The technological development that is present in the world is immense; the growth can be
attributed to the increase in demand for information and also the growth of the global market.
Globalization has further contributed to technological development as citizens can freely interact
with one another; therefore, the desire and demand for technology to improve connection and
interaction across the world have been on the rise.
The continuous growth of technology and innovation has always been on the rise has brought
about a serious discussion with regards to the right to privacy. The access to information seems
to be stretching its limits and further violating the right to privacy of various individuals. The
right to privacy is under threat with the increased free flow of information makes it susceptible to
violation. This paper is going to focus on the right to privacy and the internet in the digital era, to
effectively do this a case study will be done on Facebook.
It is hard to have a clear and exact definition of privacy, for this paper privacy can be defined as
the right to control of access of a person’s information. An individual is responsible for
determining who he or she can share personal information with.
While the right to privacy offers a positive impact on individuals, there are also negative impacts
that can be attributed to it. The right of privacy enables individuals to be more creative,
independent, individualistic, free and protects the dignity of the individuals; therefore, the right
of privacy ensures that personal information of individuals is well protected. On the other hand,
the right to privacy has been attributed to entrench inequality, promotes non-accountability and
exploitation of other peoples right. The protection of the right of privacy should be jealously be
guarded to ensure that the information of individuals is not capitalized.
Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook while he was a student at Harvard University in early 2004.
The intention that Zuckerberg had was to create the student directory which contained the
pictures and profiles of the students. The website was available to the public in 2006. It has
undergone a various upgrade to become a complex social media use.
Facebook is categorized as a social media tool. Still, it has combined features such as e-mail,
photo-sharing, instant messaging and blogging programs and also to monitor friend’s online
activity. Therefore, it operates as a one-stop-shop that combines several social aspects. Users are
supposed to set up a profile to engage with other users. Facebook has grown to be the second
most popular website in the world. Facebook has progressively been introducing several privacy
features since 2004. In 20006, Facebook introduced the News Feed Feature, and this feature
allowed users to view their friend’s activities on Facebook and communicate with them. This
feature was not present since the activities of individuals on the website were not able to see the
activities of their individuals.
In 2007, Facebook introduced the Beacon feature; this feature was used to collect data on the
activities of the users of Facebook. The focus of the activities was on shopping habits. This
feature was not well received by the users as they were not happy that Facebook was monitoring
their activities. Facebook had to adjust the surveillance method that it was using, they used other
methods that were not that clear to collect private information where they sold the same
information to third parties for them to conduct their advertisement.
How users use Facebook user’s use the privacy setting availed on the application
Majority of Facebook users rarely pay attention to the privacy features that are available on
Facebook. The users use Facebook as a tool of communication, with them setting up their
profile; they seem not to be aware of how visible their profile is open to the public. Users fail to
understand how visible their personal information is displayed online through their Facebook
profile. However, the present users seem to be more aware of the privacy features compared to
the old users who were either ignorant or they did not know how to protect their information.
Hargittai and Boyd (2010) in their study, they found out that the youth/ young users are the once
that mostly utilize the privacy settings that are availed on Facebook. The identified users had at
least tried to adjust their profile to make it less visible. They further discovered that the young
population who were users of Facebook tendered to protect their personal information; therefore,
they could not make it that public compared to the older generation. The research concluded that
frequent users of Facebook had tried to protect their information, whereas those that were not
frequent users were not that keen on protecting their information.
Facebook and Personal Information
Cohen & Shade, 2008 observed that one of how Facebook makes its money is through selling
information related to its users or collected from its users to third parties for them to use the
information for advertisement. Therefore, Facebook has been mining data from its users and use
it to generate revenues by selling the data to third parties. The mining of private information has
been turned into a valuable asset to Facebook. Cohen further explained that Facebook has made
its platform free so that they can be able to collect the information and sell them to third parties.
Facebook; therefore, use unorthodox methods to make profits by selling private and confidential
information. This is a total violation of the right to privacy that the users of Facebook are entitled
Apart from the commodification of private information of users, Facebook has been to abuse the
violate the privacy of other users. A good example that can be explained on how other users have
been violated is through bullying, stalking and harassment. Therefore, the available gaps have
been exploited by users and also Facebook to undermine the right of privacy of individuals.
Despite Facebook being subjected to criticism for violation of the right to privacy and assuring
its users that it will protect their private information. Facebook has not failed or rather hesitated
to provide users with information to third parties.
The commodification of personal information has been attributed to having an impact of causing
a security risk and further lead to spreading wrong information which can be accounted for as an
error. Once Facebook has sold the information to a third party, the company will intensify its
marketing and communication activities, and this is based on the information provided to them
by Facebook. In certain instance the third-party using wrong information to driver their idea will
have been given a wrong idea, this is because online activity and information o an individual
does not mean that that is the character of the person. Therefore, third parties may be acting on
information that is not true. The rights to privacy in the digital error has affected how individuals
behave or act online. Users are limited from acting naturally, and they are also restrained from
controlling their reputation.
The data mining being conducted by Facebook has shown that with the continuous flow of
information online, it has made it impossible for individuals to maintain and manage their
reputation and how they are perceived by others. Therefore, sharing personal information on
social sites like Facebook has exposed the users to continuous harassment, commodification and
corporate surveillance. Users further lose their ability to control how they are perceived by
others, both online and offline.
protect the privacy of users. Facebook does have rigid opt-out policies that force users to
undergo several steps to opt-out of privacy invasion. This has been attributing the fact that if it is
easy to opt-out, then the commodification aspect of personal data will be lost, this will translate
to the loss of revenues for Facebook.
There should be more call to accountability by users and other groups of interest to act as
watchdogs against Facebook. This will help in reducing the chances of Facebook to violate the
right of privacy of its users.
The Facebook case study has been able to show how the privacy of the users of the platform has
continuously been violated, exploited and commercialized. Although Facebook has continued to
become popular, most users who run to be part of the social network continue to offer a wider
pool of information that will be used by Facebook to generate income. The continued
surveillance of Facebook on its users shows that the interest of the social network does not lie
with that of the users but instead their desire to generate more revenue and income. Therefore,
the users of Facebook should start advocating for easier opt-out privacy. This will help the users
in ensuring that their private information is not used for other activities without their consent.
Cohen, N. & Shade, L. 2008. Gendering Facebook: Privacy and commodification.
Feminist Media Studies. 8 (2): 210-214.
Hargittai, E. & Boyd, D., 2010. Facebook privacy settings: Who cares? First Monday
Waldman E., 2016. Privacy, Sharing, and Trust: The Facebook Study. Case Western Reserve
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