The Independent

Social media gains access to personal information

Robert Kukla, Writer

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Prepare yourself to have your mind blown: Did you know that when logging into Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat or other social media apps, that your personal information can be sold to private researchers at any time without your knowledge? I didn’t until I started reading about the Facebook scandal and Mark Zuckerberg’s recent testimony in front of Congress.

Earlier this month, Zuckerberg testified about Facebook’s involvement in the Cambridge Analytica (CA) scandal. CA is the research company who is believed to have been used by the Trump presidential campaign to target potential voters and obtain personal data from their Facebook account using an online quiz.

According to Business Insider, no one knows exactly what kind of data was obtained, however, it is predicted that CA gained access to people’s date of birth, subscriptions and almost everything that was on their profiles.

Facebook has been under investigation because through the use of this quiz, which was developed by researcher Richard Korben, they were able to use certain application program interface (API) loopholes around Facebook policy so that CA didn’t need users permission to obtain this information and furthermore, they were able to gain access to all your friends information as well.

The reason this is problematic isn’t that of a company wanting to conduct research.

It’s a problem because they were gathering personal data without users being aware and from their friend list as well. This no longer becomes a topic of research, it becomes a topic of stealing one’s personal information without consent.

Senators proposed regulating the companies data collection process and suggested requiring that the company have user’s permission before obtaining their personal data. According to another article in the New York Times, Zuckerberg remained “demure and he did not express support for any type of regulation.”

During Zuckerberg’s testimony, he remained stoic and unresponsive when answering questions, making him look like he had no remorse for this breach of trust.

What I feel this boils down to is being careful with what we do on social media because, in light of this scandal, we now are aware that our information can be taken without our knowledge at any time.

I do feel some responsibility falls on the users to be more aware but a big portion of it should fall on these social media companies to be more protective of our personal data.

Zuckerberg, however, did admit that the company didn’t do enough to prevent this from happening. In an article discussing the testimony from The Guardian, Zuckerberg is quoted saying, “When we heard back from Cambridge Analytica that they had told us that they weren’t using the data and deleted it, we considered it a closed case. In retrospect, that was clearly a mistake. We shouldn’t have taken their word for it”.

This just shows, to me, that Facebook didn’t really do enough to protect its users.

What they need to do is make a change to their API that requires a users consent for data to be obtained whenever they do an activity that could give a company access to their information, such as a quiz or survey or even clicking on an advertisement. It might feel like a hassle to some users, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

There is no reason why a person’s private information should be used without their knowledge.

This topic has been floating around for years now, but now that Zuckerberg had to testify in front of Congress, it really opens our eyes to the reality of how social media uses our information.

From now on every time I log into any of my social media accounts I will be more aware of what type of information I am allowing access to, and I recommend others do the same.

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