A Massive Blow to Facebook

Our own safety online is becoming less attainable then ever before due to the amount of information online that can be easily stolen. By the touch of a button, a user of a social media platform can get their personal information in the hands of someone that is not trusted. Facebook is currently under fire by this, and our writer Brett Schultz can help you keep your information safe.

Facebook users were used.  It was in the EULA.  Now there’s lawsuits.

What happened? 

According to Statista, the closing of 2017 marked Facebook hitting 2.2 billion users.  Fifty million American users completed surveys that were used in a personality quiz app developed by a Cambridge University researcher, Alksandr Kogan.  A few years later, Kogan passed the information to Cambridge Analytica, which claimed — and now denies — using the data to create political ads for President Trump’s 2016 election.  For whom it created the ads for is uncertain.  Why Facebook didn’t enforce their own privacy policies and have stronger Minimal Agreements in place to prevent this is unclear.  Many argue that Facebook had absolutely no control over the shared user data.  Was Facebook involved with the Trump campaign or the Russians?  But one thing is certain:  This should have never happened.

Is it the user’s fault for not reading the fine print?

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Picture from Family Guy

Facebook grants access to user social and analytical charts as well as user data to thousands of third-parties and researchers (most researchers, however, do have good intentions) but their policing is very poor.  Social media users have a common misconception that their profile is their property, but rather, it’s the opposite.  Users are just that:  users, not owners.  Users are using the service as a tool and do not own it, regardless of the data they may enter.  By using a company service such as Facebook, users are agreeing they acknowledge any terms and conditions and that the data on their profile and collected on their activity becomes the property of the company.  How much of the data or specific types of information such as age, pictures, or posts may be owned by the user; it really depends on what the fine print says.

The agreements are usually a small check box on the sign-up page that many people click “I agree” without reading.  You can find the information in account settings or just by searching it, and if you’d read it — there’s some pretty chilling stuff.  Data may be sold or used for research purposes.  The exact details vary on each social media type, but carefully reading the Terms and Conditions is never a bad idea.  Some companies even pay users who read them and follow the instructions to claim their compensation.  These are rare cases, but can usually be found buried in the contract under “Special Consideration” or “Compensation” sections that may compensate users who take the time to read the document.  Compensation can be anywhere from free services and software to cash.  Regardless if there’s a chance of earning something out of reading them, it is extremely important that users read the End User License Agreement (EULA) and Terms and Conditions so they are aware of things like data sharing and marketing.  As a rule – you wouldn’t sign a paper without reading it, even if someone told you to – you read it and then sign it if you agree to what is stated.  The same principle applies for online signatures.  Some companies have “Disclaimers” that you automatically agree to just be being on the web page, to legally protect them from Errors and Omissions and other legal scenarios.

Lawsuits

The first of possibly lawsuits has been filed, seeking damages over Facebook’s protection of user data — such as the filing of a claim by a concerned Maryland resident – will likely become a class action lawsuit that every Facebook user should have an interest in.  The Maryland lawsuit claims that Facebook’s data collection violated its own privacy policy and shortly after, the user noticed an increase in political messaging on her account was an attempt to influence her vote.  As many as 50 million users have experienced the same influencing.  Punitive damages are also being sought in the lawsuit.

What should users do?

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The most obvious choice is making the decision to delete Facebook as the WhatsApp co-founder, Brian Acton, is urging users to do.Or deactivate it until things clear up.  If deactivating isn’t happening, you can minimize the amount of personal data Facebook collects by taking these four steps . First, turn off location services.  Second, unlink questionable third-party apps.  Third, limit sharing settings.  Four, remove personal info and restrict ad preferences.

Social Media Safety

In addition to reading the EULA and Terms and Conditions, it is a good idea to always question yourself the ramifications of an action.  Will this affect other people?  Will this open a liability or possible legal consequence?  Will this hurt my chances of getting a job?  Does posting my location or mentioning a local event put me in an unsafe position for predators and stalking?  From comments, likes, and posts to tagged pictures, these are now things hiring managers are looking at to narrow down candidates before moving your resume to the “keep pile” or “shred pile.” In other words, social media is everywhere.  Being safe and making sure you are aware of what data you enter, and what happens to that data, is the users responsibility.

It’s Time to Act

Consumer Reports is calling on Facebook to take a first step of immediately notifying everyone who had their data scraped and sold by this company.

Sign their petition now to call on Facebook to notify users if their private data were compromised.

 

 

 



Categories: Technology

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