Social media is ubiquitous these days. It’s crept into every aspect of our lives. We have digital watches that alert us to social media notifications, and Twitter and Facebook posts are even being used as sources in news reports.
But in the explosion of the social media phenomenon, some worrying cracks have started to appear in what was once considered a tool for social good.
Namely data privacy. Thanks to the wealth of technology platforms available, and our penchant for sharing intimate details about our lives via social media, we provide the big technology companies with a buffet of our most private information. And while
these platforms are tended to be secure, leaks emerge. Cracks in code, holes in security processes, which lead to our personal data being compromised.
The meticulous, constant, and insidious harvesting of our data, private or otherwise, allows companies to create accurate personal histories of us, and use this to target advertising to our needs and in more recent times use it for more nefarious acts
(swing elections, incite hate, steal our identities).
But as with all radical changes in the world, human nature begins to fight back. Recently, a shift has begun to appear in consumer sentiment towards the big technology companies who profit from our data. The public is becoming more aware of their rights
to privacy and seeking out digital applications and networks that don’t track or profit from their information.
This privacy counterculture is going to fundamentally change the future digital landscape.
Disrupting the Golden Age of Social Media
For a long time, we were in the Golden Age of Social Media. The tech giants that controlled these platforms could seemingly do nothing wrong.
But the public became aware that these companies were using our data to profit. The Cambridge Analytica scandal catapulted Facebook’s data security into a harsh worldwide spotlight, with severe ramifications.
And it wasn’t just our data. People began to realise that the technology behind these platforms wasn’t acting in our best interest, either.
Facebook’s algorithm was raked over the coals for allowing skewed, fake news stories to proliferate. The March 2018 Google data breach, which potentially exposed the private information of up to 500,000 Google Plus users, tarnished Google’s
reputation and resulted in the shutting down of Google Plus for good.
The world is fighting back
As the media reports the seemingly constant stream of data misuse (most recently FaceApp) and the manipulation of public opinion through
fake news, a groundswell of negative sentiment from the public, passionate activists, and journalists is starting to spill over into action against the tech giants.
This backlash is beginning to drive changes in policy and scrutiny from numerous governments from around the world.
French Parliament recently passed a bill that included a law requiring tech companies like Google and Facebook to remove content that the French government deemed to be ‘hate speech’. If the content doesn’t get removed within a 24-hour
deadline, they’re issued with a €1.25 million fine. Germany’s government did the same, with their penalty skyrocketing to an eye-watering €50 million. The US Federal Trade Commission is holding Facebook accountable for its privacy
lapses to the tune of a reported $5 billion.
People are leaving Facebook — and feeling good
While trust in technology companies, and their ethical use of social media platforms, is decreasing, so too is its user base.
Australia is a prime example. Facebook has seen a significant drop in audience and usage, with an estimated 1.8 million of our 15 million Facebook users deleting their account. 1 in 10 Australians has actively changed their Facebook privacy settings to
restrict the amount of information they share.
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