August 18, 2019

Internet meme exposes users’ data

Story written by Mohammad Rafi Cena

Millions of social media users, including celebrities, participated in the 10-Year Challenge recently. They are juxtaposing pictures taken recently compared to 10 years ago to display how aging has hit them, or to what degree they have made improvements in their lives and careers over the course of ten years.

     The 10-Year Challenge has gone viral on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter worldwide.

     Tech expert Katie O’Neill encourages users to avoid joining in the 10-Year Challenge fad because the data that the participants share with their friends for fun can potentially be used against them at some point. Tech experts, including O’Neill, warn social media users against posting the 10-Year Challenge on social media because companies like Facebook and Amazon can gain access to their private data for manipulation.

     O’Neill speculates social games and memes are designed for the mass extraction of social media users’ personal data. When users provide social media networks with data through social games and memes, like the 10-Year Challenge, they risk their privacy.

     Some data organizations use this information to illegitimately gain access to their personal information and manipulate them. National Public Radio (NPR) reported in 2018 that Cambridge Analytica, a political research firm that worked for President Trump’s 2016 election campaign, stole 87 million Facebook users’ data, which sparked widespread privacy concerns in the U.S.

     The 10-year challenge participants provide corporations, like Amazon and Facebook, an opportunity to take advantage of personal information. They utilize users’ demographics and expose them to a variety of ads.

O’Neill says participants who are aging slower might face some fraught consequences and their data might be used in healthcare and health insurance assessments. She added that those who are aging faster than their cohorts could potentially be at risk of being denied insurance coverage or paying higher rates.

     According to O’Neil, Amazon rolled out real-time-facial recognition services in 2016 and began selling such services to police departments like those in Washington and Oregon. Participating in such fads perhaps allows government agencies to start tracking users down. O’Neill stated that the police could track both the criminals and rioters, as well as those they consider a nuisance in society.

     Some users might say that all of their pictures are already available on social media, so joining in the 10-Year challenge may not be a big deal.

     Of course, Facebook has access to all of the data that users have posted. However, when users provide social media platforms with pictures from now and ten years ago, they allow these networks to gather paired then-and-now photos with the purpose of exploiting different demographics.

     Users allow social media networks to know when, where and with whom their pictures were taken. Additionally, they allow these networks to know how their lifestyles, interests, behaviors, and beliefs have changed within the last ten years. These bodies of information allow corporations and government agencies to manipulate users’ information in any way they choose.

     The 10-Year Challenge and other social games and memes put people’s cybersecurity at risk, their information can potentially be used against them anywhere, anytime. In order for users to be safe on social media, they should think twice before generously giving their data to social media networks and putting their privacy at risk.

 

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