The B.C. government recently recently banned the use of the app TikTok from its employees' work phones. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Viewpoint: Privacy and personal data the cost of using social media

In Plain View by Lachlan Labere

I have no place in the world of video-centric social media extroverts.

Though I do contribute content to the internet and social media platforms, most of it is for the Observer/Eagle Valley News. And thought I’m OK with shooting video, I’m reluctant to be in front of the lens.

I’ve long been something of an introvert. Also, by and large I prefer keeping my personal/family life private. So while I’m on Facebook and Instagram, I don’t post much to my own accounts. Also, I try to keep the privacy settings, well, fairly private, though I’m not always clear how effective they are. I just assume someone, somewhere is getting information about me from my scrolling habits, likes and comments I make. It’s the price I pay to see posts from people I know, and about the latest in headphones, Star Wars, new camera gear and retro Japanese toy robots, along with the occasional humorous video of dogs or cats.

Of course, there’s plenty more social media content vying for my attention, a lot of which holds no appeal to me. That doesn’t mean I don’t often come across things that pause my scrolling – sometimes for more than 30 seconds! Through social media apps I’ve been able to enjoy plenty of creative content, including videos that have introduced me to musicians, comedians and other artists who I may not have otherwise been exposed to.

I’ve never tried TikTok, but I am familiar with the app and what it offers and the associated risks, thanks in part to the barrage of recent headlines around politics and privacy concerns that are no doubt contributing to already concerning levels of xenophobia in North America.

Read more: TikTok sets new default time limits for minors

Read more: B.C. privacy commissioner part of interprovincial, federal TikTok investigation

I’m not sure privacy is top of mind for influencers or anyone else sharing content on platforms like Instagram and Tiktok, where being seen and heard and liked and shared is kind of the point. That said, stringent protections should be in place regarding privacy and the gathering and use of personal data – regardless of the app/platform and where it originates. If we’re having to ban social media apps from government phones, what we currently have in place doesn’t go far enough.

Certainly TikTok and parent company, ByteDance crossed a line by using the app to spy on journalists, as revealed by Forbes in December 2022. However, I don’t think it reasonable to consider any app or electronic platform that requires and/or collects personal data as benign.

Didn’t Meta/Facebook just pay a $725 million settlement in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where personal data belonging to millions of users was collected without consent by the British consulting firm, to be used largely for political advertising?

Let’s face it, in this digital age, we aren’t just a target market. We’re also currency. Social media apps may be free to use, but there’s always a cost.


lachlan@saobserver.net
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