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Tread cautiously - The fake news syndrome and privacy crisis

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Even as the social media revolution promises rich possibilities for empowering citizens, it has also given birth to the genie of fake news, disinformation, misinformation and trolling that pollute the very idea of a participatory democracy.

 Mar. 28.– Pilfering of personal data of 50 million Facebook users by the British data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica and the manipulation of this data to sway the outcome of the last American presidential election and UK’s Brexit referendum received much global media attention last week. True to their instincts, India’s politicians used this opportunity to trade charges on leakage of Indian citizens’ private data for political campaigns.

Their fight took a different turn when it was discovered that several parties, including the Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party and Janata Dal (United), have been clients of Cambridge Analytica. Access to wide personal data required for using Prime Minister’s NaMo app and charges of leakage of such data to third parties outside India further complicated the politics of social media’s data sharing in India.

The credibility of Facebook, the most popular social media platform globally, and its young, classy founder Mark Zuckerberg has been rudely shaken, if not shattered, by demands for company’s prosecution from several countries and the viral ‘delete Facebook’ campaign.

Alleged harvesting of users’ personal data by external agencies repeatedly for political and commercial purposes has raised doubts about Facebook’s political neutrality and technical competence to put in place robust safety architecture to protect data privacy.

Social media websites and apps that establish one-to-one, one-to-many, many-to-one and many-to-many communication have become an indispensable part of contemporary living. Their power over minds and behaviour of people is unlike anything of the sort seen earlier. The unprecedented penetration of social media has stirred a new social revolution which is unfolding slowly since past decade.

This social mediadriven revolution has followed up on the equally transformational internet revolution that preceded it by a decade. Advertising designed as per users’ personal social media behavior is the basis of the revenue model of social media companies ...

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