Is Social Media Big Brother?

Social media transparency. facebook-big-brother-is-watchingA phrase we’re seeing pop up more and more as it seems that it is in fact less and less visible in our social world. Facebook’s smartphone app can listen in on your calls, most social networks have the ability to track your location (luckily usually only with an opt-in), and now Facebook will now use your browsing history to target ads. Let’s not even get started on how the government uses social media to monitor potential threats (although this one may actually be a good thing depending on who you ask). In this day and age of easy-access information via the Internet, and now even more-so through social media, do social networks have the potential to land us in a Big Brother society? Because if “Big Brother is watching you” is the mantra of that terrifying Orwellian society, aren’t we in a way already there?

The social world leaves us always connected, always on, but it also leaves us very visible and easily monitored. The question is, should this bother us? Don’t we know what we’re getting ourselves into when we tweet our every whim and desire? Don’t we know that the most minute details can leave us vulnerable to someone preying on that information. We should, but most people don’t. Users feel entitled to be able to partake in any activities online, without the consequences. This often leads to cyber-bullying as social networks ironically not only put us on the map, but if navigated carefully, we can be on the map while remaining anonymous as well. People are so caught up in this paradoxical world of anonymity and exposure, caught in the middle of this confusion over how to approach social networks, privacy, and transparency.

Countries like China air on the Big Brother side for sure with heavy censorship of some of the major websites and social networks, while Europe is actually trying to make amends for over-access to information by allowing people to submit a form to have sensitive information removed from Google. But where do we draw the line with this? How much information should be safe from the world (for example where criminals are concerned)? Should people have to accept there are consequences for capturing stupid behavior on social media? Is there a time limit where people should no longer have to be haunted by their social past? These are all questions that arise as individual social network activity continues to move into a more monitored sphere. Companies can sell information collected from social data. Programs  can predict your next move based on your social footprint. Should we fear that we’ll end up in some dystopian universe like Minority Report? Advertisers can already predict our next move, so who’s to say it won’t move beyond that? How much are they really telling us about where they’re getting their information and what they’re doing with it? Where’s the line? What do you think are some social network’s policies that cross it?

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