Surveillance Society

I don’t know about you but being the social media enthusiast that I am, I have downloaded many an app with a barely a thought to the permission and access I am granting to my life and information.

To me it is as simple as if I want to use their platform, I need to agree to their terms and conditions. Obar and Oeldorf-Hirsch (2020, p.129) refer to the saying ‘I agree to these terms and conditions’ as the biggest lie on the internet. I would have to agree, I know that I am guilty of not taking the time to read them over. I was curious to know what the general consensus was and took the question to twitter. You can see the results in the poll below.

Obar and Oeldorf-Hirsch (2020, p.140) also go on to say that when people do read the policies, they usually only remain on the page long enough to scroll to the accept button.

What some people may not realise is when you click on agree you are giving those apps permission to use your content as well as your data. Troni (2020) suggests that social media is the Holy Grail for marketers.

In this thoroughly 21st Century communications channel, old notions of privacy simply do not apply; sharing personal information, experiences, and opinions is the whole point of the service. And, wonder of wonders, consumers don’t only provide it willingly—they provide it for free!

Naomi Troni (2020)
Photo by Kon Karampelas on Unsplash

Obviously there are sometimes cause for concern in regards to your privacy and sometimes we see a particular platform end up on the news. Recently there has been plenty of coverage around Tik Tok. Tik Tok has become widely popular with over 800 Million users and is expected to rise to over a Billion this year. It is used for a variety of content creation with many users becoming viral sensations. It was a recent conversation with a friend online that caused me to dig a little deeper. Below is a brief video I have made on the subject, I would love to hear what you think about it all.

We are aware that certain apps ask for permission to access our phones data, like our photos or audio, what you may not be aware of is that the information is being shared with companies you didn’t sign up for.

Warzel (2019) advises that when you enter into the contract, you are also exposing your sensitive information to dozens of other companies. With each app potentially leaking your data to 5-10 other apps.

This is done through something called an SDK (Software Development Kit), before reading that article I had never even heard of an SDK. It is a set of software tools and programs used by developers to create an app. So rather than having to build parts of the code for their software from scratch they use existing SDKs, which in turn gives the companies that own the SDKs access to your data.

Binns et al (2018, p.3) advises that third-party companies gain access to our data as a result of integrating into first party apps and websites, with the concern being that the more websites and apps that integrate those same third party entities the greater the tracking power becomes for them to access a wider range of our personal information.

Social media is what you make of it, the choice is yours whether you are comfortable or not in using it knowing that your data is a commodity. That is the price we pay to use these platforms freely in the first place.

In saying that, I found a quote that is great food for thought.

Remember if the product is free, the product is you.

Ray Shaw (2019)

I am happy to offer up my data if it means that I get to use the platforms to connect with my friends and family. If what that entails results in some targeted advertising, then target away. Although I don’t know who else finds it eerie when you have a conversation with someone about a specific topic only to then be shown ads online for that very same thing. It is a running joke that our phones are listening to us, but they totally are.

Everyone will have an opinion on social media but given that I intend to make a career in that field, I am very much on the pro side. It offers us entertainment, an escape, connection and a service. Just be sure that you are going in to it eyes open and fully informed, do your research and follow what feels right for you.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject, feel free to leave me a comment below or come and say hi on social media (links are on the home page). I am always up for a thought provoking discussion, hope to connect with you soon.


Binns, R  Zhao, J Van Kleek, M and Shadbolt, N 2018, ‘Measuring Third-party Tracker Power across Web and Mobile’ ACM Trans. Internet Technol. 18, 4, Article 2018, pp.1-22

Leetaru, K 2019, ‘So Much Of Our Lives Have Been Exposed Through Breaches We Have No Privacy Left’, Forbes, retrieved 11 May 2020, <;

Obar, J and Oeldorf-Hirsch, A 2020, ‘The biggest lie on the Internet: ignoring the privacy policies and terms of service policies of social networking services’, Information, Communication & Society, 23:1, 128-147, DOI: 10.1080/1369118X.2018.1486870 To link to this article:

Rembert, L 2020, ‘Is TikTok a Cybersecurity Threat?’, Forbes, retrieved 17 May 2020 <>

Shaw, R 2019, ‘How to stop Big Tech using you – breaking up or breaking free’, Gadget Guy, retrieved 17 May 2020 ,>

Troni, N (2020), ‘Social Media Privacy: A Contradiction In Terms?’, Forbes, retrieved 11 May 2020, <;

Warzel, C 2019, ‘The Loophole That Turns Your Apps Into Spies’, NY Times, retrieved 27 April 2020, <;

‘Chill Wave’ by Kevin MacLeod (CC BY 3.0)
Kevin-9-1 – Chill-wave

Featured Image: Photo by ev on Unsplash

Images and Videos:
Privacy by Kyla Borg (CC BY 2.0)
Photo by Kon Karampelas on Unsplash
Photo by 🇨🇭 Claudio Schwarz | @purzlbaum on Unsplash

Screenshot of ABC Article 2020, retrieved 27 April 2020 <>

Screenshot of CNBC Article 2019, retrieved 17 May 2020 <>

Screenshot of CNBC Article 2020, retrieved 17 May 2020 <>

Screenshot of SC Media Article 2020, retrieved 17 May 2020 <>

Video by Coverr-Free-Footage from Pixabay (CC0)
Video by Evodesign from Pixabay (CC0)
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Video by vijayrajesh from Pixabay (CC0)