With the world becoming more connected and internet-savvy, social networks become more vulnerable. Moreover, the system of earning through data collection is something very hazardous. Unless the social network companies see a dip in their consumer base and take actions, it is you, the user, who will have to take precautions so that the benefits of social networking reach you without any dear cost. In the 21st century, information is the new currency. You wouldn’t just hand out your banking account information, so why would you give away your privacy rights on social networking sites? Pay particular attention to what you are agreeing to share when you sign up or log into your account. For example, according to Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, any photos and videos shared by other users remain on the site after you deactivate your account.
- Nowadays, hackers prowl the social media networks looking for victims. They tend to use the shortened URLs like those which are created with bit.ly. They use these shortened URLs to trick their victims into visiting harmful sites or to inject viruses into their computers or mobile phones. Hackers also use spyware which they can easily install on your mobile phone, laptop, iPad or/and computer remotely via downloads, emails, shortened URLs or instant messages. The spyware gives the hacker information about the passwords you use on your social media networks and other accounts which you access online. The simplest way to avoid being a victim, is to never click on links unless you’re sure of the actual source.
- Most of the social media sites have information that’s required, like your birthday and email address. Identity thieves tend to gather their victims’ personal information from the information available on the social media sites. Many identity thieves tend to hack their victims email accounts by simply using the personal information available on social media profile. For instance, one of the more common techniques used by identity thieves, is clicking on the “forgot password,” and then trying to recover the password via email. Once they access your email account, they basically have access to all of your personal information.
- Social media sites utilize mobile apps and the location based services to allow users to check in at their current locations. This normally reveals the user’s current location to all of the people they are connected with in their particular social media networks. The information posted can be easily used by malicious people to track your whereabouts. Moreover, telling the online community where you are, or where you are going to, can end up inviting burglars and thieves to your home or business. For instance, by posting your current location and saying that you are on a long vacation in Australia, you will be letting the potential burglars or/and thieves know exactly where you are, and how long you will be gone. To mitigate such risks, you should avoid posting your travel plans, and using the location based services.
Privacy concerns when using social media
- Where’s your head at privacy settings: One of the most fundamental places where users are caught out is in the privacy settings within a platform. Being unaware of what you can achieve with the privacy settings is an issue in its own right. Because of legal challenges, Facebook and other social sites have tightened up their act and improved privacy options. It is, however, still important to understand what is achievable using the platform’s privacy settings and where they extend to or not. Check out this privacy check-up tool from Facebook, for example: https://www.facebook.com/help/443357099140264/.
- Are you open to offers? Information-sharing gotchas: There was a recent furor about so-called “closed groups” on Facebook. Special groups are available for addicts and those with health issues. They are often used by users to air issues and posts can often contain highly sensitive information, as users expect them to be anonymized. However, a recent Sky News investigation found that these groups are easily searchable and membership lists readily available. Keep a watch on the type of information you share on a site, even within the social community you set up, as potential employers and insurance companies could use them to find out personal information. You could also find that this could lead to identity theft.
- Location, location, location: We recently witnessed the disclosure that Android users had been unwittingly revealing their location to Google, even when they specifically had location services disabled. Location may seem like an almost innocuous piece of data and not personal, but the reality is that it can be used to build up a picture of your everyday movements. Location data can be coupled with other data and aggregated to create a very specific picture of an individual’s life and habits. If a malicious individual were to get hold of such data, they could take stalking to a whole new level.
- A sale too far privacy, AI, and the ad: Going back to above, aggregated data, including location data, such as what shopping mall you happen to be in, is prime data for marketers. It can be used alongside your demographic information to push products to you. That is irritating, but perhaps more annoying is the use of artificial intelligence by the marketing industry on data from social platforms that can make this intrusive. AI, social media, and marketing are the perfect combination. Marketing works best when it is personalized and AI tools are offering marketers a way to do this. For example, AI could inform that a user always uses Twitter on days X and Y at times A and B, it could then translate a combination of their demographic data, personal information, location, and social media usage to created highly focused ads. The lines between privacy, intrusiveness, and relevance are becoming somewhat blurred.
- The privacy tree: Inherited privacy settings through sharing with friends, of friends, is something we all need to be cognizant of. The privacy tree is convoluted and often obfuscated. It may well be that, by allowing a friend to see something you have posted, they then have the ability to share that with their circle, and so on. You may think you have your privacy tied down, but the privacy tree can have many branches.
Groups on Facebook are not anonymous
Dozens of recovery groups for afflictions such as gambling addiction, sex addiction, alcoholism and drug abuse describe themselves as "anonymous" but are far from it, as entire membership lists are easily accessed by outsiders. "Closed groups" on Facebook can be found but you have to be a member to read posts or contribute to the community. A Sky News investigation found that "anonymous" recovery groups are not warning users that their profiles are on members lists, which are free to view and even searchable. Depending on a person's security settings, it is possible to see names, pictures, where a person lives, where they went to school and even where they work. In many cases the people that set them up were not aware of the privacy flaw. Many have since warned their communities and are calling for Facebook to create a new type of group. For members of the official Alcoholics Anonymous fellowship, the news is shocking and further vindicates their decision not to start a Facebook Group themselves.
Shadow profiles on Facebook
A Facebook shadow profile is a file that Facebook keeps on you containing data it pulls up from looking at the information that a user’s friends voluntarily provide. You’re not supposed to see it, or even know it exists. This collection of information can include phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and other pertinent data about a user that they don’t necessarily put on their public profile. Even if you never gave Facebook your second email address or your home phone number, they may still have it on file, since anyone who uses the “Find My Friends” feature allows Facebook to scan their contacts. So if your friend has your contact info on her phone and uses that feature, Facebook can match your name to that information and add it to your file. Facebook recently announced that it fixed a bug that inadvertently revealed this hidden contact information for six million users. Their mea culpa was not particularly well-received, since this security breach revealed that the social network had been collecting this data on all of its users and compiling it into shadow profiles for years. Some people who use Facebook’s Download Your Information (DYI) tool could see the dossiers Facebook had been collecting as well as information their friends put up themselves. Although Facebook corrected the bug, it hasn’t stopped this program of accumulating extra information on people. And researchers looking at the numbers say the breach is actually more involved than Facebook initially claimed, with four pieces of data released for a user that Facebook said had one piece of data leaked.
Privacy on social media
Social networks are crucial as well to remain connected and updated with the world. Here are some basic tips which can keep you safe whenever you use the sites:
- Keep checking your privacy settings regularly.
- Always create strong passwords and use different passwords for different sites.
- Ensure that people you connect to/follow/add as friend must be known to you.
- Always analyze your post before posting.
- Think twice about posting revealing photos. Even if you don’t explicitly reveal a child’s name, you may be revealing too much in what appears to be a harmless photo.
- Never enter/ click suspicious links.
- Never forget to set up your security answers.
- Always keep an anti-virus installed and updated on your computer/ phone.
- Never leave a site logged in.
Many sites push you to agree to terms that are best for them, not you. Take a moment to wade through any legalese. Some of it may exceed your personal comfort limit. Make sure your permission choices are right for you.
Keep your full name and address to yourself. This same advice also applies to posting your children or grandchildren’s full names. Avoid being one of them. Everyone in your trusted circle should know the children’s names anyway, so the information is redundant. Remind the teens in your life to adopt the same practices, as they’re more likely to share personal information.