Social Media and Protection of Privacy

On April 10, 2018, following a substantial data leak affecting some 87 million users, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, appeared before the U.S. Senate for five hours. Among the questions asked by the Senate committee, the key concern was the respect and protection of user privacy. A week later, Whatsapp, Inc.’s appeared before the same committee to answer questions on the scandal hitting the company after hundreds of thousands of users’ private data were leaked.

Before that, the corporate giant, Apple, Inc. experienced the leak of iPhone users’ pictures and private data saved on their iCloud. This begs the question, what are users’ rights to privacy when it comes to social media? Why are there no civil suits against the GAFA (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple).

Despite the fast-developing legal protection in all countries, users’ privacy protection is quickly limited by their own behavior and actions. Indeed, when one creates an account on any social media platform, he or she is required to sign an agreement containing the terms and conditions of use of the said social media platform.

Therefore, when a user posts something on his account, he or she implicitly accepts his post to be public and so potentially used by others and even derived from its original context. The sale of users’ private data to private companies is essential for the social media platform to remain a free service. Facebook’s data policy is a more in-depth explanation regarding the handling of user data. 

As Mr. Zuckerberg testified, users rarely read all the provisions of the Facebook Terms of Service they accept when creating their account.  In the end, it all comes to basic contractual law.

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