IN THE BUILD up to the referendum for Scottish independence there has been a massive amount of campaigning on and offline. Social media has been heavily involved in all aspects of campaigning for both the YES and No, or Aye and Nae sides. Somebody linked me to a site by twibbon which would add a YES logo to my social media profile pictures to show my support for the YES vote. Ok I thought, why not, a simple but effective way to show my allegiance.
But when I clicked to set up my YES twibbon, what I found alarmed me. Because twibbon requests the same set of ‘permissions’ as do many other apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Google Maps. What they can potentially do:
This application will be able to:
Read Tweets from your timeline.
See who you follow, and follow new people.
Update your profile.
Post Tweets for you.
What may seem fairly innocuous is actually a full on authorisation to do what they please with your account once you have agreed to get your twibbon. Do I want them following people for me from my account? No. Do I want them to be able to update my profile? No, that’s my access and my privilege. Do I want them to post tweets for me? Definitely not, even if it is a campaign I am for. In fact I don’t know if their tweets through my account would be related to the YES campaign or would just in a general whatever they please kind of way. Regardless, my account is my own, I do not want to rent it out.
This is a pervasive practice online, getting users to agree to permissions allowing other companies or the hosts access rights to utilise your account for whatever purpose they may have. The insidious nature of these social media apps doesn’t seem to bother a lot of people, or they simply aren’t fully aware of the terms and conditions when they sign up to a new applications or website. Just be very wary. Even sites like Google Maps will want to track your location – sure it’s convenient to use but at what cost? Well, it is the classic free meal scenario. Nothing is really free, and your movement and data usage stats are all being sold or used by these huge companies to target advertising your way, perhaps the most noticeable side effect. Beyond that, your habits can and will be used for all sorts of other uses that are generating monster revenue streams. Because in the 21st century people want to know where you are, who you are with, what you eat, where you ate it, what your movements are, when you buy your shopping, how many times a week do you fill up your car etc etc etc. Twibbon? No thanks.