Should we trust data mining practices?

Picture yourself taking a walk along the Susquehanna on a nice, warm day. You take a seat on a bench, see the sun reflect off the water and hear the birds chirping. Without anyone in sight but cars driving over the Market Street Bridge, you start to feel a sense of peacefulness.

Suddenly, a loud ringtone blurts out, your leg vibrates and you reach into your pocket to grab your smartphone. You take a quick look at your notifications, put your smartphone away and walk back home.

What would you think if someone asked you how your walk along the river was, if you didn’t tell anyone?

What if your smartphone was tracking every step you made? What would you do if you found out that your smartphone was collecting your most personal information and selling it?

Well, the average person simply continues to let it happen. The average smartphone user doesn’t think of the potential harm that could be caused by the rigorous data mining that occurs across many different platforms, and do not want to put in any extra work to reduce it.

CEO and Chairman of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg is at the heart of this issue because of Facebook’s recent scandal involving a third-party organization to data mine user’s data from Facebook without approval from the users, nor Facebook.

He was invited to Congress to answer questions surrounding this situation, and the ethical issues surrounding privacy online. However, it seemed not everyone in Congress had a great understanding of the issue, and Zuckerberg was deflecting as hard as he could.

Zuckerberg was more concerned with keeping his job rather than taking the problem head-on, according to a photographer’s picture of his prepared notes. The problem with this particular situation is that Facebook mines a ton of data already, and that is an ethical issue in itself.

Facebook is not in any serious trouble, but the fluctuation of Zuckerberg and Facebook’s wealth shows what kind of turmoil the company is in. In light of the news, a hashtag started to trend on Twitter called: #DeleteFacebook.

It is up to you to decide if you want to continue to be data mined. Companies like Facebook, Google and most popular social media sites provide their services for free in exchange for selling your data to advertisers.

An ex-Google engineer analyzed the amount of data that was collected from him, and decided to make a comparison between Facebook and Google to show how in-depth their data mining practices are. The amount of data was frightening to say the least.

All users are able to download the information that has been collected on both Facebook and Google. Facebook collected the equivalent of 300,000 pages of Microsoft Word documents, but Google was at three million documents. Google data mines substantially more than Facebook.

There are some easy ways to minimize the risks associated with being data mined.

For iPhones and iPads, go to the settings, click on privacy and enable “Limit Ad Tracking,” and for Androids, go to settings, Google, and select “Opt Out of Interest Based Ads.” This does not stop data mining, but it hides your identity. Instead of keeping a profile on an individual’s name, these switches assign a number to your data profile known as the “Identifier for Advertising.”

After that, go to your Google Chrome settings, show advanced settings, go to privacy and click “Send a do not track request with your browsing traffic.” Some websites may not honor this, but this stops targeted advertisements based on your data.

On Facebook, go to settings, ad settings, click on the button “Ads on apps and websites off of the Facebook Companies” and then scroll to the bottom to select “no.”

On Twitter, go to settings and privacy, click “Privacy and safety,” click “Personalization and data” and turn off everything.

Instagram surprisingly does not have privacy settings, but every time an advertisement pops up, you can either hide or report it. The more you hide or report ads, the less frequent they show up.

Technology is constantly advancing faster than we can regulate it. Advertisers may not intend to harm us with our information, but it is important for Facebook to be ethical.