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Facebook users shrug off privacy issues

December 29, 2018

Revelations that Facebook shared user data with other major tech companies haven’t changed the way some Fort Wayne residents use the social networking site. 

“Not at all,” user Paul Federspiel posted in response to a Journal Gazette query about the issue. “It’s foolish to think of any privacy on social media. The consumer has to use common sense and realize someone else is always watching. Online shopping is a calculated risk, but great bargains!” 

A report from the New York Times published this month found that Facebook shared user data with companies including Amazon, Microsoft, Netflix, Spotify and others, sometimes without the user’s explicit consent.

Some companies were also given access to contact lists and private messages. 

Facebook has about 2 billion users worldwide. 

“Facebook has taken some significant hits with the degree to which users put their trust in the platform. This is another instance of that,” said Anthony Juliano, vice president and general manager of the Asher Agency, a Fort Wayne advertising agency. “But one advantage Facebook has is that the platform has high value to people.”

Juliano has written extensively about social media for Asher. 

“Most of us don’t consider the privacy implications when we sign onto the terms and conditions of a social media platform,” Juliano said. 

The New York Times report is not the first time Facebook has come under fire for privacy issues.

In March, reports found that data consulting firm Cambridge Analytica accessed personal information of about 87 million Facebook users without their permission. Facebook is also currently dealing with fallout from disinformation that spread on the platform during the 2016 presidential election. 

“One of the big issues here is the precedent it sets,” Juliano said. “What we’re giving away in this transaction is our data. The end-game for tech companies is to harness data in a way that will allow them to remain profitable.” 

The question, Juliano said, is when does data-harvesting become too intrusive?

The answer, he said, is subjective and requires a level of user responsibility.

“What gets put out on the internet stays on the internet in one way or another,” Juliano said. “It’s up to us to hold tech companies to a higher standard.” 

The beginning of the year is a great time to audit the information that’s on social media accounts, Juliano added. 

“The beginning of the year is a great time to check privacy settings and check what we put out there,” he said. “Make sure it’s how we want to represent ourselves and what we want to share with tech companies.” 

Protecting information on the internet can seem like a daunting task, but Juliano said social media users need to remember that participation isn’t required. 

“If we are complaining or concerned about the issues like data security and privacy, we have to remember this is voluntary. Users have the right to walk away at any given moment,” he said. “It’s a drastic step but as Facebook continues to demonstrate that it’s not always a good steward of what we consider to be private information, it may be a decision more people have to consider.” 

According to an Associated Press report, Facebook is facing calls for change from investors, regulators and legislators. More than 1 in 4 Americans have deleted the Facebook app from their smartphones, the report said, citing a recent study by the Pew Research Center. 

This is particularly true of younger people, Juliano said. 

“There has been slight attrition among younger members in favor of Instagram and Snapchat,” Juliano said. “That’s a big problem for Facebook.”

Data protection may also be easier for younger users, who have grown up in the internet and social media eras, Juliano said. 

“In some respects, they have more opportunity to be vigilant or have more of a reason to be vigilant than those of us who are a little older,” Juliano said. “They certainly have the opportunity to think differently about it and if tech companies are going to be held accountable, younger generations are going to force that hand. They have a collective voice that’s going to impact the profitability of these companies in the future.”

dgong@jg.net

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