5 Sep 2013

Why No One Is Surprised By Facebook, Twitter And Google Spying

The news that the top social networks have been spying on their users is . . . well, it’s not really news, is it?
Out of the fifty social networks tested in a recent experiment by High-Tech Bridge, six were found to be trawling links sent in private messages and emails.
Two of those caught were link-shortening services, so I guess we can let them off — that’s how they operate.
But for Facebook, Twitter, Google and Formspring, there really is no excuse. And there’s really no reason to be surprised. We all know they’ve been doing it.
There have been tailored ads showing up in Gmail’s margins since forever, and Facebook has got more dirt on you than your best friend. And Twitter — well, if everybody else is doing it, why shouldn’t they?
It’s possible that there’s an unspoken safety-in-numbers thing going on here. People won’t stop using Facebook, Twitter and Google unless something better comes along, and without a privacy-respecting alternative around, the networks can more-or-less do as they please.
It’s not like anyone reads the privacy policies anyway — to most people, they’re unreadable. Take Google’s, for example:
We provide personal information to our affiliates or other trusted businesses or persons to process it for us, based on our instructions and in compliance with our Privacy Policy and any other appropriate confidentiality and security measures.
What do they even mean by “process”? And what information are they talking about? Who are these affiliates, anyway?
And Google aren’t the only ones with a privacy policy that’s intentionally vague.
Twitter tells you how it uses your data for tailored ads, and explains how to opt out of said ads— but it doesn’t say it’ll stop reading your data. 
Facebook is no better, and is probably the creepiest of the three:
Your trust is important to us, which is why we don’t share information we receive about you with others unless we have [...] given you notice, such as by telling you about it in this policy
Because seriously, you can guarantee that most people will not have read it. Each network’s privacy policy would take at least half an hour to read — and because none of them are particularly clear anyway, you’d probably be no better off if you did.
Oh, and for anybody wondering, LinkedIn wasn’t found to be spying — but then, LinkedIn is the Goody Two-Shoes of social media anyway, so that’s no surprise, either.
I guess the only thing truly surprising here is that people are surprised!

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