Ever wondered why your social media platforms and free email providers never send you a bill at the end of the month or year for using their services? They are not being benevolent by not sending you bills as you feed them with a steady diet of your personal information.
This is in addition to making money from advertisements on their websites and on the products you use. They ought to pay you. When Google launched Gmail in 2004, it offered each of its Gmail account holders two megabytes of space for emails. This was very attractive to millions of people embracing the new form of communication, according to Informatician Sam Wambugu.
Then came a generous gesture meant to enable communication and boost business through a herd of new free products like Calendars, Contacts, Maps, Documents, Photos, and many more. But the real crown jewel of Social Media is our data. Social Media platforms collect an inordinate amount of data from their services and sell them for a song. They compile the information by tracking every search you make on their websites.
For example, when you click a link on Google, it commits to memory for billions of people who devotedly use its services. “Gmail is a treasure trove of information that constantly tells the company your dreams, hopes, and aspirations”, notes Mr. Wambugu adding that for every person who types an email for business or social, Google curates their contacts. When you exchange emails with a friend, note that Google is the third person in that exchange. Its systems scan and keep keywords and key phrases of your communication.
For every contact saved on Google contacts, Google can trace them and know what they do, their purchasing habits, interactions, location, and profession. This is possible because ten years ago, Google merged its data from across its products and services, making it possible for it to pull a thread between one’s search patterns to their Gmail and places they log on GPS.
Together with pictures on Google Photos, Google can create a holistic view of your life and that of your contacts. Companies pay a lot to get your data. They can pore into the data trests, values, and purchasing behavior. They then tailor products and services to suit them. The Internet gives you a platform for service providers to harvest a trail of data that you leave behind as you use their services. Where do the deleted data go to?
All these social media platforms must come with a transparent mechanism to report what they are doing with user data. Every country across the world needs GDPR to ensure user data is not misused by any of them.