Social Media, Big Data, and the End of Privacy

Social media, big data, and the end of privacy by Growth Acceleration Partners

As users continue to post comments, share photos and talk about the things that are important to them on social platforms, they willingly (or unintentionally) surrender their privacy in exchange for these “free” services.

A societal shift is taking place in terms of attitudes towards data protection – especially on social media.

In this article, we explore social media, big data and the “end of privacy”.

Know where your data is going: Download our Social Media Privacy Cheatsheet!


Consider the data protection laws in countries such as the United Kingdom. They control how your personal information is used by organizations, businesses or the government.

Here in the US, the laws are currently somewhat more relaxed. However, as privacy is becoming more and more talked about in the public sphere, it’s only a matter of time before restrictions are tightened.

Some of the main points covered in such acts are as follows:

Everyone responsible for using data has to follow strict rules called ‘data protection principles’. They must make sure the information is:

  • used fairly and lawfully
  • used for limited, specifically stated purposes
  • used in a way that is adequate, relevant and not excessive
  • accurate
  • kept for no longer than is absolutely necessary
  • handled according to people’s data protection rights
  • kept safe and secure

There is stronger legal protection for more sensitive information, such as:

  • ethnic background
  • political opinions
  • religious beliefs
  • health
  • sexual health
  • criminal records

With the above in mind, consider a social platform such as Facebook or Twitter.

Can you say with confidence, that when you clicked “I agree to the terms and conditions” of these services, that you were sure you knew what you were disclosing or surrendering?

Have you drilled down into the terms and conditions agreement?

If not, you might be surprised to learn that you surrender a lot of your personal information, and in some cases, no longer own the copyright to your own data.

A societal shift is taking place in terms of attitudes towards #DataProtection Click To Tweet


Facebook’s privacy policy is vast and one must wonder if anyone truly understands every aspect of it.

This extract, taken from the section “Vendors, service providers and other partners” –

We transfer information to vendors, service providers, and other partners who globally support our business, such as providing technical infrastructure services, analyzing how our Services are used, measuring the effectiveness of ads and services, providing customer service, facilitating payments, or conducting academic research and surveys. These partners must adhere to strict confidentiality obligations in a way that is consistent with this Data Policy and the agreements we enter into with them.

Source: Facebook

Know where your data is going: Download our Social Media Privacy Cheatsheet!


Facebook acquired Instagram in 2012 for $1,000,000,000 and when the merger was complete, one of the main things they changed were the data protection terms and conditions.

Here are some extracts from the Instagram privacy policy:

We may share User Content and your information (including but not limited to, information from cookies, log files, device identifiers, location data, and usage data) with businesses that are legally part of the same group of companies that Instagram is part of, or that become part of that group (“Affiliates”). Affiliates may use this information to help provide, understand, and improve the Service (including by providing analytics) and Affiliates’ own services (including by providing you with better and more relevant experiences). But these Affiliates will honor the choices you make about who can see your photos.

We also may share your information as well as information from tools like cookies, log files, and device identifiers and location data, with third-party organizations that help us provide the Service to you (“Service Providers”). Our Service Providers will be given access to your information as is reasonably necessary to provide the Service under reasonable confidentiality terms.

Source: Instagram

Did you actually “agree” to the terms and conditions? #DataProtection Click To Tweet

Why do these services need so much of your data?

The first thing to realize is that these services aren’t “free”. You can sign up for free but you are swapping your data for convenience.

Your data is used to build a social graph that gets woven into existing data sets on each of the social platforms.  These data sets can then be exploited by the partners and affiliates as mentioned in the privacy policies, which takes us into AdTech and Marketing.

Know where your data is going: Download our Social Media Privacy Cheatsheet!

AdTech, MarTech and the End of Privacy

Social media, combined with users generally more relaxed attitudes towards sharing of their personal data have resulted in new software services being developed.

Advertising Technology and Marketing Technology allows businesses to deliver hyper targeted ads to users across all the main social channels – directly in the user’s timeline.

For example, the Twitters Ads API allows developers to plug directly into the Twitter timeline, produce marketing creatives and serve these to users.  Developers can listen for conversations and interpret user meta data to build up a picture of user beliefs, what’s important to them, and what they aren’t happy with.

In 2016, Twitter launched a global initiative #Promote for companies and developers to produce AdTech and MarTech solutions with a grand prize of $250,000!

Combine all of this with machine learning and big data and it’s easy to see why companies such as Facebook and Twitter make their services available for free and launch such initiatives.


National Security

WikiLeaks facilitates the anonymous leaking of secret information through its website.  It was founded in 2006 by Julian Assange, activist, computer programmer and hacker.

One of the first leaks was back in December 2007.  The site posted a US Army manual for soldiers dealing with prisoners at Camp Delta.

The timeline below contains just a few of the major leaks that have been published and shared online:

December 2007 – WikiLeaks posts the US Army manual for soldiers dealing with prisoners at Camp Delta, Guantanamo Bay.

March 2008 – WikiLeaks posts internal documents from the Church of Scientology.

September 2008 – WikiLeaks posts emails from the Yahoo email account of Sarah Palin.

November 2008 – WikiLeaks posts a list of names and addresses of people it claims belong to the far-right British National Party.

April 24, 2011 – Nearly 800 classified US military documents obtained by WikiLeaks reveal details about the alleged terrorist activities of al Qaeda operatives captured and housed in Guantanamo Bay.

September 2, 2011 – WikiLeaks releases its archive of more than 250,000 unredacted US diplomatic cables.

March 7, 2017 – WikiLeaks publishes what they say are thousands of internal CIA documents, including alleged discussions of a covert hacking program and the development of spy software targeting cell phones, smart TVs and computer systems in cars.

Source: CNN

Know where your data is going: Download our Social Media Privacy Cheatsheet!

The Future

These services are here to stay and have become entrenched in everyday life.  During the commute, people will flick through their social channels to pass time.

Instagram has seen the emergence of a new profession for millennials – the “Instagram Influencer”. Those with a sufficient following now command the attention of the aspirational youth and masses.

It’s human nature to connect and share but it’s important to understand what you’re giving away before you post and share content on these social channels.



In this article, we’ve discussed social media big data and privacy.  We explored some of the terms and conditions of the main platforms and highlighted how much data you’re giving away.

Maybe by reading this article, you’ll double check your privacy settings when you sign up for new software services or products!

At Growth Acceleration Partners (GAP), we’re experts in software development.

Based in Austin, TX, our developers are located nearby in Latin America with primary development centers in Costa Rica and Colombia.

With this proximity, GAP has become one of the go-to outsource partners for software development. With similar time zones and a culture that mirrors Western values, GAP has satisfied hundreds of US-based companies. GAP’s developers deliver on time in a cost-effective manner solving business problems for our partners.

We can provide your organization with a team of highly qualified data scientists and engineers who have expertise in:

You can find out more about our software development services on our website here.

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