Most of us (by us, I am referring to you who is reading this article) have an account in a social networking site – in all probability, we all are in Facebook. It has been reported that more than 30 million Indians are in Facebook and they interact socially with their ‘friends’. These ‘friends’ are a part of our lives – whether we like it or not. For a teenager or an individual just in their 20’s, if you ask ‘how will be life without Facebook ?”, they will respond “are you mad ?”
The growth of Facebook has increased rapidly in last couple of years not because the big growth in conventional internet access, but because of mobile internet access. You are always ‘connected’ and hence you almost respond on a real time basis to your friend’s posts or questions. And I am sure with this growth in mobile and ‘cheaper’ smart phones, this phenomenon is bound to increase – specially in non-urban areas within India. With regional language access, this will be much adored by all sections of our society and hence the year to year growth figures should be quite an astronomical figure in the recent future.
I was thinking that why did I joined Facebook as an user ? Basically one of my college friends encouraged me to join with the USP of “we can meet daily even if we are in different parts of the world physically”. I tried, I got addicted. Soon, I was in virtual touch with my classmates with whom I did not have any kind of contact for last 20-25 years. Fantastic feeling and hence I started campaigning for Facebook to the rest of my friend who did not have such an account. Soon I found myself surrounded by not only my school and college friends, but also with my relatives, office friends, colleagues. My participation on Facebook increased because of easy mobile access and it has now become a habit to check on Facebook postings, with the same frequency of checking my mails.
Then came online debates – whether you discuss why Argentina failed in last world cup or Jan Lokpal, you are sharing ideas and perspectives from people physically located at different places in today’s world. This can never happen physically, but now you can do that so easily and so cheaply. This indeed has become part of our lives and you do really keep connected with the people with whom you want to keep in touch.
It is very easy to do a profiling of a person by studying his/her participation in Facebook. Whether you like cricket or football, whether you like to read books, whether you are in Kolkata or in Paris, whether you support a political or social view or not, whether you like to drink beer or not, whether your favourite sports club has won or not – you can do that easily, provided you have the data points. Even you can calculate somebody’s movements – whether he will be travelling to Bangalore or whether he will not be at his residence next week as he is going for a vacation – you can do that quite easily. You need not be a Sherlock Holmes for doing so …
When this is so easy, then comes the scary part. What will happen if your facebook data is “shared” with a person or group who is not your friend but a sworn enemy ? What will happen if your profiles of likes and dislikes are shared with corporations, who then can lure you with your merchandise or can even push you to an extent with your weaknesses ? What will happen if your personal information is shared with someone who intends to use your data for forgery and commit crime ? What will happen if your personal perspectives are shared to political parties or other organisations who can call for vengeance as you had opposed their views ?
Sounds quite scary now ? Yes, definitely. With more hackers, with more flaws in privacy safeguards in Facebook, are you sure that you are ‘safe’ with the assumption that only your trusted ‘friends’ knows the secrets of your life ?
The answer is quite obvious and I now sign-off from this topic with the inference that you will decide what to do next. After all, it’s your life in question and you know what is best for you.
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