May 28, 2020
It seems not a day goes by without a news headline warning us that our data privacy is under threat from the companies we have provided our precious information to over the years. Yet, every day millions and millions of people scroll through social media, browse the internet and use messaging apps to communicate with friends and family – myself included.
There is no denying that we are hyperaware of the fact our data could be passed on to people who want to target us. Constant news reports alert us to the fact, along with popular documentaries, such as Netflix’s The Great Hack.
The Cambridge Analytica and Facebook scandal showed the world that our data isn’t just vulnerable to breaches or hacks, but that it is vulnerable even when everything is working as it should. Yet, Facebook is still the most popular social media network in the world.
So, why is it after all we hear about how our data is used, that it is not enough for us to change our habits?
Ignorance may not be bliss, but convenience is
There are many reasons why people are not willing to let go but perhaps the biggest is that we as a species are slaves to convenience. Why would we not purchase the latest smartphone or tablet, download the next big app or join the fastest growing social media network when they are all conceived to make our lives more convenient and enjoyable?
With how quickly social media has infiltrated its way into our everyday lives, a lot of people would find it very difficult to no longer be on any platform and completely go ‘off the grid’. Today’s social groups, particularly with younger generations, are often built around these big social media platforms and messaging apps and it has become integral to the way many socialise.
A sense of ‘FOMO’ (fear of missing out) seeps in if people become inactive on any of them and due to this, many people are willing to ‘pay’ with their data in order to keep in touch and not feel left out.
The alternatives have a long way to go
A market for alternative websites and networks offering improved data protection is growing, but none of them are yet a match for the current social media giants. Diaspora, Ello and Vero are all attempting to step into the social media game, but they have a long way to go.
In fact, research has shown that only 32% of people who care about their data privacy would act on this by switching to another company or provider. This leaves an overwhelming majority who would not act at all, despite being concerned about their data privacy.
Alternative websites and services can only truly take off if entire social circles are willing to make the move over to them.
Although there are those who do carefully consider which companies they provide their data to, most of us are still incredibly blasé about the valuable information that we freely gave away in exchange for convenience and being able to easily keep in touch with our family and friends.
Our actions speak louder than words and until people are willing to act on taking their data privacy seriously, all we are really projecting is that we don’t really care, and we will continue to exchange our data for whatever product or service we’re offered.
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