Facebook is the bane of my existence and I’m so annoyed that I’m writing about this. Literally anything is a better way to be “social” than coming across one more pseudo-psychological poetry, instagram selfie and articles about everything that seem to come up on my feed because people (and I) have no self-control over the like button. I came across someone who complained in a series of posts on Facebook that Google was violating her privacy for having used her location history because she used Google-based apps at these locations. Accompanied by a screenshot of the said location history. This person then proceeded to bemoan how large organizations are using data without asking us and “what a surprising breach of privacy it is. This is shocking! I’m so scared. #noprivacy”
This blog post is addressed to her, and forgive my frustration, to people as naive as her.
It took me a great deal of self-control to not make the humble Facebook comment box the digital voice of my opinion. Having “intellectual” discussions on Facebook, while admirable is simply inconvenient. Rather like trying to prove a theorem with your friend when you’re parked in different toilet cubicles. It’s admirable that you care about larger issues when you’re in a toilet. Discussing the matter anywhere else could prove to be more fruitful that trying to be heard over the sound of flushes.
So you want to know why apps use your data? I’m not going to use a listicle because most human beings have forgotten how to parse and process content written in paragraphs. Using bullet points lets me hide my poor grammatical education.
Most of Google’s services are provided to you for free and most of them are without ads. However, Google still has to sustain the careers of almost a million engineers all over the world who have put in blood, sweat, tears and profound work in making that little app on your phone capable of being the powerhouse it is. As an app developer myself, I know how much effort it takes to create something functional, let alone robust enough to be released into the market. While I would love to philosophize and occasionally be charitable enough to render some services free, I eventually have to support myself and my family.
Statistics and psychology have proven that people are more likely to download free apps over paid services, even though paid services are obviously more reliable. Paid services ask for your money up front instead of stealing data behind your backs (which may still happen, but perhaps at a less ostentatious rate than if the service were free), but at least you’ll be guaranteed the best service of whatever the app is offering. Therefore, your location is easily the most accessible information that you can provide to them. They will sell the data that you were at a certain store, so that the next time you’re around that store can send you an ad when you Google search for something.
Lastly, your location data is nothing compared to your back account or financial data and perhaps we should be grateful that the supposed ” Big Bad Companies” don’t sneak that from us. But to be “fair” to them, they do have this listed in the dense verbiage in the terms and conditions page which first opens when you download the app, and which you happily ignore because you’re too keen to share nail-pictures and selfies with your friends rather than care about how your location is being used. Also, even if you skip that, when you use your app on your device, it will still ask for location services in a blatant list of maybe 3 or 4 other phone services (such as camera, contacts, call history, etc). You could have stopped it then.
I find it ironic that you want to complain about this on Facebook, of all places, which is far far worse than Google.If you really don’t want to use Google maps, don’t. But asking for that perfect app which does everything, for free, without stealing any of your information and magically fetching data from everywhere is clearly stretching it. Online privacy is a problem. But please explain to me how your Facebook spam is changing the scene in any way.