It’s 2014, and the world’s population is beginning to live their lives online. Because of this, social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter have more access to our online data than we’d like to imagine.

Edward Snowden, a former US National Security Agency contractor, leaked stories of government surveillance to Glenn Greenwald, a journalist for the Guardian, in 2013. The UK and US governments had been ‘spying’ on citizens using the computer programs PRISM and XKeyscore; allowing them to wiretap and track anyone’s online activity just by using their email address.

Ethical questions have been raised since: Is it right for our government to access and use our data? Should social networks sell information about us to advertisers? Unfortunately, as the victims of this scandal we do not have a say in it.

Facebook use alga-rhythms that control what we see on our news feeds by monitoring our activity on their site. Data is collected and sold to advertisers, who then use that information to sell a product back to us. Have you ever logged onto Facebook and seen an advert for the exact product you were just browsing on another web page?

Cookies collect our data – anything from our online browsing history to credit card details – providing advertisers with information about you. The adverts that you see online are tailored to your browsing history. This is theoretically more successful than simply advertising to a mass demographic. Despite this, only 1 out of every 1,000 adverts will ever lead to a successful purchase.

When signing up for a social network site, make sure you read the terms and conditions before creating a public profile. Hidden in that small print may be clauses you can’t get yourself out of.

In 2014 Pinterest changed their terms and conditions after public backlash towards their ownership of content. Before September, anything that you ‘pinned’ to the site was then owned by Pinterest and could be sold on for commercial use. Upcoming photographers and interior designers would use the site for professional recognition, but as soon as that upload button was pressed, that content no longer belonged to them.

Alterations to this clause have now been made. While Pinterest can still ‘borrow’ your work, they cannot claim ownership over it.

Data about you, including your name, age, gender, and interests is not being protected. It’s being sold, borrowed and exploited, simply because non-profit social media networks need to make money somehow. It’s either selling our data to advertisers or selling shares from the companies off to rich investors.

Which would you rather choose?