Social Media and Your Privacy

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The birth of Facebook has drastically changed social interaction and personal relationships globally. The world has never been brought closer before, since the introduction of Facebook. You have you dudes living thousands of kilometres away so close than ever. Through Facebook, social mobilization has become as easy and quick as ABC. Do you now understand why many corrupt and autocratic governments in Africa and beyond fear the influential and intimidating power of Facebook as a forceful and powerful agent of mobilisation? The positive impacts of Facebook are enormous in our social lives. But Facebook equally comes with privacy challenges. Ironically, these privacy problems have made corrupt leaders and institutions love Facebook and other social media as well. They use some social media – with security lapses at their disposal – to intrude on the privacy of the users.

Undoubtedly, apart from the financial aims, Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder and CEO of Facebook had good intentions and a dream to positively transform our lives, when he, together with his college roommates and fellow Harvard students Dustin Moskovitz Eduardo Saverin, Chris Hughes and Andrew McCollum, launched Facebook from his Harvard University dormitory room on February 4, 2004. Since the launch, Facebook has unstoppably expanded rapidly, reaching more than one billion users. The new technological revolution has positively changed the lives of many as well as created financial gains for a great number of people, who know how to utilise the power of social media to make money. Unfortunately, for every good intention, there are certain dubious individuals, who either want to capitalize on the success for their own selfish of fastidious ends. This is one of the biggest challenges facing Facebook at this moment, which might effectively shake the trust users have in the company.

Recently, Cambridge Analytica is accused of secretly collecting personal details of  50 million innocent users of Facebook, mainly in the USA, and making billions of dollars from the illegal use of the data. Apart from the financial gains from the use of the date, Cambridge Analytica, equally, allegedly, used the data to influence election results in favour of the highest bidder. Accepted that it is very sad that many innocent Facebook users have been nakedly exposed to malicious selfish aims of Cambridge Analytica, the action has equally seriously dented the good name of Facebook and created unnecessary mistrust amongst its users, who have long viewed the social media giant as a positive revolution in their lives. The revelation comes with financial costs for Facebook as well. Some hours after the revelations, Facebook lost billions of dollars in shares. With the investigation into the illegal use of the users’ personal details still going on, expect more losses – financially, socially and otherwise– and damages.

But while we sympathise with Facebook, the debate over the breach of privacy of internet users has suddenly been rejuvenated, more than ever – especially in the face of the ongoing Russian election meddling probe in the USA. Absolutely,  the conduct of Cambridge Analytica has generated questions regarding the ability of the social media to safely keep the date of the users. More than that, it raises other questions: Where is the border between keeping personal data of internet users and encroaching on their privacy? Who has power over what and to what extent is that power? How far can social media go in using the data of the users? Furthermore, how much influence and control do social media have the control of the date of the users against illegal use by other aggressive internet scavengers like Cambridge Analytica?

Within a period of 20 years of its existence, Google, is presently valued at more than $720bn, while Facebook at more than $475bn since its launch 14 years ago. Definitely, much of these billions of dollars come from advertisement, which in one way or another, use the details of internet users to reach the target audience.

To be fair to Facebook, the company has seriously taken steps to boost its users’ confidence including aggressive control of fake news. The last USA Presidential election, which brought President Donald Trump into the White House amidst allegations of fake news over his opponents, Hilary Clinton, coupled with the fabricated news, which gave birth to the Brexit are just an eye opener for the social media. In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the Facebook boss, Mr. Mark Zuckerberg has apologized to the public for the security breaches and assured the world that Facebook would cooperate with the authorities in their investigations, Zuckerberg equally promised to take aggressive steps towards protecting the data of the users. Those steps are indeed encouraging.

However, while many Facebook addicts have vowed not to abandon the social media oracle, other users are deeply worried that many corrupt and undemocratic agents could secretly use their data to not only make billions, leaving the users perpetually poor, they are also afraid that their date could equally be used to influence elections and recycle unwanted leaders into office. But that is not all. With the data in the hands of dictators, their opponents could pay a big intimidation price. It is left for Facebook to urgently take steps to seriously assure its users that users’ interests come before the interests of other media vultures who are bent on destroying the positive aspects of the social media – and definitely, the enviable Facebook legacy for that matter.