It’s Time To Think: How Many Whistleblowers Do We Really Need?


How is your privacy self-intervention going on? Are you among the ones who support the idea of deleting your Facebook account but ended up on this article through Facebook? I don’t think that anybody really cares if a company is accused of putting user privacy at risk. Because if people did, such companies would have been wiped out of existence.

Facebook’s latest CA fiasco has pushed the company to its limits. After losing tons of cash, all they are doing now is making big changes to their platform. The company has also said goodbye to their third-party data brokers which provided off-Facebook information about users for more optimized ad targeting.

I won’t dig into the details of the CA scandal because it’s been in the news for a couple of weeks and people know what happened.

The bigger question here is, was it possible to prevent such thing? Possibly not, Facebook argued that the incident had occurred before they introduced restricted data access.

Maybe they weren’t at fault, and they made sure the data was deleted (it still exists). But what took the company so long to admit the mistakes on their part? Facebook took the pain to say sorry only after a whistleblower had to take the matter into his own hands, followed by media reports spreading like wildfire. That’s hard to digest about a company which claims to protect people’s privacy and security, at least on their network.

It is quite possible that the company would have never acknowledged it if it weren’t in the news. Anyway, I am not here to pinpoint Facebook in particular. Because we are living in 2018 where most of our lives revolve around the internet. And as it’s commonly said, “Data is the new oil” and “People are the product.”

That’s the reason we are getting all the services for free. Internet companies make money off the users. It’s not even surprising to see if a growing company is allowing more and more developers to access user data. Was it possible for a company to grow this big with disabled access from the beginning then? As far as it seems, the answer is no.

Don’t blame Facebook

You can call me anything for saying that. But ask yourself — did you ever even scrolled through the bottom of any TL;dr EULA while installing some software? I don’t do that often because their text is beyond what normal human race can comprehend. The people who regularly read T&C pages know that iTunes can’t be used to build nuclear weapons.

Most of us just install apps, subscribe to services without ever asking what data it’s sucking in the background. It’s another thing that companies themselves also don’t put such information in the plain sight. People never question it.

The hard truth is our careless attitude gives companies the control of our lives. One day, some whistleblower pops-up out of nowhere and the next moment people are all concerned about privacy. They want to delete Facebook and make sure the company never makes a comeback.

But in reality, no one will do anything. Because, how will people entertain ourselves, share memes, and remember people’s birthdays? Platforms like Facebook have so much importance in our lives that it’s hard to quit them. They are bread and butter for many. And that’s the reality we have to live with. Soon, we all will forget this incident and continue with our lives.

What if Google turns evil one day?

Google possibly has the largest collection of user data than any other company. Because why not? It has more presence in our lives. Google has some contribution in almost everything we do on the internet. In fact, many people open Google to check if their internet is working or not.

Even if we limit the list, an average person uses Google Search, YouTube, Gmail, and above all, Google Maps. Google tracks our location history all the time, minute by minute. Just spare some minutes to visit Google’s My Activity page, and you’ll know the rest.

Google has witnesses controversies but what if a company like Google starts misusing the data and power they have. Imagine the number of Google-powered Android devices that exist. Maybe, Google can control all of them. What if one day the company locks people out of Google Photos and start asking money for their valuable memories.

These are just assumptions, but if something like this ever occurs, then, probably there is no coming back. Not for the people, and not for the company–if they get caught. Thankfully, they haven’t done such thing yet. At least, not anything known to the world.

So, should there be regulations in place

Over the time, privacy-related incidents have compelled federal bodies to put the companies in chains. The most prominent of all are the ones in Europe which regularly create measures to prevent companies from doing whatever they want.

Amid the Cambridge Analytica crisis, people in the technology sector have started to suggest the idea of implementing regulations. The list includes none other than Tim Cook, the CEO of a company that hasn’t left any stone unturned in protecting its customers’ privacy and security. Remember the iPhone unlocking fight it had with the FBI.

While speaking at a Beijing China Forum last week, Cook insisted on the idea that a “well-crafted regulation” is necessary. On the other hand, Mark Zuckerberg isn’t entirely supportive of the regulation thing, but he said that ad transparency should be introduced.

It’s not the fact that Apple has never been dragged into controversies. The company has been criticized for labor issues, and most recently the iPhone X’s useless notch. But Apple has an advantage in the privacy notion.

In a Recode interview, Cook said that they never considered their customers as a product. If they had, they could have made a lot of money. Probably, that’s the reason Siri is not that efficient, as it doesn’t scoop data from users’ devices.

What’s for the people?

Most of the bad news related to Facebook has mostly affected the users in the US. Be it the Russian propaganda, or the most recent CA scandal. However, there is a lesson to be learned for the whole world.

What about the paid option?

Why do companies collect your data? To earn money. So, can’t the users give them what they need. While many would not welcome it, some might pay for an affordable version of a service that doesn’t show ads or log information. We already have paid apps, then why not paid social networking. 

If we don’t respect our privacy, nobody else will.

Should there always be need for some whistleblowers like Edward Snowden or Christopher Wylie? All we have to do is pay a little attention to what we use. And companies should also make it easier for the people to become aware of their policies.

One thing that’s important to note here is that users in developing countries are uninformed about all this privacy stuff. Many of them don’t seem to care if some company is pulling data from their device. If this thing brings some lousy impact in the future, it’ll be too late when they realize it.

Also Read: “Top Notch” Android Phones Are Utterly Stupid And I Feel Sorry For Them
Aditya Tiwari

Aditya Tiwari

Aditya likes to cover topics related to Microsoft, Windows 10, Apple Watch, and interesting gadgets. But when he is not working, you can find him binge-watching random videos on YouTube (after he has wasted an hour on Netflix trying to find a good show). Reach out at [email protected]
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