital trail. Facebook and others are notorious for tracking as much as that as possible. I think there are great dangers when insurance firms and financial firms use social media tracking data to make risk-based decisions. What about our offline activities? If a firm is using license plate scanners to build marketable data, where are our privacy rights then?
Worried about Facebook and other social media sites tracking you? I highly recommend Privacy Badger from Electronic Frontier’s Foundation.
If we want to change the way we treat data, we have to honest with ourselves about what is real privacy protection, and what makes us feel safe. Social media sites make money off data you provide them. Other companies and even governments are using that data. Use social media with eyes wide open.
Once you accept the truth, then you have the power to decide what to share, and what to keep private.