Social Justice, Tech, and Privacy.

About a week and a half ago, something revelatory transpired in the intersection of social justice and tech. It was quiet but the implications spoke volumes.

It was revealed that a little-known company called Geofeedia   was giving their clients such as  police departments and law enforcement agencies, real-time information about users — shady,  but not news. But it was further revealed that it has in fact provided user data such as location and even facial recognition during major protests, such as in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore — This is news. You might be asking yourself, but who cares?  I don’t use Geofeedia, why does this matter? It matters because it is more than likely that by engaging in your favorite social media network, you have given them the keys to your internet front door.

Welcome to the new Wild West.

Democracy and Privacy policy, as it pertains to the internet, is the new wild west. As you post and live stream moments in hopes of connecting with others, you may be now inadvertently implicating yourself and setting yourself up to be arrested and even jailed despite the availability of privacy settings. We’ve all been warned about the perils of oversharing on your social media accounts and the importance of privacy controls when it comes to maintaining your professional brand. But being arrested or jailed  for exercising  your First Amendment rights on your personal platform feels sneaky and  backward. The new wild west is created when laws and regulations can’t keep pace with the innovation of technology, and when people by and large  blindly sign away their rights via “privacy & terms of use” while downloading the latest.  As the internet and software continue to eat the world, the vulnerability gap grows larger and larger. And here’s why : social media and the internet,  like it or not, has come to be an extension of your home, your front door if you will. We’ve all succumbed to feeling safe and secure in our “space” and  with the connections and friends we’ve allowed in.

The internet is not going anywhere and the platforms for which we engage are constantly changing, VR anyone? How do we ensure that with the freedom to engage with anyone and everyone that the boundaries of our privacy are not encroached upon?

How do we stay vigilant and maintain safety in the new wild west?

** Back to the story at hand, giant social networks (ie. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) that were feeding Geofeedia the geo-location of users severed ties. Immediately issuing statements.

“[Geofeedia] only had access to data that people chose to make public,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. “Its access was subject to the limitations in our Platform Policy, which outlines what we expect from developers that receive data using the Facebook Platform.”

Food for thought.


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