Mark Zuckerberg

Did you know Facebook can read your mind?

Well, not exactly, but if you’ve used it before, I’m sure you’ve noticed that their ads seem to know almost everything about you. That special item that you finally decided not to purchase on Amazon, is somehow being shown on your feed with a new, limited time deal, tempting you once again.

Unfortunately, these highly targeted ads, which are only made possible because of how Facebook collects their user’s information both on and offline, are not the only problem.

On April 10 and 11, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg stood before Congress and testified before the Senate and House on his company’s inability to protect their user’s information. It was revealed that the company, Cambridge Analytica, had used over 50 million users’ private information in order to influence the 2016 elections. The testimonies were a mind numbing, soul crushing, spine chilling experience, but an eye opener to what the real issues are.

Quite frankly though, these issues are nothing new.

The interactions between Congress, who for the most part were oblivious as to how the internet works, and Zuckerberg, were unbearable to watch, but it made one thing incredibly obvious:

We need younger members in Congress.

It couldn’t possibly be that bad… could it? Well, take a look at this short clip:

Though not all interactions were this embarrassing, it demonstrates that we are in desperate need of a new generation of government officials. Ones that are actually aware of, and understand, how technology works.

And although this is a big issue, as it lets people like Zuckerberg dodge or manipulate questions in their favor, it is not the most concerning.

We, the users, are the biggest problem.

While I believe that Zuckerberg should be held accountable for allowing other companies to mine our sensitive and private information, who was it exactly that gave them that information? Sure, some of the ways in which they collect your information seems shady, but you gave them permission to do it.

It’s all written in their Terms of Service, or ToS, which even I just clicked accept to make it go away. The ToS can be found here, but the real juicy bits are found a bit deeper. Feel free to read through it yourself, but in case you don’t want to, here’s what I think are the main takeaways:

1. Facebook collects information from you on and offline. Any websites or apps you visit that uses Facebook’s services are fair game. That means if you see a Facebook like button on a website, or you’re able to log in through Facebook in an app, they’re collecting information.

2. Facebook collects device information. This includes but isn’t limited to: device identifiers, files, geographic locations, mobile phone number and ip address, depending on the access you grant them.

3. Facebook does not delete information on you unless you delete your account. If you delete your account, it will delete things you post such as photos and status updates. This does not include things people post about you or tag you in.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me welcome you to 1984.

But jokes aside, let me repeat myself: we the users, are the problem.

We allow these companies the ability to collect our information, which I believe to be the biggest source of power in this day in age, all to make our lives more comfortable.

We even allow them to collect our information offline, through the use of smart technology like Alexa or Google Home, just so we can turn off our lights with our voice instead of the physical switch.

As much as I think Zuckerberg to be untrustworthy with this much power, aren’t we just doing a modern day witch hunt when things don’t happen to go our way?

We knew who we were getting in bed with since 2010, when Zuckerberg called his users dumb fucks for trusting him with our information, and yet there are 2.13 billion active monthly users as of this year.

Although I know the dangers of this real life episode of Black Mirror, I for one, still welcome our technology overlords, because unfortunately, I’m already accustomed to this easier life.