Where Does Privacy On The Net Begin, Really?

A new app on Facebook requires users to give up ALL their personal information for the sole reason of “measuring one’s social capital”. Is this nonsense or what?

The debate on privacy on the net quietly rages on as Internet users begin to feel the pinch of being overly exposed to Internet companies. In this age where personal information is as good as a gold to marketers, everyone who is building any sort of app has one thing in mind, get as many users and harvest as much of their personal data as possible and possibly, leverage this data to make money from marketing firms.

This is basically the business model Facebook and Twitter use when they tap into the personal information of their users to gain market insight, which they then sell to marketers and advertisers. If you thought that was unethical, a new Facebook app called Swaylo has gone so far as to ask users to give them full rights to their personal information (and I mean ALL) and for what reason? To “measure the users social capital against their friends.”

Now, if that was not the flimsiest reason I would give up all my personal Facebook information, I’m not sure what could be worse than that. But it gets worse. If you do opt to give the application full access, it will also be able to gain access to your friend’s personal information, which you have access to. Meaning, if your friends have given you full access to their profile, the app will be able to harvest their information as well.

This gold rush for personal information is not only on Facebook, the Apple App Store has also come under sharp criticism after it emerged that many apps that Apple vetted and allowed into their store harvested personal information, including entire address book entries and photos, without user permission. To this effect, a group of smartphone users in Texas have taken app creators and app store owners to court seeking damages and an order to stop application developers from “stealing” user information for commercial gain.

This does not, however, even scratch the surface of the issue that is privacy on the web, because privacy and the web are an oxymoron. If you consider all your personal information is tucked away in a server a thousand miles away and all that stands between your information and these pirates is a simple password, what really is net privacy anyway?

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