When logging in Facebook does it ever occur to you that you’re consistently being watched for marketing purposes and your advantageous “social capital”? No, of course not. You think about that cute girl you just added and wonder if she accepted you, whether the group you’re following has posted new activities for this coming week, or if someone you absolutely don’t know has added you as a friend in order to expand the “Yeah-I have-friends” Facebook list. What seems obvious is that most people are aware that their data is being watched yet they simply do not care of the consequences as long as it doesn’t affect their day-to-day lives. It doesn’t matter if “those people” know one is a sex maniac as long as his identity isn’t publically revealed to his entourage. That being said, I believe we should be more aware of our “social exploitation”.
We know that some employers look at our background history through social media as a crucial step of the hiring ritual. If someone’s boss asked him for his password that would be a direct affront to his privacy. However, when companies collect data without knowledge of their employee they can avoid all the hassle while simultaneously making their company rise. Mark Andrejevic, author of A Networked Self: Identity, Community, and Culture on Social Network Sites,discusses in great depth the contemporary meaning of “privacy” and “exploitation”. Andrejevic argues that our “creative activity” is taken away from us. In the sense that, to a certain extent, the leisure time we spend on social media produces valuable data and this productivity can be associated with a form of labor (“immaterial labor”). The core message is that we are being exploited and deprived from our rights to privacy.
In the same idea, I’d like to draw attention to the software Disconnect.me which can show how many people are looking at your activity while you are on a particular site and then “route all your Internet activity through our encrypted tunnel, which prevents wireless eavesdropping, secures your connections and protects against other online threats.”
By way of illustration, with dating sites, we give out personal information in order to build the most accurate representation of us in order to find our “significant other” and smartphones become mini-tracking devices. Corporations like to pick up on what their buyers might be interested in such as do they drink, are they vegan or vegetarian? If you are using a particular application people can know where you are and track your activity. There are things called “data brokers” where the people track your data and can then sell it to companies. Most of those brokers are invited by our computers “and most computers or browsers allow them in by default is the way to think about it”.
Facebook and other networking websites are “digital enclosure” which allows companies to make us participants of “ongoing controlled experiments”, target their advertisement and therefore the demand without having our consent. We facilitate their work and avoid them to go through the procedure of asking for our consent which is a waste of time, resources, budget. The problem is that people do not feel direct affected by the issue because they do not have the same sensitivity or concern for the meaning of privacy. As long as this “so-called exploitation” will not be a concrete threat to their personal lives they will continue not caring. I believe it is important to show already now our discontentment since we do not know the extent of damage those tracking software’s can do to us in the next 50 years. Can the situation change profoundly? “Only with mass action”
Claire Davis is an international area studies major. She can be contacted at [email protected]