Posting “a now and before” photo of yourself spanning 10 years may have been fun to a lot of Nigerians. However, it is almost certain that most of those who participated in the “harmless fun” are not aware of the serious concern raised in a tweet by one Kate O’Neil who writes on the interaction of man and technology.
She wrote:

“Me 10 years ago: probably would have played along with the profile picture aging meme going around on Facebook and Instagram.”

“Me now: ponders how all this data could be mined to train facial recognition algorithms on age progression and age recognition.”

Those who follow closely the issues of personal data vis a vis privacy concerns instantly understood what Kate was talking about and began retweeting her tweet.

As the tweet went viral, Kate did a follow up article in the online magazine Wired in which she raised the question:

Are we unknowingly helping giant corporations to improve their algorithms for biometric identification and age progression?

Kate then pointed to three uses that such massive data mining could be put:

The benign, the mundane and the creepy. While the first two might be harmless, the last one is where the big worry is.

International news media such as the New York Times and CNBC picked up the story. Facebook was forced to issue the following rebuttal:

“Facebook did not start this trend, and the meme uses photos that already exist on Facebook. Facebook gains nothing from this meme (besides reminding us of the questionable fashion trends of 2009). As a reminder, Facebook users can choose to turn facial recognition on or off at any time.”

But knowing all the controversies that Facebook has been involved lately, not many people took their rebuttal seriously.

In any case, reflecting on the 10-year challenge and the growing concerns expressed by privacy advocates, Lauren A. Rhue, an assistant professor of information systems and analytics said,

“There are things we don’t think of as being threats and then five or 10 years from now, we realize that there is a threat, but the data has already been given.”

In recent years, big technology corporations such as Facebook, Google and Amazon have been involved in the sale of clients/users’ data to third parties without authorization or with the help of some fuzzy privacy policies. In the US and in the European Union, these companies are stiffly punished for such illegalities or breaches.

In Nigeria, government can not be bothered about such things and Nigerians are always too eager to jump into any social media craze without giving a thought to possible motives behind them

When the European Union compelled Tech companies to revise their privacy policies last year, the story did not get significant mention in Nigeria. It is likely that most Nigerians who received emails asking them to review their privacy settings may not have bothered to do so.

So, did you participate in the 10-year challenge? Was it fun? But did you really know what it was all about?

You can never tell what these tech companies are up to with your personal data, can you?