Facebook is full of (your) information

Kim Brooks
Babbling Brooks Column
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Most of the time you’ll find me praising social media. I love keeping up with my friends and family from near and far through the photos they share on Facebook and Instagram to the status updates about the latest and greatest in their lives.

     I have cousins in Arizona and the country of Turkey that we rarely see, so it’s nice to keep up with their lives thanks to the power of social media.

     But lately Facebook has been in the national news for some upsetting developments. It seems they allowed (or were unaware of the fact) a third party organization to gain access to 50 million Facebook users’ personal information. The company based out of the United Kingdom, known as Cambridge Analytica, asked users to take part in a personality survey. The results of that survey were then used, without participants’ knowledge to gather voter information ahead of the 2016 Presidential Election. Not cool in my book!

     Congress is demanding answers. Congress is demanding Facebook CEO and developer Mark Zuckerberg appear in person in Washington, D.C. to field questions about how this was allowed to happen and what the social media giant intends to do so that this never happens again.

     Essentially, Facebook violated people’s privacy, simple as that. Because of this latest incident, many users, including well-known people, have quit using Facebook or deleted their accounts altogether. I will admit I find myself using Facebook less and less for whatever reasons.

     But a segment on KCRG-TV9 News last week sparked my interest.

     Did you know when you download a game or app through Facebook, unknowingly your personal information is being shared? You should always check your Facebook privacy settings to make sure they haven’t been changed or to safeguard against sensitive information you don’t want leaked to the masses.

     I found this quote from a March 17 article on variety.com interesting: “Facebook generated close to $40 billion in advertising revenue in 2017, largely due to the huge treasure trove of data it’s compiled on its audience. But the company has done a terrible job of telling consumers what it knows about them and how it gets these insights.”

     So the company is making boo koo bucks on your personal information. For the right price, anything is worth selling I guess.

     There is also a way you can download Facebook’s history on you, the user. I have been on Facebook for 10 years now, so it took some time to download that personal information. But the amount of information Facebook had in its history on me was unbelievable!

     • Every event I ever RSVPed to, commented on, or attended on Facebook

     • Every app I ever installed through Facebook

     • My personal contact information

     • Every movie, TV show, book, celebrity, music artist, book, author, athlete, restaurant, sports team, and sporting event I ever “liked” or “followed”

     • My entire list of friends and the exact date we became Facebook friends

     • All of the private Facebook messages I’ve either sent or received over the years

     • Personal photos I’ve shared

     • Personal videos I’ve shared

     The list was appalling! And it’s scary knowing this type of information was out there in Internet land waiting to be sold or hacked into.

     Despite the good Facebook has done and will probably continue to do for society, I do think it has some explaining to do about how it was so easy for another organization to utilize users’ personal information. And why is Facebook even storing that amount of information on every user? Facebook reports about a billion users. Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, reports 100 million users. That’s a lot of storage if social media sites intend to continue to store all of your data.

     So as a user of social media, just be cautious. Know what your privacy settings are and how to monitor those and change those if needed. Know who has access to your profile.

     Many users like to take part in fun quizzes shared through Facebook. Friendly tip: Those quizzes latch on to your personal information. So maybe curtail the urge to find out which celebrity you look like the most or what your St. Patrick’s Day nickname is. (Mine nickname was “Booze McBrooks.”)



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