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What Does Google and Facebook Know About You?

Updated on April 4, 2018
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Jack is currently a volunteer at the Westchester County Archives. Jack has worked at IBM for over 28 years.

Introduction

The latest news about security breech and lost of private information of some of their users at Facebook highlight the problem with privacy. When we join these social media groups, we are sharing information with our friends and family. Some are harmless such as photos and travel and events... Where it gets into a grey area is the use of additional information such as your search history online to monitize or sell you targeted ads.

- Apr. 2018

A Real Example...

Just the other day, my son was going on a vaction to Japan with a stop over in Atlanta. Unfortunately, due to weather delay, he missed his connecting flight. I was searching on google for some local hotels near the airport for him. As it turned out, he decided to take the train downtown and stayed at a hotel there. He got on his flight the next day and is now in Tokyo.

When I checked into Facebook this morning, among the news feeds and to my surprise, there was a post about Hilton Hotel in Atlanta.

Somehow, Facebook, was able to make the connection that I was looking for hotel in Atlanta and sell that information to Hilton and they were able to target me on FB to advertise a room available... You can view this two ways. On one hand, you can say technology is wonderful and they can narrow your online presence and target you with ad you may want and not random ads. On the other hand, it does seem an invation of privacy has occured where they have connected the dots... It is not so harmful in this one case but it raises the question what if? What if they were able to track my other searches about news and politics and books and use that information to target me down the road at election time?

At what point does this breech become criminal?

A Screen Shot of My Facebook Page

What Can We Do?

There are two things in play here. Obviously, these companies like Google and FB are there to make money. They are providing a service and we as customers or users have agreed to there “term of service” when we signed up. How they use our private information is the debate. It is not unlike other companies like banks and credit card companies. We give them some private information in order to sign up. We expect some level of security so that the information are protected and not sold to third parties or miss used. How the data is balanced and secured is the debate.

First off, as users, we must not post information that can be used by others against us. Don’t post embarrassing photos for example. Don’t post private information like address, or email or phone number or other details of your life. Don’t tell people where you are at any moment. Thiefs can use that information to burglarize your home if they know you are away on vacation or just out of the house across town.

We can also petition Congress to get involved and regulate these social media companies. Just like there are regulations on banks and investment firms, we need regulation on social media companies so that they are transparent with what they are doing with our private information.

We can contact the companies directly and inform them our objections. We can also choose to close our accounts and choose another company. That is the beauty of the free enterprise system. We have the power to pick and choose which companies we associate with. Over time, they will adopt the policies that will benefit their users and their business. It goes hand in hand.

Summary

This is just the beginning. We are only scratching the surface. It is said google know more about you than you yourself. That is an eye opening statement. Caveat Emptor.

© 2018 Jack Lee

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