19 Jul Your Life on Social Media Is #Not4Sale
Two years ago, the social media story (what story?) exploded into the news like an atomic bomb and we’re still dealing with the aftershocks. Frequent online data breaches, stolen identities and hostile messaging have made consumers and companies feel vulnerable and chipped away at the security of our democracy. Now, new social media platforms like MeWe are fighting back.
Back in 2016, the data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica pilfered the personal data of millions of Facebook users and used it in an attempt to supercharge Donald Trump’s presidential run.
The whistleblower who let the media in on the breach, former Cambridge Analytica research director Christopher Wylie, said the number of users whose data was stolen “could be higher” than the 87 million Facebook announced. According to Wylie, the information taken from the users “could be stored in various parts of the world, including Russia.”
It’s All About Privacy
In the aftermath of the data heist, Daniel Ives, head of technology research at GBH Insights, said, “The Cambridge Analytica debacle has been the darkest chapter in Facebook’s 14-year history. We view this as a seminal moment that’s going to change the nature of privacy, content and ad transparency.”
Facebook, which has more than two billion users, claimed there was no data breach because it routinely allows researchers access to user data for academic purposes, and users consent to this access when they create a Facebook account.
“This was unequivocally not a data breach,” Facebook vice president Andrew Bosworth tweeted. “People chose to share their data with third party apps and if those apps did not follow the data agreements with Facebook or users it is a violation. No systems were infiltrated, no passwords or information were stolen or hacked.”
Can Social Media Platforms Fix Their Problems?
Many prominent observers disagreed. “This is a major breach that must be investigated,” said Amy Klobuchar, U.S. Senator from Minnesota. “It’s clear that these platforms can’t police themselves.”
On the business side, the Cambridge Analytics story rattled a host of companies because streaming media is front and center—everyone wants to use big data to produce highly targeted ads on the Internet. “Hundreds of billions of dollars [in digital ad spending] are at stake over the next several years over this issue,” Ives stated.
MeWe Promises Security
The Facebook debacle was a catalyst for a business called MeWe that promises absolute social media security and protection. The tagline for the business is “Your Life Is #Not4Sale.”
On the MeWe site, the company claims that “the big technology companies had reverted to treating users as commodities and somehow mistook people signing up to use their services as a welcome invitation to target, track, spy and sell their information to advertisers and the government.”
MeWe founder Mark Weinstein envisioned a social and chat app that provides a sharing technology that has privacy built into the design so members would feel safe and respected.
Weinstein created the Sgrouples beta project and hired an engineering team to design and build the world’s first social network with privacy-by-design. The project served as the testing platform for the launch of MeWe in 2016.
Talking Back to Facebook
In its first-ever advertisement on any medium, MeWe took a full-page ad in The New York Times on May 27, 2018, titled, “Dear Facebook” in direct response to Mark Zuckerberg’s letter two days earlier and Zuckerberg’s refusal to name MeWe in a Congressional hearing when asked if there is an alternative to Facebook in the private sector.
The MeWe Privacy Bill of Rights includes these declarations:
- You own your personal information and content. It is explicitly not ours.
- You will never receive a targeted advertisement or 3rd party content based on what you do or say online. We think that’s creepy.
- You see every post in timeline order from your friends, family and groups.
- Permissions and privacy are your rights. You control them.
- You control who can access your content.
MeWe was honored as the 2016 Start-Up of the Year Finalist for “Innovative World Technology” at SXSW 2016 (South by Southwest).
Social media users face a difficult dilemma. Should they stay on Facebook and have doubts about the safety of their personal data? Should they leave Facebook in favor of a supposedly secure site, hoping that—finally—their data will be protected? Or should they simply concede, as Senator Klobuchar said, that these sites can’t police themselves, and abandon social media altogether?