Facebook has recently updated its terms and conditions, and many people are blindly accepting these. What they don’t realize, however, is that they are basically handing over details about themselves and agreeing to Facebook using these in any way. Unfortunately, most find it almost impossible to read the terms and conditions even if they wanted to, because the language is so complicated and filled with jargon. They are bamboozling, too complex and much too long. Some suggest that they have been created solely to meet the needs of potential court actions.
Indeed, the new terms and conditions offered by Facebook are over 150 pages long, and it simply cannot be expected for a user to actually read through all of that. As a result, Facebook is effectively able to exploit the personal data of its users without them realizing that they have consented to this.
Data and Mood Manipulation
Earlier in 2014, it was found that Facebook had secretly and successfully manipulated the moods of its users, with 700,000 people being affected by this. As soon as users sign up to Facebook, they agree that the company is allowed to conduct research into how they use the site, and they don’t have to ask renewed permission for this. Additionally, there is no clarity on how they will use the data, which now turns out to be in order to manipulate mood. The other big question is how far Facebook will go with this. Considering that it has over one billion users, they have the ability to influence, quite literally, the world.
In fairness, Facebook is not the only company engaging in these questionable tactics. OK Cupid, a dating website, has conducted similar experiments. They had mismatched members on purpose, without them knowing it, to test how accurate their matching features actually are.
Both Facebook and OK Cupid say that they are doing nothing wrong, since users have agreed to the terms of commission. However, the nature of explicit consent is very prescriptive. It is not clear how to improve the situation to protect users and actually give them the option to agree to certain experiments or not. The reality is that the situation is highly complicated but must be resolved sooner rather than later.
It is vital that companies effectively communicate how they intend to use personal data and if terms and conditions cannot be made easier to understand then this must be explained separately.
What Do the New Terms and Conditions Mean?
So what do Facebook’s new terms and conditions actually mean? Is it something we should collectively worry about? Many of us are now fearful that we are unwittingly thrown into various social and psychological experiments at the whim and fancy of Mark Zuckerberg and his team.
According to legal experts, who have taken the time to go through all the new paperwork, the goal is to deliver more targeted ads. Facebook is now a floating company, which means it has to bring in money as well and it is doing this through advertising. Additionally, it is working very closely with Google. Together, they have decided that the most important feature in advertising has to be that it is localized.
The idea is to track the location of users in an effort to target them with localized adverts and thus attract more companies to advertise on Facebook at higher rates.
The new terms and conditions allow Facebook to track the location of its users. Indeed, one of the elements of the new document is a “location data policy,” which means that the program can know where you are using your WiFi, GPS and Bluetooth data.
Legal experts have conformed that the new documents released by Facebook are the most intrusive ever to be seen. They go above and beyond the intrusion accepted by other social media platforms, and miles above what Facebook used to want of its users. Unfortunately, the only way to avoid this is by no longer signing up to Facebook. As such, users do not really have any choice in the matter at all. Such is the nature of a profitable business, of course. However, is there something to be said for collectively moving away from Facebook and towards something else?
Should We Be Worried?
Some people would say that there is very little to worry about. The reality is that privacy is a thing of the past, and we now all live in an Orwellian society where Big Brother is most definitely watching us. However, there are reasons to be worried about the new T&Cs imposed by Facebook, and considering abandoning the platform may just be the best decision you will ever make.
At present, the new terms and conditions are very clear on what Facebook wants to do.
‘We only keep it until it is no longer useful to provide you services, like keeping your GPS coordinates to send you relevant notifications,’ the network says. Basically, this is a carte blanche for the network to keep the data as long as it wants, and to use it in any way it desires.
There are two things you can do in order to protect yourself from this intrusion. First of all, you could completely stop using Facebook. However, this is something most people do not want to do because we all like the benefits of the social network as well. The second thing, therefore, is to delete the Facebook app from your mobile device (Facebook will track you even if you aren’t using the app) and only use it on a PC that is in a fixed location. You will then send through only one location, which will make advertising a bit more difficult for Facebook.
There is a significant concern now that the digital and virtual word has gone too far. We really do live in a world first described by George Orwell in his novel “1984.” Some feel that social networks are now holding us hostage, and they have a point. It is a case of either accepting terrible terms and conditions, or missing out on the world.