BIPP: Is there a balance between privacy and data collection?

Yiwei Wang and Andrew Schlicht

The recent Facebook privacy scandal has shocked many of its users across the world. The sudden loss of trust and confidence of users placed Facebook in a very difficult situation. The company aimed to appease users who felt their privacy had been violated and at the same time accused Cambridge Analytica of breaching the private data collection agreement between the two companies.

In March, The New York Times and The Observer featured articles on how Cambridge Analytica used 50 million profiles to aid Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and the pro-Brexit campaign. Whistleblower Christopher Wylie claimed that Facebook users’ private data was used in both cases. Shocked and offended, Facebook users and both the American and British governments demanded Facebook to testify on the details of the scandal. In the middle of the crisis, some people ask, where is the balance for privacy data protection?

There are two main aspects to this debate: that of increasing personal privacy, and that of increasing surveillance for more security. Privacy is something we enjoy having. There is security and comfort in knowing that our thoughts and actions are kept to ourselves. What we have inside of our homes is our own and cannot be accessed without permission from a court – this is the Fourth Amendment. If this applies to our private homes, why shouldn’t it apply to the internet? If the data we share is our own, do we not have the right to control who can reach and access our information?

On the other side, moderate surveillance over private data can be necessary if a security issue is concerned. The FBI and Apple encryption dispute over the 2015 San Bernardino attack is a classic example: in this case, the FBI demanded that Apple unlock an iPhone 5C to retrieve the shooter’s personal data within the phone. In a world where information flows continuously and instantaneously, it is a struggle to both protect and respect a consumer’s privacy at same time. Former FBI Director James Comey argues that “there is no such thing as absolute privacy in America; there is no place outside of judicial reach.”

As much we hear about the privacy of others being violated with revelations of this nature, we have to remember that this includes University students. Most of us have a social media account in one form or another. Many of us post or update our accounts on a daily basis, often without thought of how many people have the ability to access what we release to the public eye.

With little effort, everyone can use these sites to uncover where someone else lives, what their hobbies are, and even the name of their pet. These are elements of our private bubble that we bring into the open with the use of social media accounts. Perhaps we create this window into our lives because we cannot begin to contemplate the variety of possible consequences that stem from each post, share, or tweet we send out.

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