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Alex Hern, journalist of The Guardian, stirred up the consciences of many people with his article posted in July 2015. The headline stated that Facebook, the social network giant, was secretly exploiting privacy of users even though this was strongly in conflict with the company’s terms and conditions. Posts shared by users onto the social network were shortly visible to everyone and the settings were altered in a way so that profiles could no longer be hidden from strangers. Facebook eliminated this crucial element concerning the privacy of users in a gradual way. The company literally owns private information of users, whether the latter supports this exertion or not (Hern, 2015). However it should be taken into consideration whether this sudden exploitation of users information could be experienced as unfavorable. 
Our society nowadays seems to be revolving around the rapid growth of big data. The virtual world has added an entire new dimension to our society. People simply cannot imagine a world without their mobile phones or other electronic devices, since these open the gateway to this new and flourishing dimension (Provost & Fawcett, 2013). The opportunities created by the digitalization have not only been interesting for consumers, big companies notice them as well. Big data is a collective term for large quantities of collected data with the intent to analyze trends and movements associated with the behavior of individuals (Marr, 2016). Lately, a report by Oracle and the MIT Technology Review confirmed that prosperous companies such as Uber, Google Inc. and Amazon use big data to generate billions in revenue. The social media giant Facebook announced in their financial highlights of the second quarter of 2017 that at least 98% of their total revenue was obtained through the collection of big data (Facebook Inc., 2017). The advertisements scattered through an individual’s newsfeed are definitely not chosen randomly. Big companies invest billions of dollars in Facebook to ensure their target groups notice their advertisements (Provost & Fawcett 2013). The current policy statement of Facebook confirms that large quantities of data concerning daily habits and activities of its users are collected: where they like to go out, what they like to have for lunch, which website they visit frequently to order new clothes or even an overview of cheap flights they looked up earlier that day. With all this information on hand, Facebook can skillfully target advertisements that match the preferences of individuals and generate large amounts of extra revenue (Hern, 2015). Even though the 1,2 billion users that enjoy Facebook everyday (Facebook Inc., 2017) agreed to the terms and conditions at the time of their registration, it may seem questionable whether they are aware of indirectly financially supporting the company (Weigend, 2017). 
The consequences of data analyzation by firms are hotly debated nowadays. The power of big tech companies is intense in our entire economy. Users of a social media platform like Facebook may not realize there has been taken advantage of their personal information at first since they are not directly harmed by it (Sprague, 2008). Companies collect data through preferences of users of various social media platforms for their own benefit but their true intentions will never be exposed to the individual (Debatin et al., 2009). The central question of this paper is to what extent the data exploitation by Facebook is unfavorable for its users. 
To answer this question literature review will be used. General information about the Internet and Facebook will be discussed. Furthermore transparency of firms will be addressed. Transparency of companies benefitting from prison labor is an interesting comparison to this subject, therefore this will be examined and compared to the transparency of Facebook towards its users. Research conducted among users of Facebook and their opinion on the exploitation of their data will also be taken into account. Certain arguments based on research will be outlined and considered in the conclusion of this paper.

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General theory
The internet started off in the 1960s as a network used to share information between the military, scientists and academics (Leiner et al., 2012). Now, the World Wide Web is used on a daily basis by individuals to read the news or connect with friends and acquaintances via social media. One of the most popular social media networks, Facebook, was launched in 2004 and has been growing ever since (Debatin et al., 2009). The third quarter results in 2017 of the social media giant Facebook stated that it had 1.37 billion daily users and 2.07 billion monthly users on average. Facebook knows what their users prefer by collecting large amounts of data (Debatin, et al., 2009). The social media giant uses algorithms to create a specialized newsfeed for every individual user. These algorithms are patterns of the behavior of an individual using social media. These patterns come to existence by tracking down certain preferences of users or keeping record of articles they recently read (Jones & Soltren, 2005). Facebook uses these algorithms to present its users a personalized news feed with updates on the activities of their friends and mostly advertisements (Hern, 2015). 
Since Facebook was launched, various defects were discovered in the system of the social media (Jones & Soltren, 2005). A blogger came across the fact that even if users restricted their profiles to be viewed by friends only, information posted on their personal profile still showed up in public searches. Users could only assure their posts were kept for their friends only by specifically choosing to withdraw their profile from public searches. This fault was corrected after the first three years since Facebook was launched onto the internet (Jones & Soltren, 2005). 
Due to the fact that Facebook used straightforward URL codes for public pages, public profiles were able to be downloaded simply by using an algorithm. Yet again, Facebook collected information about its users if they did not specifically opt out of this function. In 2007, the data collection policy was adjusted but the choice to be able to opt out was no longer available (Debatin et al., 2009). The flaws of Facebook concerning their privacy policy issues were expressively discussed but yet hardly any research has been done about the effect of these issues on the users of Facebook and their attitude towards them (Debatin et al., 2009). 
An increasing amount of personal information has been added to the World Wide Web throughout the years (Solove, 2008). Not only do social media networks make a lot of profit out of it (Marr, 2016), it is important for companies to distinguish their target group and to hold their attention. Due to the fact that the current generation acts online, this forms the gateway for companies to get a hold on their data. By collecting their personal data and distinguishing patterns, companies can respond to customer preferences and predict future alterations. By embracing this opportunity to legalize new levels of customer engagement, large amounts of extra revenue for companies can be generated (Weigend, 2017). This new marketing strategy may seem harmless at first, the question is whether consumers are aware of what is actually happening to their personal information. 

This particular lack of awareness also appears in another sector of our economy (Guvenli & Sanyal, 2002). Consumers tend to overlook the shady wringing of prison labor in the United States by major firms. Inmates work at very low hourly rate to produce material goods for sales purposes, under circumstances that resemble a Chinese-style labor scheme (The Economist, 2017). According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) the incarceration rate of the United States is the highest in the world with a 25% rate of the world’s prison population (BJS, 2010). The labor behind bars is booming: a big number of American companies enjoy the fruits of a cheap work force from their own country. The popular lingerie company Victoria’s Secret and the food companies that sell products at Whole Foods cooperate in exploiting the nation’s prison labor (Pelaez, 2014). Consumers of the companies named above indirectly support the exploitation of prison labor and therefore increase the company revenue. 
In October 2015, prison reform advocacy groups protested against the firm Whole Foods and succeeded in making the company announce that they would no longer utilize prison labor for their products (Kim, 2015). The extremely low wages the prisoners received for their exploits were the focus of the protests. Whole Foods explicitly stated that it would stop selling cheese delivered by Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy and tilapia supplied by Quixotic Farming, both partners of Colorado Correctional Industries (CCI) (Kim, 2015). Colorado Correctional Industries manufactures goods and services for the government and non-profit organizations, employing over 1800 inmates of Colorado (CCI, 2011). Michael Allen, leader of the prison reform advocacy group made a statement concerning the situation: inmates appreciate the opportunity to work instead of remaining unemployed behind bars, but the low wages they receive are not enough to help their families on the outside (Kim, 2015). Based on the protests and the negative impact on their image, Whole Foods stopped working with those particular companies. In November 2017, the consulting firm Bellevue surveyed over 1000 Americans about their preferences concerning transparency of companies. A majority of the questioned considered Whole Foods Market to be the most transparent towards customers about their business practices (Bellevue, 2017). Whole Foods Market listened to unhappy customers and took their complaints into account, so should Facebook not be more transparent towards their users about what is actually happening to their data, together with consequences of this?
The Institute of Communication wrote an article in October 2009 to publish results from several studies about the awareness of privacy among the users of Facebook and their benefits whilst utilizing the social media. This article was one of the many publications about the threat of extensive technology nowadays, as this was likely to result in unwanted consequences in the eyes of individuals. Several students from a large university in the Midwestern United States were surveyed online (Debatin et al., 2009). Both quantitative and qualitative empirical research was used in their research to come to the conclusions. The findings of the survey revealed that users of Facebook did not have a clear understanding about the exact usage of their personal data, even though they claimed to use the correct privacy settings. Furthermore, users claimed that Facebook has become an indispensable application in their daily life: the social media lets them stay in contact with friends and acquaintances. Summarizing, the personal benefits of Facebook outweigh the disadvantages of disposing personal information (Debatin et al., 2009). 
The Economist Intelligence Unit surveyed company executives about use of big data and transparency. This survey revealed that 61% of questioned executives confirmed that big data generates revenue within organizations. At the same time, the survey claimed that just 34% of the participants could not assure that the company was being transparent towards individuals about what actually happened to the data that was collected. Transparency is a crucial aspect of companies to gain trust from their customers (Elkington, 1999). People are willing to provide companies with personal information in exchange for services that are likely to support their daily life, however consumers may become skeptical if they feel that their personal information is being used in a wrong way (Marr, 2016).
In May 2015 the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) of the United Kingdom conducted an online survey among 1000 individuals to examine the shift in behavior regarding data sharing since 2012. Participants had to rate their concerns about our data economy and relate to quotes presented by the DMA. The survey revealed a noticeable shift in attitude over the years. Individuals tend to feel more comfortable sharing their personal information. Furthermore, trust remains a crucial condition for the willingness of individuals to leave personal information with companies. If companies prioritize the trust of their customers, they will succeed in surviving this economy based on information technology (DMA, 2015). 
Concluding from the above, consumers seem to have less problems with companies using their data purely on condition that companies inform them well about the purpose of their actions. Big data is the new way to generate revenue nowadays, so companies must find a way to exploit data whilst ensuring the loyalty of their customers. Transparency is a crucial factor for businesses to obtain this trust. The majority of the users of Facebook find that they are not fully aware of the exploitation of their personal information but as they consider Facebook to be indispensable in their daily life, the benefits of the social media outweigh the drawbacks that it may involve. 

If Facebook would be more transparent towards its users about the usage of their personal data, the latter would not be considered as unfavorable. The answer to the central question is not yet empirically verified. The sources for this paper are limited. Due to lack of professional knowledge of the author, the restriction to the size of this paper and the lack of time to conduct an own experiment it is not possible to provide a solid outcome to the central question. Another factor is the general terms and conditions that are not unilateral and thus giving companies a mandate to legalize their actions and not offering any protection to the consumers. Furthermore, more research in other countries is needed to investigate the central question as this essay is limited to research conducted in the United States and the United Kingdom. 

The goal of this paper was to investigate the awareness of individuals about Facebook using their data and to what extent they considered this being unfavorable. To assure research would not be narrowed down to one particular sector of the economy, the problem of transparency of companies taking advantage of prison labor was addressed as well. Whole Foods was accused of using prison labor and their position towards their customers was taken into consideration. Whole Foods took the opinion of their unhappy customers into account and found a solution to the problem. They stopped working with the companies exploiting prison labor and took a more transparent attitude towards external parties. 
Together with other research findings, transparency remains an important factor for consumers to maintain confidence in companies. Companies must take the trust of their customers seriously in order to embrace the advantages of the rapidly growing online economy. Other research on the awareness of users about Facebook using their data resulted in negative outcomes: the majority of the participants claimed that they were not fully aware of what actually happened with their personal information. This should be taken into account for future research. However, a shift in the attitude of the users of Facebook has been noticed over the years. At first, users were not comfortable with sharing their personal information but now a significant increase in the willingness to share their data with the social media has been established. Taking these findings into account, a better answer to the central question of this paper can be formed. The data exploitation by Facebook is not considered to be unfavorable towards and by users, provided that Facebook uses the data in an appropriate way and remains transparent about what is actually happening with the personal information.