THE BLOG

Have You Made an Informed Decision to Use Facebook?

05/19/2015 07:59 EDT | Updated 05/19/2016 05:59 EDT
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A friend just asked me about Robert Scoble's comments, "Privacy freaks strike again. This will keep Belgian's economy from being competitive. Hint: if Facebook is so evil just don't use it. Instead governments want economic control and are using privacy fears to get it. This is why I use strong language. This is totally ridiculous."

I'll start by saying that any time you use name calling in an argument, you're doing yourself and the argument a disservice, as name calling is the lowest rung in the argument pyramid. See the bottom image on my logical fallacies post.

Robert's comment is based on an article by the Wall Street Journal called "Belgian Watchdog Raps Facebook for Treating Personal Data 'With Contempt." If he read the article, it states, "At issue is how Facebook tracks Internet users on external websites," so the "If Facebook is so evil just don't use it" argument is invalid.

Privacy regulators are responsible for protecting the personal information of their citizens. Arguing that this will keep Belgian's economy from being competitive is a pretty loaded statement with no supporting evidence. Canada did the same thing six years ago, and can still remain proud of their decision and the resulting impact. Privacy commissioners regulate laws, they don't go on privacy witch hunts to make companies' lives difficult. There are lots of economic opportunities to do bad things, but society is at a shift where many people want to see the respectful thing done, and Facebook is not choosing the respectful thing here.

Privacy to me, is always about informed consent, not just the act of being (pseudo) anonymous. Thank goodness for privacy commissioners and regulators for what I feel is very little enforcement and protection against the constant abuses online today.

Imagine instead, in the case of Facebook, they did not collect the personal information of every possible internet user wherever they can. It doesn't matter if you don't have an account officially on their system, because of their hooks into third party systems, and social engineering their own users, they have created a shadow profile on you. That is not consent, and breaks many privacy laws.

So we know consent doesn't take place, let's pretend Facebook respected your privacy and didn't collect any personal information on you without your consent, do you feel the consent people provide right now, is informed?

Do you know what they're using your personal information for? While they've apologized for being caught doing psychological experiments on their users, have no issues providing your personal information to law enforcement, and using your information for targeted advertising, what else are they doing with it? I've already written how the Facebook Messenger app requires more permissions than any app on my phone, including the ability to record my calls, turn on my microphone/camera, and track me using the GPSr, so I deleted it.

When Facebook gets replaced in a few years, do you have any issues with them selling your information, including all your private photos, videos, and private messages, to the highest bidder?

When you can have your grandmother read the Facebook privacy policies, understand them, and make an informed decision, I have no issues with what they do with your information.

I'd never used my real name for an account on the internet before creating my Facebook account. The idea at the time, was to do research for CIPPIC who was interested in complaining to the Canadian privacy commissioner as it was believed Facebook was not complying with Canadian privacy laws. According to the Facebook terms of service, you have to use your real name, and so I was thinking if my research ever made it to court, I'd have to make sure I was complying with their terms, so as not to have the case thrown out on a technicality. While my contract there had ended, CIPPIC filed a formal complaint not for just one or two, but 22 violations against PIPEDA. It turns out most of those complaints were determined "well-founded" by the privacy commissioner.

During the process, I found Facebook useful and admittedly still actively use my account. People often ask how I can use Facebook if I claim to be a privacy advocate, but again, privacy is simply about informed consent. While I think the privacy commissioner could use another review of Facebook for privacy law violations, I've read Facebook's terms of service and privacy policy, and through outside research am aware of the risks, so I've made an informed decision to use it. I have absolutely no issue with anyone else who has done the same, that to me is what privacy is all about.

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