When tech companies continuously invade our privacy, what is the last straw?

Dylan Grosser, Columnist

To no one’s surprise, Facebook has been caught yet again in a scandal of using its social media platform to collect private data from users without them knowing. According to an article in Bloomberg News, Facebook has been taking users’ audio conversations from the Facebook Messenger app and having them transcribed by contractors.

Facebook has said the purpose of this was to test the accuracy of its voice to text feature, and only did so with user’s permission. However, another Bloomberg article disproved this claim of transparency, finding the only option given to users to permit this inappropriate spying is a vague dialogue box asking users if they would like to “Turn on Voice to Text in this chat,” and a brief description of the feature.

As egregious as this privacy violation is, it’s unfortunately only one in a dozen of other user data blunders done by mega tech companies in recent months. Just like in the case of Facebook, many tech companies such as Amazon, GoogleApple and Microsoft have all been caught red handed using their products and/or devices to spy on audio conversations. These companies knowingly deceived users by withholding information for what their audio conversations would be used for, or that they were even recording conversations at all. All of these companies now say they have suspended these specific data gathering efforts.

The biggest concern for all users across multiple platforms and devices is to what degree can we trust tech companies with our privacy. Well, to be frank, you can’t trust them. The wanton freedom and unregulated autonomy the United States has largely allotted to tech companies from Facebook to Google to Yahoo has created a culture of improvement at all costs, even at the expense of the user’s privacy. They rely on their secretive business practices to avoid public attention, and pass the buck to users once exposed, saying they consented by agreeing to a vague “yes” or “no” notification.

Social media companies would love to have you believe your position as a user on their website means you do not have ownership of your data. That logic is completely backwards considering the service users provide to social media.

It is the content and attention provided by the user that makes social media profitable. Without the web traffic you provide by logging on to social media, companies like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter would be out of business. Not only should that fact entitle you to have more data privacy, but you should also be paid for the content you create on social media that contributes to the site’s popularity.

The only entity that can bring tech companies to heel is the United States government by putting regulations in place that give users more protection over their data. Until that point, it’s important for you, as users, to be vigilant of your own data. Cautiously evaluate your social media usage and consider deleting information or profiles that you wouldn’t feel comfortable with strangers seeing.

Also, think about what apps you use to message people on, and perhaps switch to different apps that promise encryption and value user privacy. Customize your privacy settings on social media to prevent the amount of data being taken from you, or delete apps such as Facebook entirely to protect your data. Ultimately, remember that no website or application can truly be trusted with safeguarding your personal data, and it’s important to care about as one day, your own data could be used against you.