We’ve all been following the back and forth about the ethics of Facebook and sanctity of the data they collect. If you’re like me, your response has probably been somewhat ambivalent—while I feel I have a minor stake in the issue, I’ll leave the solution to the geeks who are probably smarter than I am. Today I changed my mind. It happened while I was reading the accounts of Mark Zuckerberg’s well-rehearsed testimony to the United States Congress; I began to see the light.
It’s very rare that I post anything about my personal life on Facebook. I use it primarily as a platform to co-post my blog, BOOMERBROADcast.net, or perhaps share something about a particular social cause that I feel strongly about, like gun control or animal welfare. Otherwise you’ll see no pictures of me, my family, my lunch (except for that one time at Five Guys) or my vacations. That’s personal and anything along those lines that I care to share with specific friends, I feel more comfortable doing via email which has a greater level of privacy. I really don’t want the world knowing when I’m away from my home, on vacation or what my friends and grandchildren are up to—that’s their business to share as they wish.
I do, however, really enjoy following certain general information Facebook postings like the one about my hometown which features all sorts of historical photographs of days-gone-by. Wonderful memories. I also like to follow certain baby boomer fashion blogs and specific interest groups. Facebook definitely provides an amazing and wonderful service of filling a need but in the current climate an immense degree of discretion is required because we have no idea how our data is being mined and manipulated.
The recent American election tampering is not an anomaly; it’s the way of the world. I once ordered a black cardigan on-line through Amazon (another stalkable database) and now I’m forever inundated with ads and announcements of sales of sweaters. I’m a fan of on-line shopping; I just don’t like my preferences being shared without my permission so I spend a lot of time clicking on “Unsubscribe”. Sharing the fact I love Five Guys’ fries may seem innocuous but it could land me on some unethical mailing list or demographic study that I have no control over and did not consent to.
The way I see it, information that we post on Facebook should be treated the same way banks manage our personal account information. It should be private, sacred and inaccessible to anyone we do not wish to share the information with. Despite its so-called privacy settings, that’s currently not the reality. I wouldn’t want my bank selling details of my Visa purchases to interested third-parties for marketing purposes, and the way Facebook is currently set up, that’s exactly what they’re doing. Facebook should be our safe repository for personal information but it’s not and that’s just plain scary.
I’m no longer ambivalent about Facebook, Amazon, Google and other on-line giants. Mark Zuckerberg and his gang have sold us down the road and made personal fortunes doing it. It is my strong contention that whatever we post on Facebook and other sites should remain in the vault unless they have my specific permission to do otherwise. Their business of making money by selling our personal data is just wrong and should be illegal. They’re a data bank for proprietary information and its contents should be treated accordingly—as personal and private.
Banks, television and radio are governed by strict federal regulations and codes of conduct. Giant media platforms like Facebook, Google and Amazon should be as well. Citizens are entitled to privacy and the law should guarantee that basic right. It’s time for some accountability and oversight. They’ve abused our trust.