Well, it’s been another one of those weeks hasn’t it, the kind in which not a lot really happens but we casually find ourselves on the precipice of war. I make that about the third time this year but hopefully as quickly and as silently as it has come it will go becoming nothing more than tumbleweeds and here-say rather then that being the fate of our planet. Tumbleweeds and here-say.
Even if such threats do retreat beneath the rug the eponymous mark of Russia still remains it seems. As Mark Zuckerberg stated this week that ‘we’ are in an arms race, an arms race of exploitation with Russia. This came out during his recent hearing at Capitol Hill concerning Facebook’s handling and use of personal data. The events of which were watched the world over via various Facebook Live feeds, no irony here. To catch those up who may be slightly out of the loop or completely unaware of said events, allow me to catch you up in the most blasé fashion possible. Please use reputable news sources, such as Facebook or Twitter, for the full story. The issue at hand surrounds the cultivation and selling on of 87 million persons personal information to the company Cambridge Analytica. This information was obtained by Aleksandr Kogan via Facebook and a personality quiz. It is worsened by the fact that Cambridge Analytica were prominent supporters of Trump throughout his campaign and it is believed the information they purchased from Kogan was used unethically in order to sway voters and or in the very least use the information in any number of ways to obtain an advantage. While the concern is obvious as is everyones sudden intense worries concerning how all forms of social media, apps and the like are using our personal information. It does beg the question however that if no one fired the gun would we just have carried on oblivious and indignant to the magnitude of information we were willingly albeit naively supplying. The further bigger question that now stands is whether this weeks events will even have an impact going forward.
While these elements are obviously concerning there is a grand over arching air of frivolousness to it all. There is an obvious feeling of wanted retribution for us all having been ‘duped’ so easily. The loss of face was never going to sit well with a generation as switched on or as vocal as the current. Data gathering however isn’t some new fad it is an age old under-handed technique that has been in circulation since 1841. That is of course obviously no excuse for its continued use in the slightest. However, it is claimed that 50% of this information gathered by companies through the likes of social media is incorrect. With them failing to even get the simplest of elements right, including martial status, place of living and even age. Facts we have all undoubtedly shared at some point or are first and foremost actually constantly visible and public. The incredulousness of all this doesn’t end there.
The way in which we find ourselves being ‘duped’ is through the inhuman amount of User Agreements we have all likely signed over our continuing lifetimes. Such agreements usually have a page count that borders on becoming a short novel and requires a basic to strong understanding of contract law to even get through. Every time you sign up to a new app or a new website or a new social media platform you will encounter a User Agreement and many of us will tick through it without even the slightest of glances. If you were in fact to read every single one that you have committed to, on an average, research has found it would take you 8 hours a day for 76 days to get through them all. So, please, all hail Frederike Kaltheuner who has shouldered the arduous task of reading through the near 600 agreements she believes she has signed thus far. In order to find out exactly what she has signed, what it entitles the company to use and are they using it. She has even stated she is even willing to ring each company if she can’t find the answer in the User Agreements. If you are among the few who have attempted to read a User Agreement or have even looked at one for more than 5 seconds I believe you will concur in the following statement, such a commitment is what the term sainthood was devised for and so please all hail our new modern day saint, St. Kaltheuner.
Of course all of this does raise the further question of whose responsibility is it when we decide to sign over our lives via a User Agreement. Does it lie with the signer to properly read all terms and conditions before signing it or is it up to the company to provide adequate support or even simpler more understandable terms with in such an agreement. There is a clear need for a sense of transparency with User Agreements becoming as common place as the coffee cup. This questioning though is perfectly summed up by Senator John Kennedy addressing Zuckerberg at Capitol Hill, “Your user agreements suck”.
So where does the guilt lie or does it even exist on such a topic. These are as fresh waters as they are old. Maybe a war will be an easier solution to the constant madness of our virtual and actual beings. I will leave you with one final thought though that during the discussions held this week Facebook grew by 5% on the stock markets adding an additional $3bn to Zuckerberg’s net worth. Not a bad day out for a little chat and a sip of human water.
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