Facebook Won’t Fix the Internet’s Bigger Privacy Problem

Facebook just revamped its privacy settings and terms of use, mostly in response to users who were upset about the Cambridge Analytica scandal. These changes may improve the public opinion of Facebook, but there is still a glaring privacy issue with the internet as a whole. Privacy should be ingrained in all websites and internet services. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Companies like Google and Facebook rely on low privacy standards to continue their data collection and processing.

The Internet As a Whole Sucks for Privacy

Most websites do some sort of tracking, scripts that run in the background keep tabs on where people come from, what they do on the site, and where they go next. This has become the norm, and users have grown complacent about internet privacy. People don’t have the option, in many cases, to deny sharing their information. In exchange for using a given service, people must be hand over their data. Users are powerless against big tech companies who are monetizing user data like crazy.

Google Analytics runs on approximately 57.3 percent of all websites. This means that Google gathers data about users behavior on all of these websites. That information is then used to target you with ads. Because your purchase behavior can be linked to your web browser, Google can target you with ads that you are more likely to engage with. Privacy is important for more than just protection from advertising, it’s essential for these reasons:

  • Privacy Offers Protection for Vulnerable Populations
  • Privacy Encourages Free Speech & Freedom of the Press
  • Privacy Brings Objectivity & Free Flowing Information
  • Authoritarian Governments are Limited by Privacy

Internet Culture Doesn’t Care About Privacy

Perhaps the reason privacy has taken a backseat to other issues is advertisers profiting from the information they collect about people. In 2016, internet advertising was a $72.5 billion industry. People growing complacent is another reason for the lack of privacy online. If internet giants, like Google and Facebook, have acted certain ways for so long, people believe there is no way to change their actions. Content was king, and now data is king. Data is so valuable because it allows people and companies to predict people’s actions. This predictive economy, like internet advertisers, relies on data aggregation to advance itself.

Tracking Mobile Devices is More Privacy Intrusive

Websites tracking location data for desktop users get a single location, wherever the computer is at the time it visits the website. Mobile devices, especially when using apps rather than browsers, give continuous flows of information about their users’ locations and behaviors. Applying the same laws to internet tracking and privacy to mobile devices as stationary computers doesn’t make sense. It leaves consumers vulnerable to malicious use of their data. Companies collect user data in more ways than ever with IoT devices reaching consumers in more places.

Facebook Is Not a Privacy Advocate

Facebook, thus far, has done very little to make privacy the norm on the internet. While Facebook represents a portion of the internet’s users, changing the privacy settings and policies for its products alone won’t do enough to change internet privacy culture. More privacy on the internet conflicts with Facebook’s data-centric business model. Until people choose private alternatives over the major platforms, the internet’s privacy issues will remain the same.