illustration by MacKenna Gee
Everything about you is online.
Your name, where you live, who your friends are and so much more.
The digital age is now, but the law hasn’t quite caught up yet.
This is most evident in social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
In mid-April Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and CEO of Facebook, was the subject of a Senate hearing, wherein he was questioned over Facebook’s privacy, security and advertisement policies.
This is in the light of a controversy centering on Facebook and analytics firm Cambridge Analytica, which “improperly” acquired the private data of almost 87 million Facebook users, mostly from the United States.
Cambridge Analytica allegedly used this data to create “psychological profiles” of as many voters as possible, and allegedly used this information during the 2016 Brexit referendum and 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Raising many new questions, this controversy has shed a new light on online privacy rights.
People should have a right to know what information social media companies know about them, and in some places they already do.
For example, many do not realize that companies like Facebook and Google collect information about them for targeted advertising, when they try to use advertisements that people would be more interested in.
While this may seem relatively benign, the fact that these companies are not more clear about this activity, and that the information they collect doing that is not clear either, is cause for concern.
In response to this problem, the European Union passed a directive which mandates companies collecting data on individuals must gain consent for all data collected, not share said data without explicit permission from the individual and must allow individuals to modify the information companies have on them.
This is a great model for internet privacy, but so far the United States has made no step towards a similar proposal.
Luckily, Zuckerberg did say he intends to bring these European protections to U.S. users.
That does not mean Facebook should be immune to criticism however, this recent scandal is not a first for Facebook.
Facebook, and other social media companies, have a long track record of security breaches and mishandling private information, and it is time for this to end.