My mom always told me that once something goes onto the internet it stays there forever and I never really understood the magnitude of what she was saying until now.  I thought she was more saying it as a cautionary “don’t take naked pictures or put pictures that your grandma wouldn’t be comfortable seeing in public places like Facebook”, but when I retrieved my data from Facebook and found that all of my messages from 2009 and pictures I thought were long deleted were not as gone as I imagined, I understand that she meant a lot more.  Proceeding to call my mom and tell her she was right, she was even more thoroughly freaked out then before because she didn’t realize the impact of what her words meant(turns out she was really actually just worried about the unflattering pictures).

The fact that Facebook made me re-enter my password twice just to get to the button to request a data download made me feel slightly better about my privacy but the extent of how permanent every click I’ve made in the past six years is something that makes me skin crawl.  I read through messages between a forgotten middle school boyfriend and our confessions of love as well as recalled attending one of my many student government meetings, and I’m not sure if it’s cool or frightening that the internet remembers so much more than I don’t. It’s cool in the aspect that I can laugh at myself or retrieve photos I thought I lost, however  the NSA Files Decoded website tells me that “the NSA also has Prism, which, according to the Snowden documents, is the biggest single contributor to its intelligence reports. It is a “downstream” program – which means the agency collects the data from Google, Facebook, Apple, Yahoo and other US internet giants.” The fact that this data is available to any NSA official definitely tips it to the frightening and frankly anger inducing side when I regard how little privacy I have, but also how much information is available about me.  Due to technological advances in data mining, I’m no longer in control of any information about myself that I can choose to disclose or any information I can’t even consciously remember.

I’m much more subject to manipulation by people in possession of information about me than I ever would have been twenty or thirty years ago.  While my mind runs to crazy scenarios about how terrorists could look through my pictures and messages to choose which individuals they could hold hostage in order for me to cooperate or a stalker could track my movements and “likes” to find me and kill me, the simple invasion of privacy to figure out what kind of advertisements would appeal to me most is insulting to my intelligence and feels manipulative. While it could be argued that this action only makes things easier and more desirable for me, the lack of consent I have over who has control of information about me is threatening and scary also when you consider the scope and range of information that can be acquired with a simple data download. A friend request approval could be considered an act of consent to share my information, however Facebook giving my data to the government or third party agencies is a violation of that consent as is keeping individuals unaware of who really has access to their information as is seen with this graph about information availability depending on privacy controls.