July 30, 2013

Collect it All – Social Media and Online Privacy

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Written by: Ross Quintana
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Collect it All - Privacy Rights

In a recent article about the NSA and the Snowden Leak about Prism the NSA’s information collection program, the Guardian boils down the heart of the story. “Collect it All” This was a brilliant piece by them and they brought the real issue to the front. It has been washed over and pushed aside focusing on Snowden, and trying to frame it as a security issue. The real issue is whether or not you think the government should be able to collect information on all of your communications and the things you do all the time in a file they can access when they want. The real issue is whether you think you should have any privacy or you want to give up those rights. The real issue is whether you think the things designed for the military to use on other nations should then be turned on the American population?

These are tough questions and they deserve some thought. American’s need to have this conversation as a nation and determine what is right. We need to stop getting distracted by rabbit trails or side dramas and get to the real issues. Here are the 3 issues I see that the public needs to address:

1 – Privacy. I have heard many people say there is no privacy on the internet. I feel this is a cop out. It requires no thought to just give up and say why try. The fact is when I read this “Collect it All” story, I thought that it was wrong (The concept of the government collecting all of your communications), and then I thought, well companies like, Google, and Facebook have a few things in common with this collect it all program. I remember when I realized that Google was scanning my email to serve up ads. It seemed creepy and invasive. A couple days ago, I was looking through the products on Google and clicked on Latitude which is now discontinued. It had a map for every day of all the places I went. I got this weird feeling as I clicked through my previous days and literally felt like my every move was being recorded and watched and then wondered who could access my data. That is when I thought about the allegations that many companies were sharing data with the NSA. I thought of how easy it was for my every move to be tracked and logged by a service I forgot I signed up to and how millions could be tracked the same way.

I signed up to see where my wife was so we could plan dinner better when she was getting closer to home, but in the context of the Prism scandal, I felt uneasy with it recording our every move. Many times the technology or service starts out as a service, but it could be used against you. Even texts and Facebook statuses are being used in court. Before the things you said to friends and family were the property of you and them, now they are owned by companies and the government. Facebook like many companies has created a communication tool that gives you a place to talk, share photos, connect with all your friends and acquaintances, and who owns your data? A company that has been in the news consistently over privacy issues. If the FBI wanted to create a file on every American to know what you say, analyze your personality to profile you, to track your movements, known associates, and even put it in a timeline, that type of deep invasive surveillance would have required probable cause and a court order, or they could just look at your Facebook data. Do you want every conversation, comment, and +1 to be used against you and taken out of context. Then why don’t you own all the rights to your data?

The amount and type of personal data that social networks collect on you is insane. I bring this up in the context of data collection because I believe it is the next big conversation America is going to have that will change the direction of our future both politically and technologically. I think the day will come when Americans will demand the rights to their information and privacy just like the corporations demand rights through copyright laws. Why is it that corporations can demand rights of who can use their images, data, and any variations and yet the common American must give up rights to their data, images, and information. Why is it companies have laws protecting them and consumers and citizens don’t? If people demand it laws will be written to include citizens and their data and data use and things will change.

2. Terms of Service. Right now companies grab rights in the Terms of Service like Instagram did when they changed their terms of service. They later came out saying they would return to the previous wording, but that was only the advertising section when the real significant change was in the rights section. Companies count on people being lazy and easily fooled. Right now the internet is like the wild west. The gunslingers are running things and most people are too scared or ignorant to do anything about it. People are held hostage to the terms of service if they want to use the service. This holds true for politics and laws as well. As long as you are too busy worrying about work and TV you won’t have time to get educated and see the real issues. You won’t have time to see your rights slip away until it is too late which only makes you feel you can’t change anything anyway. The standard Terms of Service now protects the companies rights of privacy and data ownership while simultaneously taking away the rights and privacy of the users. Companies can write these dream contracts because the public hasn’t demanded better ones.

The government has a terms of service as well, they are called laws. If you allow crazy laws to be passed in the middle of the night or with fear based propaganda like the Patriot act, then you will be subject to them. Our country was founded on people not accepting unjust laws. It starts with awareness. Prism is a rights grab. When did we all vote that all of our communication should be collected and stored to create files on us. This would be like allowing the government to raid your house, photo albums, confiscate your phone, go through all your accounts, and monitor you 24 hours a day. Most would think that was invasive, yet that type of gross invasion of privacy is exactly what is being allowed and I don’t remember voting for that. This country was founded with a weary eye on the federal government. The states basically wanted to be left alone and only needed the federal government if a large foreign enemy threatened the states. They wanted no governing body, that was left to the states. This allowed people to live in states that didn’t intrude on their freedoms. My how things have changed.

3. Military. I love living in a country where we have the best military around. I love that we get to think about what we want to build or become without the worry of having enough water, food, or opportunity. The problem is I am not OK with the things created for use against enemies of our country to be used on US citizens (drones, spying, wire tapping). What makes us great is we don’t have to live like countries in the Middle East where the corrupt government spies on their citizens and squashes anyone with a dissenting point of view. We don’t have to worry about the military being turned on its own citizens. What does spying on the American people, police beating and killing someone, and social platforms scanning your private relationships to serve up ads all have in common? They are all services that should serve you, not harm you. They are all services that should be regulated by the people who make them what they are, not allowed to become so powerful that they can do what they want and bring you into submission. If these services are not in align with the users who give them their value and power then those users should create the change.

Final Thoughts. Social media saves the day. I get it people are busy, lazy, and distracted. This is most likely the biggest reason that America is in many of the troubles it is in. The greatest power America has and has ever had was their ability to stand up for what is right. Social media has proven how it can create one voice and unite people with information and coordination. It has changed the history of countries even in its short existence. “Collect it All” is about spying on citizens to determine if we are a threat, to who? If the government is created to serve the people then we wouldn’t be a threat to ourselves. But if the government is not serving the people but creates its own interests then it will spy on the citizens like they are foreign enemies. If our government is without corruption and the hallmark of moral justice and servitude to the people, then go back to work and watch your TV and ignore this gross violation of our rights, and departure from the constitution, otherwise wake up. The single largest threat to corruption is the masses paying attention and communicating. That is what social media can do, and that is the sleeping lion.

About the Author

Ross Quintana
Founder of SocialMagnets, I am passionate about social media, influence, innovation, strategy, and marketing. I love to help people learn and understand the digital world. I stretch people's thinking and share my analysis of information, tools, and strategies in social media. Let's connect


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