Don’t Stress Out About Data Mining

The data being collected is trivial, so you can relax for now

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Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook, has recently been in headlines around the world for his involvement in Facebook’s data mining scandal.

In short, a U.K. analytics firm was able to access and record Facebook users’ data, such as their friends and interests, through a third party quiz game. This date was collected without the knowledge or consent of the user, and as a result more than 50 million people were tracked and recorded because of it. Now many are protesting this breach of privacy.

The only defence that Facebook has been offering is the fact that every user technically agreed to have their data assessed and recorded when they checked that infamous little “terms and conditions” box upon signing up. This may seem fair if the user is aware that they will be tracked, but so few of us have the time to read the fine print in Facebook’s terms and conditions before creating a profile on the website.

This raises the question: Should the average Canadian be worried about their data being monitored and recorded? In my opinion, the answer is no. The most likely use for mined data isn’t all that nefarious—it’s typically used for studies or advertisements that appeals to a specific demographic.

Personally, being one of thousands of participants in an academic study will certainly not keep me up at night. If a company realizes that I, along with thousands of others, love hockey and soon after starts showing me commercials for hockey games, I will most likely not put two and two together. It won’t affect me in any way shape or form.

I can see why people have issues with their data being recorded, as it’s inarguably an invasion of privacy. However, the reality is that the data that’s being collected is largely trivial. It’s not our social security numbers, it’s not our addresses, and it is not our salaries or our insurance information. It’s our hobbies and our friend’s hobbies. It’s who we’re cheering for on Hockey Night in Canada, which books we like to read, our favourite character on The Bachelor. The collection of this information does not and will not affect my everyday life, nor will it affect anyone else whose data has been mined.

Personal information accessed by Facebook includes your username, user ID, profile picture, full name, and gender. In other words, the information being mined is information that could easily be found online within five minutes of searching for your personal account.

The only difference is that the data is being mass collected and compared to data from other users through computer software. While it is considered private information on the Facebook website, it’s not actually confidential and is easily accessible for someone who might be searching for you.

That individual would be like a fisherman casting one rod in the ocean, while the data mining apps are a trawler casting a net behind it. They have the same goal, but one works on a much larger scale.

I will not be changing any of my information, nor will this scandal inspire me to stop using social media.

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