Opinion: We’re all living in an episode of “Black Mirror”… or we’re about to be

By Julia Cramer | March 27, 2018 9:35am

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Julia Cramer
by Brennan Robinson / The Beacon

Social networking sites are both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, these sites have brought the world closer together; creating interactions that go beyond location, time zones and language barriers. Globally, people are sharing news, ideas and information with just the click of a button. Indeed, social media has become an integral component of our communication with over 1.96 billion people considered to be social media users.

On the other hand, social media sites have recently become unsafe. Hackers are finding ways to obtain users’ profiles and stealing their information without their knowledge. 

On March 21, 2018, Mark Zuckerberg appeared before Congress to discuss the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal. According to CNN, Cambridge Analytica allegedly accessed over 50 million Facebook users’ profiles without their permission. At first, Facebook allowed a British professor to have 270,000 people’s personal information with their permission to conduct an academic personality study. 

However, the professor had other plans, collecting 270,000 people’s information plus their friends’. He failed to notify Facebook that he would distribute 50 million people’s private information to Cambridge Analytica, a database firm tied to Trump’s campaign to find specific voters online. In 2015, Facebook discovered their users’ privacy information was publicly available to this database and required that it be destroyed. Yet, Cambridge Analytica still used the confidential information for the Trump campaign.

This complete exploitation of materials was a breach of privacy that Zuckerberg failed to stop. Even more so, Facebook has been attributed to a list of other alleged and unethical scandals. This violation of our rights is unsettling. 

If this “Black Mirror” episode continues, we will be monitored and tracked, blurring the lines between what is real news and fake news. As someone who will focus my career around using these sites, there needs to be federal regulation surrounding privacy and social networking sites. 

I want to ensure that my job isn’t contributing to the destruction of free speech, confidentiality and democracy. There are legal and moral ways marketers can collect customer data as long as you inform your customers first, and they follow government regulation. With all this said, be careful what you post on your social media, because Big Brother may be watching you.

Julia Cramer is a senior Marketing major. She can be reached at cramer18@up.edu

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