The problem is not that people are giving up personal information because they do not understand privacy. Rather, there are complex trade-offs being made to make life more bearableby Natalie Nzeyimana / December 20, 2018 / Leave a comment
Your friend has recently moved to Canada. Brexit was the last straw for them and they have upped and left. Realtime banter that once flowed freely is jilted and staggered by time zones. Email doesn’t quite do the trick. You want to know how they are without reading long essays. You need brief updates. Enter Instagram.
As you shuffle into your morning commute carriage, somewhere between an elbow and a shoulder, for a brief moment, you are in Vancouver. For a brief moment, the moving sardine can you are tightly packed into is inconsequential. Your commute is a little less lonely, because despite that elbow jabbing your ribcage, you know your friend is happy and having a whale of a time. There is joy; residual, voyeuristic, immersive joy, and thanks to Instagram, it is “free.”
The permission we give to technology companies to use our data for a set of defined uses is the price we “pay” for that joy. Instagram is owned by Facebook. Data collected by Instagram is data owned and stored by Facebook. You may have noticed how frequently Facebook has been in the news over the last year or so. Courts across several jurisdictions (mainly the US and Europe) are scrutinising how Facebook has decided to use, sell, and share the user data it owns.
Your friend in Vancouver, the one whose life you catch up with on the daily commute, is not immune to data privacy concerns. There are two sets of risks for your friend’s Instagram account. The first is unknown users who may be tracking their location, interests, and other data garnered from watching their profile. The other is that Facebook might be mining data from Instagram that your friend may not be aware of.
Public dialogue around data privacy seems to fall into three categories: personal data ought to be protected (from third parties accessing it without our consent), there ought to be fewer privacy breaches (recent leaks of financial data and healthcare records have many worried), and there ought to be legal protections in place to enforce data privacy (perhaps you’ve heard of the recently passed GDPR legislation?).
Yet, still, we willingly download new apps without reading their privacy…