Digital identity. With numerous social media apps that are available online, we are now spoiled for choice. Initially there was Orkut, Myspace and Facebook that were tools we used to keep in touch with friends and family worldwide. Slowly and steadily, we have become so addicted to using or accessing them, that there now exists a clinical term on it. IDA or Internet Addiction Disorder and Nomophobia (A fear of being more than 5 feet away from your smartphone).
As we fall prey to this illness (as there is no other word that sounds more apt), it is also the reason why some dance their way to the bank with joy. Have you ever wondered how Facebook, WhatsApp and other social media apps make their money? Why their founder and developers are living the high life even though the app itself is free of any costs for us individuals to use? That’s because of Data Mining.
The more and more that we use an application, the more data the app collects. Every picture that you post, every post that you like, every tag that you are a part of and every location check in that you do, is collected.
No, don’t sell yourself short and think, what they can achieve by knowing you liked Aunt Mabel’s cat’s pictures? Those who mine your data are not just interested in the cat, but also the variety of its species. They use this information to feed your timeline with ‘Cat shops in your neighbourhood’. Data created and mined. Aka. content saved for making money off it.
#DeleteFacebook: A War Cry Long Overdue?
Why are we talking of deleting Facebook? After all, it is an easy to use site that helps you keep in touch with your family. And why is there this demand to delete Facebook? The recent bad press that Facebook has been receiving is because of a massive breach in its security. This has resulted in an individual assuming the biggest office in the US of A. Yes, President Donald Trump was elected with the help of data mining. Don’t believe? Read on.
An app was created by Christopher Wylie, when he was under employment with UK based Cambridge Analytica. Its purpose was to data mine content from US based Facebook users. This entire exercise seems very innocuous. What users of the app didn’t know was that the app also downloaded all the information it could gather including the number of friends the user had and who those friends were. It ended up gathering over 50 Million individual profiles and private information. This unauthorized data that was gathered was then used to blindside Facebook users with personalized political advertisements. (Case in point, all marketing Donald Trump as the perfect choice for office and terming Hillary Clinton’s name as ‘Crooked Hillary’) On a side note, Steve Bannon, one-time chief strategist for Donald Trump’s campaign trail and later for 7 months once Trump was elected was one of the co-founders of Cambridge Analytica where Christopher Wylie created this app on their behest.
It is this same developer Christopher who came out and ‘spilled the beans’ on the app he had created and how it was used.
It had an immediate tidal onslaught of demand that people were cheated of their individual rights and that Facebook must be held accountable. Even the Federal Trade Commision of America is reported to be investigating Facebook’s protocol of handling personal data and the current breach.
From the time this has come to light, many are letting their opinions known. As always with public opinions, it’s verdict is divided. The supporters of Trump and Facebook claim that there are no laws or protocols set for one’s digital identity. Anything that a user posts on a social media app like Facebook should be considered its own content to do as it pleases. Hence, till the time this void is filled with a strict regulation by the government (which is ironically involved in the manipulation of the same loophole) nothing was wrong in sharing private user data. The other end of the spectrum is breaking down doors demanding the utter ruin of Mark Zuckerberg and those who are involved in this massive breach. The primary player amongst the naysayers is Brian Acton. The co-creator and founder of WhatsApp (now ironically owned by Facebook) Bryan Acton, tweeted out the following 4 words. “It is time. #deletefacebook.”
Also Read : Best 19 Free Data Mining Tools
Pot Calling the Kettle Black: Acton Style
What claim does Acton have to call out Facebook? A classic case of pot calling the kettle black. WhatsApp to has been making its profits with all the content that it is collecting from its users. Everything that we share like Stories, images, documents, contacts, location and obviously our contact lists is stored by them. Even the so called direct encryption of messages between individuals is mined by them.
Recently, there have been reports that Bryan Acton is collaborating with Moxie Marlinspike and the 2 have created a platform called The Signal Foundation. It must be noted that not only is there a similarity in the foundation’s name with ‘Signal App’ (famous for the data security it offers its users) it is also co-founded by Moxie.
With Bryan Acton funding a whopping $ 50 Million into the foundation (the same money it earned off Facebook) there will soon be a time that they launch their own app by mixing Bryan’s technical knowhow from WhatsApp and Moxie’s cyber security knowledge (he was after all the cyber security in charge of Twitter) we shall have an app unlike any.
Protect Yourself Against Data Mining!
Data mining shall continue. Until and unless we quit pumping them with our content and a new regulation is passed in the government, Data mining shall continue to be a reality. One needs to be alert of the front runners of data mining. Many are terming Chinese apps as malicious and consider them a type of malware or spyware. Infact, famous applications such as TrueCaller, Clean Master (Cheetah Mobile) App are the leaders in mining the user data. Don’t even get us started on WeChat. The Chinese government has a strict law and policy in regard to collecting all the content that its citizens share on any platform. Hence, toeing the government line, WeChat shares its entire data with them. It is the biggest platform in use for social media touching 1 Billion users. It offers multiple features ranging from offering eatery options, dating options, payment options, location and availability amongst others. Imagine the data landmine it has collected.
Note: As the app is of Chinese’s origin, it may not be available in India, because the Indian government has banned some of the Chinese apps
So where does this leave us? What can one do to protect one’s Digital Identity? What if the next time they don’t just access your content but hack and access your bank accounts, your social security numbers. They have all the other things that need to do so. After all we have already provided all the permissions to access contacts on our phone, the gallery where we have saved images of important documents and even give them our location access by keeping our GPS on.
Another great way to safeguard your sensitive data is by using Advanced Identity Protector. Created by Systweak Software, it offers its users a virtual vault feature where they can store their important documents that only they can access. Portals such as Web Browsers, Email accounts, documents, files and even Windows Registry that could contain sensitive information, can be saved in the Secure Vault. With extremely powerful features, this software is the perfect solution to counter any data content hacking. Always remember, in these troublesome times, a little protection goes a long way. Download the Software here.