As the World Wide Web matured, so did the sophistication over its data management systems. Privacy used to be rather strict and gave rise to unscrupulous things over the internet. Anonymity is a shield of protection and it can be used by whoever wields it.
To ward off pedophiles, child friendly sites encourage its users not to reveal their personal information. Most apps created for children are also installed with filters that prevent inappropriate chat and other safeguards. One example is Pottermore, the official website for Harry Potter.
The interactive website allows its users to create accounts and immerse themselves into the magical world with a catch: usernames are automatically generated and therefore, anonymous. This was done in an attempt to maintain the illusion of magic, but also to prohibit suggestive usernames and to help protect identities.
Data Privacy in Social Media
Facebook is different in the sense that they collect data to sell to advertisers. They do this through browsing habits, interests and track you through apps you log in with Facebook by. The culmination of data allows brands and companies to find and advertise to consumers who might or already do care about their products and services. Everything that a person sees becomes catered to his or her desires and needs.
This is why one might see ads for a bridal shop or wedding dresses after browsing a few websites on Google or pinning some on Pinterest. That is why travel blogs and other materials that inspire wanderlust show up more often after one has recently done a check on air tickets. So, what is so wrong about this more effective way of browsing the net? To have a personalized catalogue?
Due to the nature of how they collect data, users remained dubious, choosing to use aliases and throwaway email accounts in order to stay anonymous on the net due to a fear of the unknown. But aside from its less than transparent means of collecting information, there does not seem to be much harm caused to consumers. Quite the contrary, it might even make their live easier by providing answers they are searching for. The only problem that remains visible is that data collection techniques are in the dark and what people want that transparency. Why hide if there is nothing to hide?
Back in 2014, Facebook rolled out an update that allowed users to understand the way the social network was keeping tabs on them. By accessing a simple button titled, “Why am I seeing this?”, Facebook would then show how the advertisement targeted that specific consumer. This features also has the ability to block future ads from any particular brand.
While the world’s number one social media platform was created as a way for people to keep tabs on one another and stay in touch, it has grown over the years into a giant business corporation and that is all that it is. A large advertising company attempting to sell its clients to you, its consumers. And while that in itself may not be harmful, those who are more vulnerable might be susceptible to predators or stalkers.
With privacy being the least of their worries, Facebook encourages people to check in where they are and when that feature was unveiled, it became a target topic regarding stalkers. While this technology was introduced by Foursquare, it has been adopted over multitudes of platforms.
This makes stalking a lot easier. Where in the past, stalkers must physically be near their victims in order to track them, they can now do so behind a screen. While a stalker used to be any stranger who showed excessive interest in an individual, the same description could be said of any fan nowadays. Our present culture encourages this behavior. Influencers and celebrities get by on the attention of the masses and often engage with those whose interest outweigh their other fans.
There are reports of superfans who have travelled the world to meet celebrities or those who have taken it a step further and infringed on their personal space by breaking into their houses. In a new world of public data, digitalized lifestyles that inspires obsession, it might be time we redefine what it means to be a stalker.
Tips for Security
It is always better to be safe than sorry, even downloads through the internet might breach one’s privacy, which is why torrenting with a VPN has gained popularity. Everyone breaks the law everyone one in a while, and while it should not happen, it is something that cannot be controlled. If everyone was thrown in jail over minor offenses such as those, the world would be empty.
This added layer of protection hides its users from prying eyes and as mentioned, hides both innocent users and those who intend to use it in unscrupulous ways. Therefore, post what you must on the internet, but bear in mind that you are being watched. If there is something you do not wish to be seen, do not post it over the internet or use a Virtual Private Network instead and learn to self-censor rather than share everything, including your home address, with the whole wide world.