Facebook proves to be mass surveillance tool – is it time for regulation?

Facebook proves to be mass surveillance tool – is it time for regulation?

A couple of years ago, we warned Facebook users not to take part in a word quiz on the platform, demonstrating this by sharing an article from the Telegraph, showing that such innocent things look trifling but they’re mining us for information.

In light of Facebook’s woes in recent days, with its links to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, being cited for giving away information influencing the 2016 US Presidential election, we’re not sounding so much the conspiracy theorists as maybe we were back in 2015.

The BBC’s Media Editor, Amol Rajan, this week referred to Facebook as a “mass surveillance tool,” a point of view, which is hard to argue with in light of recent events.

Being involved in the world of PR and communications, we’ve become increasingly ill at ease with the way so many people display their lives on social media and very wary about the way some unscrupulous organisations are mining our every post for information.

The web and social media, in particular has been a lawless wild west for the decade or so since it gained mass popularity.

Whilst it seems innocent enough to partake in what seems like harmless quizzes, finding out what your name would be if you were a dog, Facebook is not here for the good of us all, it’s a company, a very influential one at that, making good revenue from companies and individuals who want to influence other people.

The data Facebook holds is powerful, and in the wrong hands it’s clearly very dangerous.

It is worth adding that it appears the manipulation of data rather than downright sloppiness in illegally handing data, is the problem. Facebook don’t appear to have broken any laws, but it is the underlying spirit of right and wrong that is in question.

The more we have learned about algorithms, filter bubbles, etc., the more we have felt decidedly uncomfortable about the long term impact of social media in its current form. As a business platform, it’s very useful, but on a personal level many of us really want to keep our lives as private as possible.

The Mark Zuckerberg’s of this world need to look at their values and do some serious soul searching. His apology is somewhat after the horse has bolted.

The conspiracy theory voices of a few years ago have got a lot louder. For instance, in The Times its reporter Daniel Finkelstein says it’s time to tackle the regulation of social media. As big a project as this is, one which is even bigger than our Brexit transition, it has to be the way forward.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal, we believe, is a seminal moment for Facebook and social media. It may not have lit the blue touch paper like Harvey Weinstein’s alleged conduct did for sexual harassment, but it’s certainly fuelled the fire.

The internet, social media and we, the users, have to change. Big Brother is watching like never before and it’s very intimidating on so many levels.

Nolan PR is a communications agency helping businesses engage with their audiences. If you wish to have an informal chat about this subject or any other, please get in touch.