Privacy invaded online?

I don’t know about you, but I have never found privacy that much of an issue. It has always been one of those issues that I haven’t ever really thought that much into. Why would anyone want to tell the world what I do? I’m far too boring.

After attending a guest lecture from former Formula 1 chief Max Mosley, the issue of privacy finally entered my radar. Mosley spoke of his dealings with the Press Complaints Commission, News International and the Leveson Inquiry, after The News of the World published an article on the 30th March 2008 saying that Mr Mosley was involved in a “Nazi orgy”. Mr Mosley challenged the invasion of privacy from the newspaper and received £60,000.

With the privacy issue rattling around my mind, I found myself questioning how mine might be broken on a regular basis. Logging into Facebook, I did feel like my privacy had been broken. I was bombarded by an advertisement. “Need a date for Valentines Day? Click here to find someone…”. I do understand that I volunteer my relationship status to Facebook, but I don’t expect them to sell off my information to advertisers.

Is this right? Legally? Yes it is. Ethically? Maybe not, but Facebook do it anyway. I’m not sure why I was surprised by this. Facebook announced profits of $3.7 billion last week, so clearly they can charge their advertisers heavily. In December, the BBC broadcasted the documentary, “Mark Zuckerberg: Inside Facebook”. Emily Maitlis went to Facebook headquarters in Silicon Valley, California to talk to the owner of Facebook about his potential $100 billion valuation of his company.

While in California, Maitlis spoke to the advertising department at Facebook. She found out how advertisers can directly target specific demographics with their advertising. The advertising system Facebook operates allows advertisers to target people using any detail that their 800 million users upload. This explains how easily that dating website found me, a single, 19 year old, heterosexual male.

I don’t blame Facebook. People voluntarily give them details. However, what does get to me is search engines using your information to sell you to advertisers. I don’t know about anyone else, but when I search, I don’t see that as me volunteering my information to be passed on to advertisers. This privacy invasion makes me question how far these online giants can spread this information. If they are willing to sell my search habits to advertisers, where else could they sell my information? If I were someone famous, would they sell my searches to the tabloid press?

I hate to take a dystopian view towards the online world, but nobody knows what happens to your information. Hacktavist group Anonymous have criticised Facebook for how they use the personal information people put on their profile’s.

By no means am I suggesting that I plan to boycott Facebook or the internet. That’s just not going to happen. I think I might be a little more careful when putting my private information online



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