For years, PrivatizeMe has been talking about how ad platforms use your online activity, your likes, dislikes, browsing history and personal data to generate secret profiles on you. The US FTC states some ad platforms and their data brokers partners may have created our profiles by aggregating up to 3000 items of online and offline information on each and everyone of us, including our names, addresses, mortgage and financial information and even the items of grocery we bought recently. These profiles are used by social media, websites you trust and by websites you don’t know or trust not only to serve you targeted ads, but also to select personalized content and even upcharge you.
Take an active social media user who spends an average of half and hour a day on the platform and leans towards either the political left or right making his/her opinions known on Facebook. Facebook algorithms figure out the user’s political leaning based on their posts and bias the user’s newsfeed to a point of view the user agrees with and not provide stories related to alternative points of view or analysis, further reinforcing a one sided point of view without debate.
On December 15, 2017, Chamath Palihapitiya a Silicon Valley venture capitalist and a former vice president for user growth at Facebook, reportedly echoed former Facebook president Sean Parker’s opinion, the social media platform is “ripping apart the social fabric of how society works. The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created [including the hearts, likes, and thumbs up of various social media channels] are destroying how society works.” He added, “[There’s] no civil discourse, no cooperation; [only] misinformation, mistruth. And it’s not an American problem–this is not about Russians ads. This is a global problem.” (see his interview on The Verge)
It’s easy to imagine users instantly accept familiar points of view on a topic or bill under consideration by Congress with no thought or counter balancing analysis in their newsfeed. Users can, and do by the thousands, instantly relay these new found opinions at the click of their mouse to their Congressperson in Washington D.C. to pressure them into coming their way. It leaves the politicians with little room to negotiate on a bill, as the Founding Fathers expected our Representatives and Senators to do, and just kowtow to latest political tilt of the week. This polarization of the populace is causing further political gridlock we see in DC today.
So what can we the citizens and every day internet users to about this?