Social Media and Ownership: Who Owns the Data of our Lives?

Social Media has raised a troubling question: who owns the data of our lives? One of the major problems with the rise of Social Media is that the data that largely defines our lives is in the hands of corporations who have as their primary aim to make money. No matter how well intentioned companies like Google and Facebook may be, there should be a greater uneasiness with them holding such vast amounts of information on so much of the human population. For advertisers this is something of a dream come true, but for individuals there are a plethora of problems and questions that have arisen alongside social media such as Facebook.

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Separation of Life Spheres

People behave differently in different contexts, which is culturally validated by our society and also by our privacy. How a person behaves at a club or in their own home should not, unless gravely illegal, have an influence on their professional lives. Facebook has opened people up to a level of scrutiny from employers that is simply unacceptable. It violates the boundaries between professional, personal and even romantic lives that are very important for a healthy life. It is somewhat disturbing that a photo of a person uploaded by a friend might end up in the hands of an employer.

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Having a plethora of information on people is a great opportunity for advertisers, who can target just the demographic to provide the most effect per dollar. However, there is a very grave problem with this when it is combined with the way in which political compaigns are influenced so heavily by money. As Facebook is such a social arena, a political campaign run through its advertising may give the effect of making it seem as though the views reflected in the advertisements are general societal views rather than sponsored. Disclosure is going to become an increasingly large problem for social networks.

Social Lock Outs

If corporations control the means by which we communicate socially, they also control a fair portion of our social lives, thus having the choice to effectively lock us out of them. While this has not been done so much, the recent controversy where women were discussing breast feeding on Facebook only to have their photos banned shows that Facebook is controlling what is and is not legitimate communication. In such a benign case as this it surely is wrong for Facebook to interfere, but with so many people communicating via Facebook the question of where the line is becomes very difficult. Should people be allowed to post pictures of themselves that seem pornographic? At first glance many would be inclined to answer no, but people are free to do it via phone services and email already, so why not Facebook?

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