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Who's Watching Who These Days?

The privacy boogie man typically has been big government. Since George Orwell penned 1984, it is the prying eyes of Big Brother that have been seen as the enemy of the people.

But that might be changing. I am less worried about Big Brother and more concerned with all the little brothers to whom we now surrender our private information for supposedly free services. Case in point: Facebook.

Facebook promotes itself as a free online service, but users of the social network pay for it with their data. We give over to Facebook all kinds of personal information — our birthdate, our likes and dislikes, our political affiliations, and our network of friends. And we — perhaps stupidly — trusted Zuckerberg and company with this information.

We did so because Facebook explicitly told us that our data was secure. It is there for you to read in the terms of service. But no one ever reads the terms of service, and that’s the problem. Because the recent data breech at Facebook, whereby Cambridge Analytica obtained personal information from some 50 million users, is not a breech technically speaking. The data was simply given away.

This was neither a crime nor a break-in. It was, as Zuckerberg explained in his public statements, simply a violation of Facebook’s terms of service. For this reason, Facebook can claim that it, too, was a victim and not the perpetrator.

So now what? We turn to Big Brother and ask for hearing and oversight. How things have changed.

I’m David Gunkel, and that’s my perspective.

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