Is expectation of privacy on social media realistic? Tulane expert weighs in

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - As Facebook faces more criticism over a privacy scandal involving users of its social media platform, a local social media expert weighs in on whether the expectation of privacy is realistic.

"This was a serious breach of trust and I'm really sorry that this happened," Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook said in an exclusive interview with CNN.

Zuckerberg commented this week days after news broke that the data mining company, Cambridge Analytica accessed information of millions of Facebook users.  The company had ties with the Donald Trump presidential campaign.

"I think that what's clear is that in 2016, we were not as on top of the number of issues as we should of, whether it was Russian interference, or fake news," Zuckerberg said.

His apology is not enough for some social media users. Some posts on Twitter have the #deleteFacebook hashtag.

"Surprise? I don't think it really is a surprise," said Ashley Nelson, a Tulane University communications and social media professor.

She said it should not come as a shock that social media companies sell their data.

"Think about it, everything on social media is traceable, trackable, every click, it all goes somewhere and these companies obviously have to make money and they sell the data.  There's no secret here, it's just that somebody got caught in a really big way," said Nelson.

She added that data mining did not just happen during the last presidential campaign.

"You can go back to the previous one when it was really starting to go into full cycle and something similar was done with an app," stated Nelson.

She said people who go on social media sites automatically give up some privacy.

"Remember you go through everything and you agree, you agree, you agree. When you post a picture on Facebook it's not your picture anymore, it's Facebook's picture, or a video, right?" Nelson said.

She said there are myriad companies mining social media users' personal information.

"And why do you think you get ads for something that you just looked up the day before?" said Nelson.

And given all the controversy surrounding Facebook, Nelson had her students go to various data mining sites, and what they discovered was shocking.

"My students opened up one of these sites that is a data mining and one was shocked. He saw how much his parents' house was worth, his home address, the type of car they drove," said Nelson.

Zuckerberg appears open to regulation.

"I actually am not sure we shouldn't be regulated," he told CNN.

But if total privacy is the goal, Nelson said the public may have a lofty expectation.

"Well, don't get on it for one, that would be the one, right?" said Nelson.

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