Saturday, October 10, 2015

Yes, Facebook is stalking you — that’s the price of ‘free’ social media

Out of 10 people, probably 9 of them would raise their hands if asked whether grabbing their phones is the first thing after opening their eyes in the morning, and 7 of them would say Facebook is the ultimate priority when checking daily updates. However, only very few of them ever noticed the fact that Facebook is following use around the Web. People often find it very thoughtful and convenient when surfing Facebook news feed after realizing how it knows themselves so well that every webpage or links sent to them fits their needs or has the exact content they are aiming for.

The answer is that Facebook knows what each person likes or dislikes, and the most shocking fact is that it may even know peoples’ personalities based on the “Likes” and comments they left from their browsing process. Certainly, this situation can be either a win-win situation or a tradeoff.
In the win-win situation, people find Facebook so attractive and let it become a daily habit to visit while Facebook keeps expanding the list of things it knows about the users and uses that data to make money. The more “Likes” people click when loading a page or complimenting a photo, the more information is given to Facebook, thus providing more data for the advertisement companies to seize the opportunities to cooperate with Facebook to make a great amount of profit. People win, Facebook wins, with ads companies sharing a portion of the monetary and reputation gain.

In the tradeoff condition, the level of security is incredibly inconvenient, because people have to spend a lot of time painfully re-entering data. Also, naïve users are unlikely to spend a lot of time thinking about privacy. Up to a certain level, “free” social media is never free as there is no free lunch on earth; it is just the matter of who provides the free lunch and who makes money out of those free lunches. Many users undoubtedly don’t realize that they are exposed, including the possibility that most of them do not care enough. “Enforcing someone’s preferences about privacy may not be liberating; it may be counterproductive.”

Indeed, people can simply hide data about what sites they use by stay signed out of Facebook and tell the browser not to accept cookies or otherwise let advertisers follow them around. However, if not letting social-media companies sell their products, then they would probably go out of business. Thus there is the paradox left to the people, either privacy-obsessed folks or ad-hating readers, it is the choice between privacy and interest. Just as the article stated: Privacy matters, but privacy isn’t free. The best people to assess the tradeoffs between privacy, access, and convenience are probably the individuals wielding the mouse, rather than the activists wielding the megaphone.

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