Social networks are great, aren’t they? They let you share your thoughts on Life, The Universe, and Everything with, well…everyone and everything in the Universe, really.
You can tell everybody what you ate for breakfast! You can let your friends know how awesome (or terrible) that new cafe that opened downtown is! You can tell advertisers and marketing agencies the best way to sell you their product based on your age, gender, and location!
Yeah. The era of social media, the era of freely and readily accessible information is a double-edged sword.
Let’s have a show of hands. Who among you actually bothered to read Facebook’s privacy policies before signing up for an account? Who’s actually looked through Google’s new Terms of Service before hopping on to Google +? Somebody? Anybody?
One almost wonders if said documents are purposefully made obtuse, if they’re intentionally made long and dry, so that fewer people will read them. So that most people will simply click “agree” without fully understanding what they’re agreeing to. Then again, we do live in a pretty litigious society – it’s equally likely that they’re just trying to cover their own bases.
Some of you are probably wondering where I’m going with this. As with all of my pieces, I actually do have a point. I’ve just got a rather roundabout way of expressing it.
The truth is that Online Privacy is dead. Unless you’re willing to forego the use of services like Gmail, unless you’re willing to cut yourself off from Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr; someone, somewhere, has your information. And even if you falsify your info, even if you include a false name, and a false birth date, even if you go online with a fake identity, they’ve other ways of knowing who you are. Unless you go to a great deal of trouble to prevent people from tracking you…
Someone can, and probably will.
It’s why I always laugh about people lauding Facebook’s new privacy policies. They’re designed to protect users from other users, but not from Facebook’s own staff, who are likely gathering data about the people who use their website even as we speak. They’re selling photos. They’re selling thoughts and ideas. They’re selling information. And before you start going on about how they don’t have your permission….they do.
You gave your permission when you signed up for an account.
To be fair, while companies like Google and Facebook are certainly collecting and hoarding this information, they’re not doing anything strictly illegal with it. Advertising Agencies and Marketing Firms might be a tad sleazy, but they’re not going to abuse the data they’re given, in most cases. They’ll just profit from it – legally.
My purpose here is to inform everyone. I don’t expect you to all become Internet hermits, nor do I believe some sort of revolution is to occur. I just want more people to understand what they’re actually agreeing to when they claim to have read the ToS, and I want more folks to realize that, when it comes to the Internet, virtually no one is truly anonymous.
Image Credits: [Ricardo Bueno]
The PCMech.com weekly newsletter has been running strong for over 8 years. Sign up to get tech news, updates and exclusive content - right in your inbox. Also get (several) free gifts.