YOU are the product: privacy issues with social media

Have you ever noticed that advertisements on webpages you go to happen to relate to your interests or other websites you’ve recently visited ? This is no coincidence. If a product is free – such as an App or website – it’s because YOU are the product.

Prior to enrolling in the course Journalism 2.0,  I assumed that free products on the Internet, such as Facebook, make money solely from advertisements. What I didn’t realize was more importantly and more frightening, they make money from selling information about their users to other companies for consumer research.

Sharon Jayson, in her USA Today article entitled Social Media Research Raises Privacy and Ethics Issues, explains that whenever you post a photo of yourself on Instagram, search for answers on Google, update your Twitter followers on what you’re doing, or online shop, you leave behind what she calls a “cyber footprint.” When you lookup flight prices on airline websites, for instance,  the next time you search for the flight on your computer it will show up more expensive. In the age of digital culture, it has become easy for companies like Facebook, Twitter,  Microsoft, and Google to track your every move.

Many people feel uneasy about these companies invading their privacy for data purposes. Tor software was created to allow people to connect on the Internet anonymously. It’s a system that transmits your digital signals around the world through a complex network, making the location of your cyber footprint untraceable.

Similarly, a device called Anonabox can be plugged into your home router or computer to relay all Internet connections through the Tor system. Anonabox, however, is no longer widely available. This makes me realize just how important people’s cyber footprints are to researchers. The Internet only began in 1969, yet by 2015 the government and large private companies already take information on Internet users for granted and try to prevent devices such as Anonabox from taking that away from them.

Privacy issues with social media are becoming increasingly prevalent with the rise of Internet usage and Apps. It makes me wonder: will it still be possible  to escape having  personal information integrated into digital data in the near future, or will Internet users be subject to invasion?



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