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Does Facebook own your soul?



Last week Facebook implemented changes to its privacy laws, yet another tiptoe towards total ownership of our souls. Facebook has never been the refuge for those hermitically inclined, creating and maintaining a Facebook profile is like making a visual diary of your life for the whole world to see, unless you go out of your way to tweak the privacy settings. Who you socialise with, where you go and what you like doing are all recorded. But who am I to complain about Facebook? I use it everyday, sometimes annoyingly often, I am part of the generation whose entire social life (and sometimes work) revolves around chatting, liking and posting.

But first to the new privacy policy which has scared so many people:

“Information from third-party partners.
We receive information about you and your activities on and off Facebook from third-party partners, such as information from a partner when we jointly offer services or from an advertiser about your experiences or interactions with them.”

Basically this in combination with other parts of their privacy statement amounts to allowing information ‘about you and your activities’ to be exchanged between Facebook and third party partners (your pet dog is probably included), so Facebook can tailor adverts for you. As with previous changes you have to go out of your way to opt out and you have to be fairly computer savvy to change your personal privacy settings, your granny doesn’t stand a chance.

Picture something for a second. The year is 2025, you’re sitting watching Netflix on your Occulus virtual reality goggles and the streaming suddenly pauses. A sterile, middle American voice speaks in your ear “Hello [insert name], we notice you have been watching seven hours of Community in a row and have ordered 3 takeaway pizzas in the last month, did you know Mama Italia’s Pizza is doing a 2 for 1 offer for Friday nights? Our records also indicate you have a BMI of 30 did you know Golds gym has a very reasonable student discount for new members? Goodbye and enjoy *bleep* Commmunity *bleep*” This isn’t as farfetched as it might seem, well apart from maybe the calling you out for being fat bit.

Facebook is just the tip of the internet shaped iceberg. Online shopping sites like Amazon keep a track of what you like to buy, banking sites how you spend your money and Google what you’re googling for. Several years back when cars went around our streets and took photos of our houses for Google street view no one was consulted about what was happening, it just went ahead regardless. It emerged sometime after that Google had also beknownst to people, been drawing personal data from your computer while taking the photos to kill two birds with one stone.

“Reality mining is about what you actually do; it’s not about how you imagine yourself. It uses the digital breadcrumbs left behind by cell phones and credit cards to quantify your life. The bottom line is that the data used in reality mining is more valuable because it’s how you actually live your life. The name is also a little scary, and that’s on purpose. People generally don’t realize how many breadcrumbs they leave behind in daily life.”Sandy Pentland, MIT professor

The invention of cloud file storage means your personal pc files and documents are often forcefully backed up onto ‘the cloud’ where as recent celebrity nude pictures scandals attest, your files are by no means safe. The introduction of music streaming memberships through Spotify means you no longer own a physical CD, the music is not ‘yours’ and you have to pay monthly membership to be able to access and enjoy it.
People now walk around with their smartphones taking Instagram photos of their lunch and then checking in with Facebook, before Snapchatting their mum. The footprints of your life are more visible in the snow then ever and multinational companies that exist above national governments and legality are more than willing to use those footprints to their advantage.