January 17, 2019

Now, we don’t want to sound like party-poopers but the latest online trend sweeping Facebook and Instagram have got our privacy senses tingling… and not in a good way.

If you’re on any form of social media, then chances are you’ve already seen this latest craze where people are posting pictures of themselves from “then” (being 10-years ago) and “now” (being… well, now).

This craze has swelled in popularity – predominantly on Facebook, growing further across Instagram and now even over Twitter.  The sceptic in you could be forgiven for thinking that Facebook themselves might be behind this new fad, but Facebook have been quick to distance themselves – instead placing the credit (or blame) at the every-day user’s door:

 

Facebook 10 year challenge post privacy concerns

 

So, what’s the big deal?

Well, perhaps there isn’t an issue.  Perhaps there’s nothing for us to be concerned about at all.  But, if we put our cynical privacy hats on for just a moment, what if this isn’t all as fun, innocent and hilarious as it looks on the surface?  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’ll be the first to laugh at pictures of my nearest and dearest sporting some undoubtedly questionable fashion attire from 10 years ago (myself included) but, what if there’s a privacy issue to think about here?

What if – just what if, this is either a) an intentional way of harvesting untold amounts of data to assist facial recognition or b) an innocent meme that could soon be turned negative, as the data the millions of posts provides a lucrative opportunity for the huge social media conglomerates to cash in on.

 

But, who cares? They already have my data?

I hear you but this isn’t just a case of Facebook having access to your photos here.  This is millions of users worldwide, providing the exact images from them 10 years ago, through to today.

Now, say we ran a facial recognition business together – might that data be kind of useful to us?  The ability to map user ageing?  The mass profiling of features?

This latest fad effectively provides arguably one of the largest, most genuine data representation of user ageing – likely with one of the smallest percentages of unreliable data you could wish for.

 

But we can trust Facebook and co, can’t we?

Erm…. well, how do I put this politely?

No, seriously.  We all need to remember that old adage:

“If you’re not paying to use a service, you’re the product”

This latest trend smacks of future privacy problems, particularly after the recent issues we saw with the Cambridge Analytica scandal (remember, where Facebook sold data, without user consent, to a data mining company?).  So, forgive me if I remain a little sceptical.

 

What’s the lesson here?

Ok, so we don’t know for certain if this is going to be an issue – either now or in the future.  And Facebook are certainly making the right sounds about this purely being a bit of fun but, if nothing else, it’s a timely remind of just how seriously we all need to take our own personal data.

The sheer volume of data we, as humans, create and share about ourselves is growing astronomically by the day.  Hell, by the hour.

We all need to think about what data we’re creating, how it’s being shared and, most definitely, who are are sharing it with – both our networks, but also the platforms through which this data is shared.

Regrettably, we can’t yet trust organisations to treat our personal data with the respect it deserves, so it’s important that we do it for ourselves.

Using a service for free?  Even more reason to be cautious when sharing your personal data.

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