Your digital soul is distributed among thousands of humming servers in air-conditioned rooms.
Virtually everything you do online is recorded somewhere. It’s valuable stuff, and it often changes hands for money.
We exchange pieces of our digital soul for convenience. We want to easily stay in touch, we want to network, to see the latest pictures of our grandchildren, we want to look at pictures of dogs. But convenience becomes a cage built piece by piece.
We accepted the cost of convenience for a long time. We thought, “so what if Facebook knows a thing or two about me? I’ll get adverts that are more tailored. That’s no bad thing.”
But in all that time, social media companies have built vast datasets. They swallowed up rival companies, they bought and sold information about users from third party companies, they tracked where you are and when.
All that data gets aggregated. A hack in 2018 compromised some 50 million Facebook accounts, giving hackers access not only to all those people’s Facebook accounts but also third party services connected to those Facebook accounts such as Airbnb, Spotify and Tinder.
People who say, “if you don’t like Facebook, don’t use it” entirely miss the point.
The privacy intrusions of companies like Facebook affect you even if you’re not on the platform. These intrusions also affect our loved ones and dependents who do use it and, ultimately, society.
The Cambridge Analytica scandal showed how vulnerable our collective data is when it’s held in such vast digital reservoirs. The scheme was designed to direct hyper-personalised advertising that preys on fears and insecurities for political (and of course financial) gain.
Abuses of Facebook data for political purposes are rife, especially in the developing world, and the platform has been used in attempts not only to mislead people to sway elections, but also instigate pogroms.
Campaigns to persuade people to “dump Facebook” are not the answer. The big tech companies blur the boundary between private service and public utility.