What Social Media Websites Know About You

I have some very bad news for you. Every photo you have ever uploaded to Facebook, every single one, belongs to Facebook. It’s theirs, and they may use it as they wish. For marketing purposes, perhaps, worldwide, if they choose to do so. Yes, Facebook has your permission to use the photos you post as a marketing campaign, on the other side of the world, if they want too.

No, I’m not joking, check up on the user agreement. Even if you put a photo up, and mark it as private, Facebook still owns it. This means that if you put up professional photography, it now belongs to Facebook. If you put up a photo of you and your new wife, Facebook owns that image.

I’m hammering away at this because I don’t think that many people understand just what that really means. And if you think it’s just your photos, you’re very much mistaken. Facebook owns all the data you provide to them. Once you sign up to Facebook, you are handing over rights to that information. Facebook is free because they make revenue selling that information, mostly to advertisers.

There is an assurance that once you delete information from Facebook, that Facebook no longer has rights to it. But, as long as the information is there, Facebook is mining it for information, 24/7.

So What Does This Mean?

Now, lets not get all paranoid here. I’m not one of those people who refuse to send texts, because I’m convinced that sneaky government agents, most likely wearing suits and sunglasses and speaking with gravely voices, are trawling through it for my personal details. I assure you that government agencies couldn’t give two hoots that you just bought a new car, and are bragging about it online. Your personal information, however, does have value to those who are trying to sell you things. That is how Facebook makes its money, and why it is a free service that covers most of the globe.

Again, I wouldn’t worry about getting a sly message from Facebook, commenting on how good you look in your new bathing suit. But, if you think that every movie you’ve ever indicated you liked, every product you’ve every bought via Facebook, and every click you’ve made on an advert, hasn’t been gathered and sold to someone, who will try selling you similar things, you’re a fool. Your activity on Facebook paints a portrait of who you are, and, more importantly, what things can be sold to you.

Very Different Kinds Of Websites

But again, lets not get too carried away here. Just because Facebook behaves in this way, it does not mean that every website does the same. There are plenty of websites that really do keep the information you provide them safe and sound, and will not be selling it to anyone. What they will and wont do with your information is clearly outlined in their user agreement. It always is. No, I don’t read them either.

Online casinos, for example, are not going to sell your details to anyone, or they certainly wouldn’t stay in business for very long. Such websites make it very clear they are going to keep your information safe and sound, and live by that statement. They may collect cookies to improve the overall user experience, and see whether slots or table games are played more often than other games, but they wont hawk your information to 3rd party sites so that you get spammed with ads for new dishwashers or emails about converting to veganism. On the other hand, if you’re making accounts at online casinos to commit some kind of fraud, sadly I can no longer vouch for the safety of your information. They will hand it over to authorities, by law.

So How Much Do They Know?

I have a little experiment for you to try. Pretend, if you will, that you are trying to locate you. You obviously don’t know where you are, and the only information you have to go on is your Facebook profile. The photos, the posts you’ve made, indications you’ve made that you were at X location with Y person, your comments on statuses, your own statuses, and all the other activities. Think about it for a few minutes, and then tell me the following.

Would you be able to locate yourself? Would you be able to locate yourself, down to your neighbourhood? Your street address, even? Would you have a good idea of where to find you at a particular time, on a particular day? Like, say, your gym, or place of work?

A little freaked out? Hey, lets go even further. Would you know what type of food you like? What movies you enjoy? What games you like playing? Who your best friends are? If you’re married, and if so if you have children, and how many children? Would you know what car you drive, and maybe even which car you hope to drive?

Answer those questions, and then you’ll know exactly how much Facebook knows about you. Is it more than you thought? On the other hand, if you shrugged at all of the above, well then thanks for ruining the epic conclusion to my little rant.

Marc Armstrong - Signature

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