I was triggered by a tweet from someone working in community services. Translated it stated something like:
“Scary, I just opened work mail on my smartphone and suddenly all my business contacts (clients!) are introduced to me on Facebook.”
Digging into the subject, I realised that the way social media is trying to link as many people together as possible is having some nasty side effects. And how hard it is for people to understand and anticipate, seeing the way these things work (and keep on changing).
The most prominent examples you find online have to do with WhatsApp and Facebook. Facebook has been pushing people to share their phone number with them and is now matching their data with the data WhatsApp has collected over the years. In what seems to have been an experiment, the WhatsApp contact list of some BlackBerry users was suddenly expanded with the names, profile pictures and phone numbers from their Facebook connections. Maybe those high school friends from the past didn’t want to share their phone number with you, but Facebook has decided for them…
It also works the other way around, and that is more worrying, as people tend to have WhatsApp both for work and private use. Facebook can now benefit from this great contact list of WhatsApp with (nick)names and numbers that, combined with other information (location, common contacts), helps them to not only identify the phone numbers of people who decided not to share it with Facebook, but also to suggest connections to you to the second degree (and probably more). From their point of view, they are only helping you to extend your contacts to their beautiful platform.
Shouldn’t it be at least YOUR decision when it comes to deciding whom you share your phone number with?
Does this matter? That depends, maybe you don’t mind sharing… But shouldn’t it be at least YOUR decision when it comes to deciding whom you share your phone number with? And take for example a psychiatrist from a closed facility who has to decide on the future of a patient. What if that patient’s network gets the daughter of the psychiatrists suggested as a friend on Facebook?
The boundary between work and private life fades, which makes some people vulnerable…
It’s not only WhatsApp and Facebook. More and more stories are popping up about Skype, LinkedIn and many other platforms. The bottom line is that the decision about who you share your data with is no longer yours. It’s your friends, colleagues and other contacts that decide for you in the moment they install WhatsApp or any other app for that matter.
So take my advice and don’t use the apps supplied by Facebook and other platforms. Maybe opening the sites yourself in your mobile browser feels like an extra effort, but doing so will protect your privacy and the privacy of your connections who didn’t ask for their private data to be shared.