‘From live videos to hashtags, social media has played a big role in race-related protests over police shootings in the United States.
It turns out Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have also played another role. They’ve provided user-data access to a company that has helped police surveillance of protesters and activists in Ferguson, Baltimore and elsewhere, the ACLU of California says.’ – Silicon Beat
Interesting to see how social media giants are keeping their hands on the data they have. When it comes to making a decision whether to monetize on their user base or to protect their privacy from something (from law enforcement in this case), it is an interesting dilemma.
Tech companies, during the first ten years of the 21. century, have learned the hard way what losing trust over their customer’s privacy meant. Regaining that trust is vital to all of them today, it means life or death in business. Without it, there is no more money.
So while selling as much data as they legally can and building up the best data analysis engines of the world to dive deeper into their customer base (which sounds just the right thing to do in 21. century business) they need to say no to the police or the secret service ever more often.
Although in this situation I think social media companies have made the right choice not letting any more data flow out of their hands but the other side of the story gives us a lot to think about too.
The moral dilemma of the private data
Wasn’t it the people who complained about the ineffectiveness of anti-terrorist organizations and the police for not being able to stop the wave of terror attacks shocking Europe last year? Wasn’t it the people who blamed authorities not holding terrorists up at EU borders? Wasn’t it the people who disregarded police and law enforcement requests to access to encrypted channels? If we deny all that from law enforcement can we expect their protection?
I understand that police should not track down legal protesters and activists using social media – that is obviously against democratic fundaments. But who is going to tell the police which member of a protester group has a hidden agenda of violence? Also, OSINT (Open Source Intelligence) has always been part of police and anti-terrorist job. Do we really want to deny that from them? Wouldn’t that endanger their efforts to protect society?
And finally, what is it exactly that makes the difference between average people trying to track down their cheating spouses, marketing companies analyzing our sexual behaviors and the police looking for protesters? Everybody is trying to use technology to their advantage because we people, companies, and governments all would like to get or stay in control and power.