We live in the age of information. Never before has information been so readily available and easy to access. We have technology to thank for this, which has undeniably changed every facet of our lives and woven itself into our culture. For the most part, this change has been for good. Think back to the pandemic. In a time where human contact was curtailed, social media gave us the opportunity to connect with our loved ones, while also allowing us to continue our work or education remotely. However, for whatever all these technological advances are worth, they have come at a cost: our privacy.
While privacy might seem like an adequate trade-off in light of all the benefits that technology has given us, the extent of our personal information that is out on the web is troublesome. What we voluntarily choose to post on social media isn’t the only information of ours that is available. Companies such as Facebook — which owns other social media companies such as Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp — go as far as tracking you even when you’re not using their app. Facebook then keeps a log of your texts, phone calls, what you search and virtually everything about you. Using this information, they create targeted ads based on what you’re doing. In 2020 alone, Facebook made roughly $86 billion in revenue, most of which came from advertising. To make matters even worse, they are capitalizing off of invading people’s privacy.
In many ways, technology is what we make of it. The privacy conundrum that we face is not inherently caused by social media, but by the big corporations that run them. By no means am I pushing for everyone to quit social media. I am merely pointing out that we must demand more regulation of what social media companies can do with our data. However, regulation is a challenge in itself. It doesn’t help that most members of Congress are older and have little to no knowledge on technological issues.
Regardless of the challenge it poses, we must push for comprehensive laws that stop social media companies from invading our privacy. Otherwise, they will never stop their invasive practices. The ways that consumers can limit how social media tracks them are not as effective, so regulation must happen. Privacy isn’t a luxury but rather a fundamental right. Technological progress should never come at the cost of our rights.