‘However, you understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time’ (Facebook terms and conditions)

In this edition of the blog 5 issues will be addressed with ethical and moral ideas as the focal point. Ethically Facebook is a minefield, as is so much of online communities in this century, determining what is right and wrong with respect to big data, internet footprints and rights to data is always going to be difficult. The main ethical issue is that the users don’t often own the content they upload; or they did, they don’t anymore, when a user uploads a video or posts to Facebook, Facebook then ‘owns’ that snippet of information. In an industry where the users are the product being exploited, it is tricky to navigate what rights the users have however, there are also much more subtle ethical questions involving how online communications affect us.[1]

One of these less discussed points is the supposed egalitarianism that Facebook brings to the lives of its users. Egalitarianism is the idea that all humans’ poses equal worth and social status[2] on Facebook this could be true. When you interact with a person on Facebook it could be argued that you know nothing about them except what they tell you. This removes any bias or prejudice you could have for them. However, the opposite could also occur, the expression ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ is swiftly dismissed as users scroll over another users timeline judging them on their photos, how many friends they have, what events they recently attended and a variety of other available information. The user can be completely bias, and view a ‘summary sheet’ of the user of interest. If Facebook is used this way, it is completely un-egalitarian.

A second smaller point is the virtue of human interaction that could be lost in Facebook’s takeover of communication. When humans interact at a personally level honesty, openness and patience are often exhibited, in Facebook interactions the most open a user can be is with an emoji.  Many fear that the ability to communicate face to face is being lost by younger generations as they learn to communicate via instant messaging such as on Facebook. [3]

Finally I would like to examine the ideas behind the right to data, and who owns what any user publishes online. The general consensus is that you do own what you post on the Internet, but so does Facebook, since you posted on their servers they, as in the terms and conditions below, can use your data. What is more shocking is that if you delete your account, and all your ‘IP content’ they can still use it if it is found on a backup server, which given the clause in the conditions is more than likely to exist.

Sharing Your Content and Information

You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings. In addition:

1. For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.

  1. 2.              When you delete IP content, it is deleted in a manner similar to emptying the recycle bin on a computer. However, you understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time (but will not be available to others).[4]

It is becoming increasingly clear that the cost of Facebook might not be free as advertised, but may cost your ‘soul’, with any information you put up being saved and stored for the reasons in the terms and conditions. The question arises if we own the data before we input into Facebook, can we not request they do not use it as well, or that we dictate the terms of the use. One would assume that where we are the producers of a good (information about our lives) we should dictate how it is used. Many fear that Facebook is drawing us into a work for free scheme where we provide a resource that is useless to us personally without the help of Facebook which in turn exploits us.[5]

I would also like to highlight the internet footprint left behind as users browse the internet, It is bad enough that whatever sites we visit are monitored via cookies that although remain on our hard drives can be accessed and analyzed. Slightly more frightening is the idea that Facebook could also keep all your information and may sell or reveal it for a financial gain. The idea that employers use Facebook for research is very much true and despite privacy setting by users on who can see their content, we can never know what will happen if the right bid comes along. Technically all that we have put onto Facebook belongs to Facebook, how can we stop them using it. [6]

Using an analogy to describe this concept, we could imagine that each time you wanted to talk to someone, you wrote a message or drew a picture on paper, you then scanned the document and sent it into the Facebook office.  Now both you and the office have a copy that you respectively own, you agreed to that when you sent it in, who are you to stop them selling it, once they have successfully sent it to all the people you requested. The fact that data can be copied and reproduced to allow for multiple copies easily, makes the ownership of online content very hard to control.

In this era the severs own the information you feed in, it can only be the dream that one day the users will own, control and dictate how the servers use it.

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