The Dark Side of Social Media

Like all things in life, social media such as Facebook and Twitter are double-edged swords, meaning they cut both ways. There is a good side and a bad side.

There are many things to love about Facebook: being able to find old friends, keeping up with loved ones across the globe, making easy contact. It’s a long list of wonderful benefits.

But these benefits come with a price: a loss of privacy. And, whether people realize it or not, we are being watched. Every single one of us.

It’s way beyond stalkers and people who want to cheat or harm us. It’s those who invade our privacy and do damage, thinking they have every right to do so!

Let’s put aside for a moment the horrors of a corporate culture where HR is sneaking around spying on employees on Facebook and inspecting what they do with their personal time, and who they spend it with. It’s frankly nobody’s business. But this is the issue. When we put things out there on social media, not everyone likes the photo and celebrates you having dinner with old friends. There are also petty people who have an issue with that post. And they act on their discontent!

We may have seen the recent headlines. In the US, a man was arrested by police for randomly commenting on a post about police brutality, “Somebody should kill them.” Again, it is merely a comment on Facebook and a matter of free speech. But he was arrested for threatening the police. And his life was ruined along the way.

Harvard recently rescinded the admission of multiple new students due to cross-referencing each applicant with their Facebook page. Seems like these young students posted some “sensitive” subjects, and Harvard decided they didn’t want them as students anymore! Young lives damaged due to a simple Facebook post.

Not a week goes by and we don’t see somewhere that someone is being fired for comments made on social media. Losing their job over a Facebook post! Being arrested over a post. This is happening with glaring regularity.

Many people live in a dream world believing that if they set maximum privacy settings on Facebook, they are immune from people spying on them. Think again.

Have you ever played a game on Facebook? Ever took one of those enticing quizzes about “Who is your best friend on Facebook?” or “Which country should you retire in?” I bet you have. Well, when you click on those quizzes and accept the terms, you open your Facebook for people to stroll right in!

These games and fun quizzes are not created for our entertainment. They are created to lure us into clicking “accept” and hence letting cookies access our every move.

What you have likely done by playing one of these games is open yourself up to the world of artificial intelligence. For every reader of this column who has a Facebook account, computers are tracking your every move. Every like. Every comment is being noted. These super computers are building a profile on you. What you like, what you don’t like, what your tendencies are. This data is then sold to companies as part of a sophisticated targeted marketing campaign. If you don’t believe me, check your news feed. Ever see a “sponsored” post that uncannily addresses something you have talked about on Facebook before? Ever found yourself wondering, “Now, how in the hell did they know I like yoga?” Well, the answer is simple: because sometime in the past you took one of those quizzes, and you let the computers in. And now they are noting every like and comment you make. The computers are crunching billions of bits of information and building a profile.

If you want to have fun, try this: Go to one of your friend’s pages, and simply tell them in a post, “I hope one day to visit San Francisco.” And watch. Within hours, if not minutes, you will suddenly see San Francisco ads in your news feed. Hotels. Restaurants. Tourist sites. You name it. The companies marketing San Francisco locations or events are buying the targeted data. They are going to track down every person on Facebook who mentions “Visiting San Francisco”!

So, whether we like it or not, we are all being watched. We are all naked on social media. Whether it is law enforcement, employers, schools, or artificial intelligence, we are being tracked.

But leave it to Filipino ingenuity to help find a solution.

An eclectic group of brains, chatting over this dilemma, got together — top Filipino IT talent, military veterans, corporate leaders and entrepreneurs, and decided to help bring privacy back to Facebook and Twitter users without having to deactivate one’s account!

They invented an app called “Swype” with a catchy line, “Swype your data… before it gets swiped.”

What Swype does is scan through your Twitter and Facebook posts, comments and likes. It screens out any sensitive likes/posts/comments that can raise red flags for your employer, or school, or basically anyone who should not be “inspecting” any of us in our private lives. Swype gives you an overall assessment of your level of “risk” and you can modify or delete the posts with a simple click! And suddenly you are “clean”! When you have been “Swyped,” you are safe from having people use Facebook or Twitter against you.

In doing all of this, Swype also cleans up your profile for artificial intelligence, making it much harder to build a reliable profile of each of us. Swype keeps one’s privacy private.

Swype is Filipino-born and provides cutting-edge privacy technology for Facebook and Twitter accounts worldwide

What’s amazing is, at this stage, Swype is 100 percent self-funded by the founders. Version one of the program goes live Aug. 21 and the first 10,000 people to like the Swype Facebook page can download it for free (https://www.facebook.com/SWYPE-Inc-1514757945254584/). It’s all about bringing balance back to social media, helping provide tools to offset the privacy negatives emerging.

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James Michael Lafferty

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