Data Transparency was never such a fiery discussion! On September 22nd, we had one of the most instigating webinars here at Right-Hand with our special guest Zamaan Qureshi, from The Real Facebook Oversight Board.
Zamaan showed us what data Facebook is tracking from its users for one hour, but that was just the start of the conversation. We discussed several aspects of privacy, regulation, and citizen action in social networking.
We put together some takeaways here, but we strongly recommend watching the entire recording on our Youtube channel. We added timestamps on the video description to act as a handy guide for your viewing experience, and the video is open and free to view. We feel this is a powerful message that needs sharing.
Here are some of our favorite moments:
A data breach on Facebook got Zamaan curious about his data.
By asking himself, “was I a part of this breach?” Zamaan went to investigate and found out way more than that (more on that soon). This incident shows that our concern about how social networks are tracking us go beyond the use these organizations make of the data (ads, recommendations) and what happens when their security fails and personal information falls in the hands of criminals.
Facebook as an “off Facebook activity” folder on you.
As Zamaan dug deeper into his Facebook data (sidebar: Facebook does not make it easy to find your data), beyond what leaked on the breach, the first surprising discovery was that tracking went beyond the social network’s borders.
Bonus: Facebook tracks you after you uninstall the app from your phone. As per Zamaan’s account, his Facebook record showed app activity after deletion. An entire network of apps works in coordination and exchanging information, so a proactive attitude towards data protection is always helpful.
Regulation is a significant incentive to empower citizens.
As Zamaan says, “we need regulatory help and some safeguards in place that allow us to be protected when we use social media platforms.” That is a demand that people like Zamaan and the organizations they are part of (like The Real Facebook Oversight Board) take to lawmakers in different countries.
In an example presented during the conversation, as guilty as we are of practically skipping terms and conditions, all of it built to be complicated, hard to grasp, and with a poor interface. That is the target of activist groups, who want to ensure that the ground rules are laid out and clear and understood by everyone.
Marketing tactics make it hard to escape Facebook.
Zamaan talks about Myanmar, where Facebook comes pre-installed on mobile phones. The social network played a part in the political instability in the region in recent years, which makes such policies more dangerous. Another example presented was Brazil, where Facebook comes pre-installed, and carriers offer free internet to use the app on 4G.
Individuals have the responsibility to make changes, micro and macro.
It is hard to get away from social networking. Either because of professional ties, personal ties, or both, being away means being away from a significant part of the world. There is a responsibility from governments to protect our privacy and data.
But as individuals, we also have our roles to play.
First, as Zamaan says, we must “pressure our lawmakers to make changes and find regulatory fixes and build a framework that gives users control over their data.” That is the part where we make significant changes and make a difference for everyone, including us.
We can control our data in a more minor but still effective proportion, limiting what Facebook and other social networks collect from us. Zamaan goes into detail, showing how to place guardrails and safeguards. Check the webinar recording for a demonstration of how to do it.
Before you go…
Zamaan co-wrote an extensive article on Instagram for Time Magazine, which you can read here.
The WSJ “Facebook File” articles mentioned during the webinar are available here (subscriber-only).
Check out our future events and on-demand recordings on our events page.