It may be time to STOP using Social Media before your ability to get credit, buy insurance or health care, or even get a job becomes impacted by the amount of data which is now routinely being compiled on you, your friends, your habits and your activities.
How this information can be used to manipulate people by an authoritarian state is being demonstrated in China where citizens are now being given a Citizen score attached to their identity card - based not just on their ability to buy things, but also on how compliant they are to party ideology.
Citizens in the world's biggest nation are being evaluated through their buying patterns on platforms such as Alibaba and Tencent, then given a credit rating which - and here's the catch - not only takes account of their spending power, but also assesses whether they are good citizens on a score up to 1000. If they have expressed any dissenting opinions on any Social media sites which might lead to criticism of the Government - they lose points.
Not only will posting something embarrassing to the local council or government cause you to lose points - but even associating with somebody else who expresses dissenting views will negatively impact your overall score.
I spy - you spy
In this way, Big Data can be used to create a surveillance society in which neighbours inform on each other, friends disassociate themselves from old friends, and relatives pressure members of the family to toe the line. Whistle-blowers will be silenced and young radicals will think twice before taking to the internet. Each person's score is publicly available for others to read - thus impacting an individual's ability to buy services or get a job. And the public point scoring system enables anyone to see if one of their relations or friends is hurting them - purely by association.
By naming and effectively shaming those whose activities are disapproved of - the government in China will be able to exercise a new form of social control over its different communities and ethnicities, many of whom are in opposition to the current regime.
The Stasi in East Germany were feared but they never had the benefit of Big Data to cast such an extensive surveillance net over the people, or to manipulate them through fear of being ostracised by their community in such a subtle way.
If you reach a score of over 700 points, you can be granted benefits such as a foreign travel visa to more liberal countries such as Singapore. And some Chinese people seem to be embracing this new system, with individuals boasting about their scores on the internet.
Knowledge-sharing or Knowledge as ammunition?
When Big Data meets Big Brother we are all in trouble. Abuse of Power by governments is not only possible but probable. There is always a push from national security agencies to know more than they need to because knowledge is power. The Dragon is unleashed.
Be very careful what you post on FB or tweet today as it may come back to bite you tomorrow. How long will it be before the West is operating a similar system of evaluation of its citizens - whether public or covert? As Edward Snowden has said - they can turn your smart phone into a tracker or a video recorder and find out everything about you, without you ever suspecting it.