Sanjeev Kotnala: Time for digital user-introspection

28 Mar,2018

By Sanjeev Kotnala


This Cambridge Analytica- Facebook, data security breach is the biggest crisis Facebook has ever faced. Many questions are being raised on Facebook and in turn Mark Zuckerberg’s statements have been like painting on the sand, changing shape every day. The latest stance is ‘nothing illegal’. Facebook may decide to play ignorant and paint a picture of being the victim of corporate fraud by Cambridge Analytica.


I expect another #METOO moment in social media, more platforms to slowly report data harvesting and misuse.  It is bland to expect data farmers like Cambridge Analytics to only explore and harvest data mines on Facebook. We do not know of any such data misuse in the Indian context. It does not mean there is none.


This is just the tip of the iceberg. Till the time, it remains a battle of technicalities I am afraid that there will not be much of gain.


My friend Bhawani Singh Shekhawat says: “Legal system always lags behind because they are evidence-driven and hence corrective ‘after’ the perpetration. The first mover (exploiters) always gets away with BIG”. There is a definitive need for a moral code of conduct and application.  “The preventive code has to be a moral one.”


What we are now discussing is the misuse of data collected under ‘Facebook quiz – This is Your Digital Life’ pushed by Cambridge Analytica. And all of us, the gullible, social enthusiasts will recall our willingly participating in many such quizzes and stunts.  We have for ease of simplicity used the convenient ‘Login with Facebook’ option in for many other sites and platforms. Each time agreeing to certain degree of profile data access and share.


It is true that Facebook knows more about you. It can far better predict your possible reaction to situations. And they will most of the time right. It is all okay until the time that data is traded, accessed and used without the direct permission of users.


If you trust Facebook, there is nothing to worry.  Google and Yahoo have always assured us of being proactive.  Remember,  ‘Koi Halwai Nahi Bolta Uski Mithai Baasi Hai’. No sweetmaker will ever tell that his ‘sweets’ are stale.


The users always had some idea of how much the social media platforms know about them. It was clear that it is some of the best segmenting tool available for targeted addressing of a message. Along with a high frequency media and on-the-fly management, it creates a quick adaptive environment, a tool available for misuse. Human intelligence with self-learning algorithms and machine intelligence makes for best non-intrusive subliminal interference and influence.


That puts the users in a tight spot. They have in many ways aligned themselves with the Facebook’s purported mission of global transparency. At every stage, they have been giving away rich profile data and easy access to 3rd party apps. They have set themselves for easy manoeuvrability.


As expected, for some time people will stop using the option to use Facebook id to log in to digital interactions. There will be few #QuitFacebook #DeleteFacebook moments. All of this will die an abrupt death when some new shit hits the ceiling.


The answer is not quitting Facebook, but intelligently managing controls on what you share. It is about not accepting the unwarranted requests.


The era of self-regulation is dead. The consumer control that has been demanding and creating new social framework will define data use too. It will have to create far stricter and effective laws to protect from data misuse.


We users must not lose the momentum. We must question every possible platform and practice before accepting any new definitions. We must reclaim our lives and avatars in digital space.



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