PEI·Q & A

Bonnie Stewart on Facebook privacy concerns

With recent scrutiny over how Facebook gathers data from users and who has access to that information, Islanders may be wondering how private their accounts are.

Information not just being used to sell us stuff, says social media theorist

Bonnie Stewart says deleting your Facebook account won't solve the privacy issue. (CBC)

With recent scrutiny over how Facebook gathers data from users and who has access to that information, Islanders may be wondering how private their accounts are.

Bonnie Stewart, a social media theorist and media literacy educator, spoke with CBC News: Compass anchor Sally Pitt about what this means for Facebook users. This is an edited version of their interview.

How private is the information we put into our Facebook account?

"It's not very private. Even if the public audience that you don't want to see it can't see it, Facebook still sees it. And when Facebook sees it, it means they're collecting data on it."

What's wrong with that?

"A lot of people have the feeling, 'OK well I have nothing to hide so there's no problem if my data is being collected.'  And the truth is data is a hot commodity but it's not the individual level that makes it important. It's what happens to the data after.... We've always had that messaging to sell us stuff, but now it's also being used to shape the opinions that we have, the way that we see our society."

What can people do to protect their information?

"Just this week Mozilla, which is the Firefox company, they released what's called a Facebook container, so you can basically, if you're using Mozilla, open your Facebook within this container and it will protect you, to an extent, from third-party cookies, from data collection so that your information may not be going out to these kind of faceless companies to the extent that it has been in the past."

Would deleting your Facebook account fix the problem?

"Nope. It won't fix the problem because it's already out there."

When does it become a concern?

"Facebook is great for seeing the baby pictures of your friend who lives in Vancouver that you haven't had a chance to connect with in a few years. It's great for all of these kind of ambient ways of learning about each other and sharing real parts of our lives. When we start sharing things that are more at the ideological level of our society, Facebook's a very different kind of tool."

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With files from CBC News: Compass

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