Almost without realizing it, we live today in a society in which the famous metaphor of Big Brother has long since become a reality. We are watched always and everywhere. But not only that, our personal data has also become something that countless companies, people and institutions have access to without our even knowing it.
Our data is sold and bought every day. As soon as we go online , data is collected – what we do, what we look for, why, when and how we navigate the internet. You collect information about what we buy and what we don’t buy. Pretty much all information about our entire behavior on the Internet is stored.
But what do you do with our personal data? We don’t know for sure. We know they can be used commercially by selling them to specific companies that we are potential customers. Then they implement specific marketing strategies, depending on what interests you have identified in us. However, many people fear that our government will also access this information to keep an eye on the population and identify developments.
There is nothing to be given away for free on the internet
Personal data is so valuable that in return we are offered a whole range of services that at first glance appear to be free of charge. For example the search engines. Anyone can use it “free of charge”, but that is actually not true: in reality we pay for it with our personal data.
The same applies to social media platforms. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram don’t charge a cent for using their platforms. However, they store tons of data, including private information. And they don’t just do that out of curiosity. They do it because our information has commercial value.
This may seem like a fair deal at first, right? These companies should receive something in return for providing their services. The downside is that this creates several problems. First of all, we don’t really know what they are using our personal data for. Second, they could manipulate us in a very subtle, almost unknowable way. This happens, for example, through the targeted dissemination of fake news.
Personal data and their conditioning
Some believe that people need to be tortured in order to divulge confidential information. But today we simply share our data over the Internet. We may not do this consciously, but every single photo of us, our relatives or friends provides information about us. Every single event we show our interest in provides valuable data on a commercial, political and even military level.
The vast majority of websites, including social media platforms, use “cookies”. Cookies are installed on our devices and are responsible for tracking our online activities. Even if we delete them frequently – they will come back. Sometimes cookies are activated in the background and can access our personal photos and videos. If we accept cookies, we generally declare that we agree to this procedure.
Social media platforms define our behavioral patterns based on all of this data. If they know that we travel a lot, we will very likely see advertisements related to travel much more often. Cheap flight tickets, for example. Of course there are mechanisms that can filter for us all information displayed on your device. But these filters sometimes do not work as we imagine: They only let through information from companies that have paid for it. Because this is how Facebook & Co. make their money after all.
The latent risks
Social media platforms classify the information they collect about us. From this they derive our economic and also our social behavior. They analyze who we are most likely to interact with, what we respond to. Therefore, more often they show us the updates of certain people and neglect others. The platforms are starting to label us and reorganize our world based on our online activities.
We should remember that there are many ill-intentioned people out there who know how to get personal benefit from our personal information. And without realizing it, we often publish information about our financial situation or provide other information that makes us vulnerable. We run the risk of being exploited by these people. There are even instances where they manipulated the behavior of children or teenagers into potential victims.
In conclusion, we can only advise caution. We should all always be careful when providing personal information on the Internet. We should only accept cookies on secure websites. In addition, we shouldn’t share our entire life through social media platforms. They are a great way to communicate with other people, but we shouldn’t disclose sensitive information there.
“Privacy is not optional, and it shouldn’t be the price we should be willing to pay for internet access.”