Unisys Security Insights report reveals varying support on social media data mining

David Wilson - Jul 16, 2015

The release of the Unisys Security Insights: Australia report earlier this month attracted a great deal of media attention around the following 2 statistics:

  1. 79% of Australians are okay with social media mining for counter-terrorism purposes.
  2. Only 27% of Australians are okay with social media monitoring for targeted advertising.

The first statistic is unsurprising as many people see themselves as law-abiding citizens with nothing to hide – therefore, why not give the government what it needs to keep Australians safe (or something to that avail)?

The second statistic isn’t too surprising either, most people hate ads because they see them as an irrelevant and unnecessary evil. The notion of giving consumers what they may want is seen as an internet crime. If ads were relevant and in line with our purchasing habits, would we be so vehemently against their presence in our social media streams?

Our social media profiles are narcissistic content generators for companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter to make billions of dollars from targeted advertising. Deep down we know this, and 73% of us continue to use these services despite our vocal objections. The sooner we are okay with this, the sooner we can go about making sure that they are collecting and using personal information inline with associated privacy laws.

As an end user, if you are deeply concerned about how your social media profile may be used for targeted-advertising, secure some peace-of-mind by checking the relevant privacy policy on that website. Don’t assume that someone else will keep them in check. It’s your privacy and your personal data that is being traded, so be proactive and understand how it’s being collected and used. Every compliant privacy policy will provide direct contact information if you have any questions. If you are concerned that your privacy is being breached, do not use the website, and report it to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC).

While the OAIC will always exist to put the right tools in place to create transparency around online privacy, the ultimate power is with the end user to keep organisations honest. If users don’t like targeted advertising methods, then they should click away and try alternative platforms such as Ello, a niche anti-product free from advertising. We’ll just have to wait and see how long they can keep the lights on for.

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