Privacy issues have now come home to roost

Facebook has been in trouble over use of data of its millions of customers by a researcher. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Facebook has been in trouble over use of data of its millions of customers by a researcher. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The world erupted in righteous indignation after it was revealed that Facebook had inadvertently allowed a researcher to harvest personally identifying information belonging of millions of users, a large percentage of whom were unknowingly affected, courtesy of loopholes in the enforcement of policies and regulation of Mark Zuckerberg’s most valuable and potent asset, the Facebook Social Graph which has for years been readily and easily leveraged by thousands of developers.

In my opinion it is the Cambridge Analytica gaffe that brought the issue back to the fore and even extended the lens to look at other services that we patronise daily, owned and operated by global juggernauts.

Following the revelations on how six degrees of separation ended up compromising millions, the issue of user privacy and digital self-awareness has been talked up, the shock factor of how these platforms know us more intimately than perhaps we know ourselves catalysing this new quest for knowledge.

Soon enough however, after the fines have been imposed and paid, accounts deleted in liberation, terms of engagement reviewed and access rolled back, the world will settle back into a new normal where quite frankly not much will have changed.

We are addicted to the internet and the tools and services that drive both convenience and escape for us.

Think of the need to connect and be heard; of the convenience of modern commerce, unlimited infotainment and even the arguable dignity of digitally enabled, faceless debt that has us trading bits and bytes of our digital persona that are unfortunately a mirror into our physical lives.

In many situations the debate on corporate responsibility in the management and use of data that is entrusted willingly or unwillingly, doesn’t hit home until the day a breach directly affects us. I am a proponent of smart privacy given that we will never truly detach enmasse from our self-inflicted addictions.

Therein lies an opportunity to give millions of digital constituents control of their personal data.

Ways to enable interactions with whichever platform or service provider they choose but with almighty revoke capabilities that preserve the ownership of any core metadata and perhaps even embedding ways to monetise the social graph at an individual level.