Can we do anything to protect our data?

facebook-privacy-scandal_enIt is general knowledge what went down with Facebook and the data they collect. And as a consequence, I get bombarded with questions what to do.
The truth is, one person cannot do much. The ideal solution would be to bang together and force Facebook to make changes.
Because, you see, Facebook will not make changes voluntarily. Collecting data, using those data for advertising, and selling the data is the way Facebook makes money. And it is irrelevant what kind of actions or non-actions you do. Facebook has info about you and there is nothing you, as an individual, can do to erase that info or stop them from selling it.

Data Mining

I faced this issue years ago when I started learning about Data Science and realized how much info about a human can be inferred based on data collected.
Some stuff is downright dangerous, as an ability to exactly locate one specific person by simply targeting them with an add. (You can do this with around $1000). Or even breaking the HIPA law—based on your locations and browsing history it is very easy to determine state of your health, even particular illnesses that plague you.
Freaked out, I experimented what to do. But at the end I have to admit myself there is not much one, single individual can do. This particular problem requires organizing.

Potential action

The action I would suggest follows from a set of values I find dear and hits the root of the problem. But again, action will have effect only if a majority of us does it.
As I said, Facebook and others collect data about us so that they can sell a targeted add option to companies. So the main catch is to make this impossible. If I do not react to a targeted add, and always do my own research before purchasing any product or service, then adds that are served to me are waste of money.
Imagine if a majority of us would do the same. Buying only necessary stuff, making sure not to make impulse buys, in essence ignoring adds. (BTW. This is also environmentally friendly action) Very soon, companies would stop wasting money on a useless adds and all data collections about us would not actually make financial sense.

Adds on Facebook

So this is what I do, ignore the adds. With Facebook, there is a catch. They tend to mask add as an ordinary post. I learned that when I investigated how could I advertise my blog on Facebook. Really, the tip that is circulating is to make your add look as much as possible as the ordinary post. Only such posts actually attract the most interactions.
It seems to me I’m not the only one who ignores official adds.

Anyway, there is a learning curve in trying to identify the camouflaged adds, the ones that pop out in your news feed. And the latest USA elections gave extra motivation to people to learn.
Well, personally, I believe that the most effective action is to make people who are buying adds at Facebook think that’s waste of money. Ignoring adds is one way to do it. But that is hard because adds are getting better and better at being camouflaged and tailor-made to make you react.

Workaround

One way to do it is not to follow the link in the post. Do not do it. If you’re compelled to investigate what you see, open up a search engine and search the term, headline or whatever grabbed your attention. (I recommend Duck Go Go – they do not collect your browsing data)
See when I buy add on Facebook, or ‘promote’ my post, I get information how many people saw or liked the post/add on the Facebook. Facebook charges per viewing, not clicking. And where ever I have my main web page, I can track which link you followed to get to my page. So if I have a discrepancy between how much Facebook charges me and how many visitors I got from Facebook then I will stop paying Facebook to show my add (i.e. ‘promote’ my post).
It is so simple. All you have to do is not follow the link from the Facebook. Copy and paste will not help, because a link itself contains a reference to Facebook, you have to search term, headline or whatever in a search engine. An additional caveat is if you cannot find it, then it is most likely a fake news or some malicious link.
And that is what in essence I’m doing. BTW. I do not pay Facebook to promote my posts. I do share science stuff on Facebook, but I do not pay to them, simply because there are no many visitors coming or even interacting with my Facebook posts.

See, it works. 😉

 

STAY SMART

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