SNS as a Data Networking Service: not clients, but products

Referencia bibliográfica

Llorca-Abad, G. y Cano-Orón, L. (2015): “SNS as a Data Networking Service: not clients, but products”. Comunicación presentada en el Amsterdam Privacy Conference, 23-26 de Octubre.


We have long known that when information becomes knowledge it can be used to exercise power. The problem is that information is one of the most abundant resources on the planet. The progressive digitalisation of life especially that one linked to communication processes has caused an exponential growth of data. This explosion has originated in the field of research in communication concepts such as Big Data and Data Mining. On the one hand, both are used to describe the increasing interest of companies and governments in converting information into knowledge. On the other hand, it also means that companies and governments seek to collect data and make sense of some of the exabytes of information generated daily by users of digital communication. Thus, data generated by millions of users with their daily activities on the Internet have become a sort of commodity to be traded with. The technology needed to exploit information and make a benefit of it already exists and continues to develop. This has major outcomes for personal privacy in the digital sphere. Our daily digital activity is in the basis of a very attractive business for companies and governments. The lack of training in the way we use the network implies that, in general, we do not manage correctly our privacy in the Internet. Our personal data as well as that of our contacts is captured, screened out and classified by entities that might not have our permission to do so. Maybe abandoned in a PDA, in a profile of a social network, or in a cloud server, our life is exposed to those who exploit Big Data. Keeping absolute control of our privacy is increasingly more difficult and privacy policies we sign to register in a web service already consider exploitation of personal data as a requirement for the agreement. We believe that to this issue there is an information divide, we can discuss whether voluntary or involuntary, between users and the service provider that captures and processes the data. Sometimes users are not aware of how their personal information is going to be treated nor how to keep it under control. Thus, the company keeps full control of the situation. This research is within the perspective of structure and policies of communication theory, as we believe that is the perspective from which we can raise a better analytical study of the policies that protect individuals, in this case, digital security and control of privacy. In fact, the methodology used in this work is the text analysis of the privacy agreements of 4 of the most extended social networks: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Whatsapp. Our work is divided in three sections. Firstly, we develop an introduction to digital privacy from a multidisciplinary perspective. Secondly, we show how the exploitation of data collected on the Internet is becoming the main business for companies that offer apparently free services. Furthermore, we also briefly discuss the case of new social networking services that stand apart by offering greater privacy control to user and do not store their information. Finally, we focus on the results found after analysing the privacy text agreements of the aforementioned social networks. This part emphasizes on highlighting some key issues on how companies use and store personal information.

Palabras clave

Privacidad, Redes sociales, big data, data mining, comercio de datos.