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Social Media & Privacy: Why Should We Care?

By Anika Sukthankar, VI Form

Social Media & Privacy: Why Should We Care?

Editor’s Note: This project was made possible with the support of the Thomas H. Kean ’53 Fellowship. At their 25th Reunion in 1987, the Class of 1962 established the Thomas H. Kean ’53 Fellowship Program to honor Tom Kean, their teacher, advisor, mentor, and friend. The purpose of this fellowship is to enable students to explore important public policy topics and to embark upon exemplary lives of public service in the spirit of Governor Kean. 

Student-Submitted Note: As part of the Kean Fellowship, I took a college-level course called STS 1101: Science, Technology, and Politics. We studied several scientific controversies to further explore the relationship shared between technology and politics, and understood the societal implications. My deliverable was to write a LEO article on what I have found and researched.

“Behavioral advertising generates profits by turning users into products, their activity into assets, their communities into targets, and social media platforms into weapons of mass manipulation.”

-Rohit Chopra in his 2019 dissent against Facebook

As technology evolves and becomes an integral part of our society, the controversies surrounding its proper use and associated governmental policies have become increasingly complicated. We are building complex socio-technical systems that seem to guide our very behaviors and thinking. From the addictive nature of social media to privacy concerns, governmental policies seem to be lagging technological advancements. Events, such as the Capitol hearings, have made this topic of great interest.

Social media has become incredibly popular in recent years, with over 400 million new users joining these platforms annually. Despite this popularity, the majority of users are uncomfortable with the collection of personal data and believe that the government needs to do more to regulate the tech companies. Rebuilding trust between users and the social media companies will take a triumvirate of public awareness, self-regulation by the social media companies themselves, and government regulations.