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From a college dorm room to a global platform with over 936 million daily active users, the social networking site Facebook has revolutionized the way we communicate online. Every month, almost 20% of the world’s population logs on to build friendships, play games, make memories, and promote their businesses. And best of all, it’s free.

All ‘you’ have to do is sacrifice your private life to use it.

Facebook is worth over $200 billion – and users don’t have to spend a penny. So how does it make its money? When you first sign up to Facebook, you agree to its data privacy policy, which states that: ‘In addition to helping people see and find things about what you do and share, we may use the information we receive about you for internal operations, including troubleshooting, data analysis, research and service improvement’.

That means Facebook uses your personal information ‘to provide and enhance’ its services. Over two thirds of Facebook’s revenue comes from advertising. Companies are attracted to Facebook’s global reach, and its unique ability to target advertisements, based on the personal information users share on the site.

So someone who regularly posts about football will see football ads in the Facebook side bar.

A woman whose relationship status changes to ‘engaged’ might see advertisements for wedding dresses, or bachelorette parties.

And it’s this ‘improved advertising experience’ that has transformed Facebook from an ordinary social networking service to a multibillion-dollar corporation. But privacy European data protection campaigners like Max Schrems are worried that the media giant is now exploiting our personal information, for even more power.

Other research institutions, like universities and pharmaceutical companies, undergo rigorous assessments before they can use our personal data – but not Facebook. Once you agree to the terms and conditions, Facebook can do almost anything it wants with your data. In other words, Facebook can commodify our most intimate online conversations and relationships, for the chance to make more money from advertisers.

In April 2014, Facebook outraged millions of users when the company introduced its new Messenger app. To access Facebook’s Messenger services, users were forced to download the app – whether they wanted it or not. Worse still, users had to agree to Messenger’s permissions policy, which allows the app to access your phone data, read text messages, edit files on USB storage, make phone calls, see your contacts, and use your phone’s camera.

Facebook claims that these new permissions exist to improve its messaging services. But just one year later, the company was outed for conducting mass surveillance on its users. In 2015, 25,000 people filed a lawsuit against Facebook for privacy law violation. Leading the case is privacy activist, Max Schrems, who claims that the site has been illegally monitoring the online activity of its users… Which is why the European Union is now urging people to leave Facebook, for their own personal safety.

In March 2015, the Belgian data protection agency revealed that Facebook had gone one step further. Its new cookie policy means that the company has been using tracking data to secretly monitor its users’ online activity – whether they’re logged into Facebook or not – and even those who aren’t registered on the site.
The EU has warned European citizens that it can’t ensure the protection of their data when it’s controlled by US internet firms. So, perhaps it’s time we rethink our online activity’.

Don’t want to be a fear monger but I just thought you should know!

Please feel free to leave any questions or comments in the space provided below.

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