There have been widespread concerns about the fact that social media platforms such as Facebook may be breaching privacy laws. Given the hearing currently underway in which Facebook has been implemented in a privacy breach scandal, people are now wondering just how far down the rabbit hole it may go.
Could, for example, Facebook tap into a computer’s microphone, and listen in as we go about our daily lives? The technology certainly exists for Facebook to do so, but could such a thing really be possible? Could Facebook, Google, or any other digital platform really be listening in on our conversations?
Zuckerberg – It’s A Conspiracy Theory
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently addressed this exact concern, and stated, very simply, that the notion was a conspiracy theory. But isn’t that exactly what a person would say, in order to cover their guilt?
While some conspiracy theories are rather silly, such as the one that says casinos pump oxygen in to their venues to keep players wide awake, or that chemtrails are poisoning us slowly, this one isn’t too far-fetched. If you believe that casinos really do pump oxygen in, rather opt for online casino games, and if chemtrails bother you, do a bit more research as to where they come from and why they are not going to hurt you!
When looking at the idea of Facebook listening in on us logically, the question to ask is; why would the social media giant do this? Facebook already has access to all a person’s information, as is widely known. A person joining Facebook is agreeing to share their information with Facebook. This is simple fact. The trick is that Facebook is only allowed to use the information in certain specific ways. For example, in providing personalised advertising to Facebook users.
Why would Facebook need to listen in on people, when it is already being given all the information it needs, freely? And furthermore, the enormous logistical effort involved in listening in on users seems somewhat unrealistic.
Google Already Knows
Similar things can be said about Google. Most don’t seems to realise that Google, and all other web based businesses, have access to an enormous amount of the information people use to surf the Internet. Cookies are packets of information to keep track of everywhere a person visits on the Internet, what they click on, and what they look at. Cookies exist for all web browsers, and are used to provide a more personalised browsing experience.
However, as with other information of this type, cookies cannot be used in unauthorised ways. The record does exist, however, for everyone who browses online.
But the question is, why would Google need to listen in on users, when they already have all the information they need? Listening in on users seems like a great deal of effort to go through, when, once again, the most important information is being handed over freely.
United States Patriot Act
In terms of the law, listening in on users would be illegal, and it would not be long before any social media or software giant was investigated and fined. This is happening with Facebook currently, where a breach of privacy was detected. In the current case, however, Cambridge Analytica is accused of using general Facebook user information to target and influence people and motivate their thinking, and push specific, often fake, facts.
In the United States the Patriot Act exists, which gives law enforcement officers the right to listen in on communication, only in the case that suspects are suspected of terrorist activity. This is the only case, within the law, that communication might be tapped, and authorities listen in on otherwise private conversations.
However, very specific laws bind even the Patriot Act. Any company beyond the law tapping into private communications would quickly be brought to justice. But as already mentioned, companies like Facebook and Google largely already have all the information they want, and could ever need.
Escaping giving information to Google or Facebook would require throwing ones phone, laptop and computer away, and never using them again, and that’s not something that’s likely to happen. We just have to hope that no one is listening in on us, and if they are, we better watch what we say! But only if we have something to hide, of course…