The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Editorial – Users should demand more transparency

Illustration+by+Aftin+Gavin%2FThe+Collegian
Illustration by Aftin Gavin/The Collegian

Facebook, Google, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat. These are some of the most highly used social media apps and sites on the internet. People share private information across these platforms whether they realize it or not. 

And it’s creepy to think these companies, with that private information collected, will then determine what kind of ad pops up in someone’s feed.

As the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica proved, one doesn’t even need to be on any of these sites or social media platforms for their information to be shared — just merely friends with one of 270,000 people who took a personality quiz on Facebook.

Whether they “geo tag” their latest Instagram post or have searched for hotels in New Orleans for an upcoming trip, everyone is sharing information that the internet, particularly Google and Facebook, can see, which is then usually used to determine how they can place their advertisers on your feeds.

In the most recent episode of Black Mirror … sorry … in recent, real-life news, millions of Facebook users’ private information was collected by Cambridge Analytica. The firm was said to have sold the information to political campaigns to help tailor messages the masses would want to hear in a way they would like to hear it.

It’s a ridiculous feeling already when someone’s searched for a pair of shoes once and continuously sees it for the next five months as an advertisement on every site. It’s a whole other level of ridiculous when a politician is regurgitating or echoing some posts seen online.

But the problem is, people don’t treat their personal information as sacred. So often, people are more than willing to bypass the legal jargon so they can be on a social media platform.

It’s a lot like being held at gunpoint and asked to agree to something one wouldn’t agree to in normal circumstances. If someone disagrees with Facebook’s or other social media sites’ long “user terms and conditions” section when signing up, that person can’t use the service.

It’s unfair that a site like Facebook can be so passive-aggressive about making people agree to these terms without explaining to people in non-legalese what those terms mean.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg addressed a U.S. Senate committee April 10 and claimed that “the user owns the data” and Facebook is just a bystander. According to Facebook’s user agreement, in the most general sense, content brought to the site is owned by the creator or user.

However, when users upload their own photos and videos, the conditions state these are owned jointly by Facebook.

YouTube is facing a complaint from consumer groups, accusing the site of wrongfully collecting data on young users, though their user agreement states a user must be at least 13, and any video clicked on and viewed gives Google permission to collect any and all data tied to that device. This includes the user’s location, browser history and other intimate details people wouldn’t normally want others to know about.

User agreements, that long and awfully boring “terms and conditions” section no one ever reads but agrees to so they can use the service, should find a better way of relaying to users that their information shared both with the site and the device they’re using will be collected. 

And maybe warn them that a single search for a product will now invade their timeline and newsfeed for months to come.

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