Rarely a day passes at the moment without Facebook hitting the headlines. New data privacy regulations both in the US with the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU have helped to shed a light on the big companies' practices. However, the tide was already turning. A generation of children are waking up to the fact that their social media profiles are following them to university and into the work place. Little did they realize when they were encouraged to lay themselves bare and over share, that the repercussions might haunt them for years to come.
My daughter reflects the mood of this generation when she says, “Social media is the worst thing that happened to my friends and I, but we all still do it.” It’s addictive, it is meant to be. More views equal more money for the tech companies. That is why they deliberately leave disturbing content live for days. Your data is their stash of gold. The big platforms had an opportunity to provide tools to our children that could benefit them and still support the online businesses to grow, but instead children have been exploited by the greed and desire to make more and more money. Privacy and safety go hand in hand, privacy and profit should not. Facebook reported profits of over $4 billion this year. Share prices have fallen of late, fears that changes prompted by concerns over the platform’s practices will hit profits are rife in the media.
Social media could have been a positive development in communication but instead it has overwhelmingly exploited its users. If you are in any doubt then we encourage you to watch the UK Channel 4 documentary Dispatches on Facebook. An undercover reporter went to work in the moderation team run by CPL Resources (a third party service provider that does the moderation work on Facebook’s behalf following Facebook’s policies). One of the team members at the company said this, “We have to have an admission that the person is underage. If not, we just like pretend that we are blind and that we don’t know what underage looks like.” There was also open discussion in the work place about the practice of leaving disturbing content live to ensure page views that increase revenue. Facebook is aware that a significant amount of users of the platform are 12 or under. A blind eye is not acceptable and flies in the face of regulations such as the Children’s Online Privacy & Protection Act (COPPA).
Let’s work together Facebook and Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter need to put privacy and safety first. Support our children so that they are armed and able to use the platforms in a positive way. It’s time for you, big tech to recognize the real age of your userbase and to provide children and young adults with an appropriate privacy-enhancing experience so they can make choices and see clearly what happens to their posts and personal data. This is the way to keep audiences and continue to grow. The alternative is a backlash. The time is up, it’s time to change.
Anecdotally we hear from young adults that they are closing their accounts and exercising their Right to be Forgotten which is a requirement of the GDPR. It is a costly requirement and a difficult one for social media platforms to exercise, but it is one of the prices they must pay for their actions.
Our CEO and founder here at PRIVO, Denise G.Tayloe, is having “Privacy Is In” bumper stickers made for us. Denise has been a great advocate of privacy online for more than a decade. This is the moment she has been waiting for and this is the moment we need to seize.
Watch the documentary that exposed some of the tech giant’s practices here: https://www.channel4.com/programmes/inside-facebook-secrets-of-a-social-network