Data is the bread and butter of social media platforms. They do everything based on your information – tailor their services, serve ads, analyze the market, build business models, etc. Some data you’ve given to them is personal, like your name, email addresses, date of birth, or where you live. But other kinds of data, like your likes and dislikes, photos, and posts, can paint a picture of who you really are too. This type of data is a gold mine for social media platforms.
Once you willingly give away data by agreeing to their Terms and Conditions, it belongs to them. They can do almost whatever they please with it. They can:
Data privacy is an important issue. Most social media companies amended their privacy policies in response to stricter privacy laws and regulations in Europe. They now allow you to tweak your settings and make your accounts more private. However, changing your privacy settings doesn’t always guarantee privacy. How?
Most of the time, something you shared with a closed group of friends gives them the ability to share it with others. Your friend’s friends can then see the content you posted, which might not be your intention. Your friends might not even have stringent privacy policies, meaning that others can now access information that was supposed to stay within your friends' circle.
The same applies to closed social groups and forums. Sky News has previously found that comments and user lists in private health groups on Facebook could be easily searchable and discoverable by insurance companies and employers. So think twice before posting or commenting about controversial issues. That information could ruin your reputation or lead to identity theft.
Pay attention to location settings when you use social media sites and apps. Some might be tracking your whereabouts even when you told them not to like Google was caught doing last year. Your location might not seem like a very valuable piece of data. However, when paired with your other personal information, it could help to create an even more accurate user profile.
Real-life thieves and stalkers could also use location data. Imagine if a criminal knew where you are at all times. They could easily break into your house when you weren’t there or follow you home.
Social media accounts are an excellent target for hackers for many reasons. For example, they can:
Social media can also be used for cyberbullying or cyberstalking. The perpetrators don’t even need to be hackers. They can be infatuated colleagues sending threatening messages or your kid’s classmates bombarding them with inappropriate comments. It could also be your ex-partner who shared private information about you online or even hacked into your account and messaged your colleagues and friends to ruin your reputation. This can be a privacy nightmare, especially if the information was sent from your account. Explaining that it wasn’t you could be close to impossible.
Social media is addictive and can impact your personal, social, and professional life if overused. Users tend to spend significant time on social networks, which sometimes affect their real lives. So make sure you have a healthy balance between your real life and your virtual lifes.
Social media is widely used to spread misinformation and propaganda. Trolls, which have a noticeable presence online, also intentionally provoke useless discussions and manipulate others’ emotions. So make sure to double-check every fact you find suspicious on social media and don't share it without being sure it's genuine.
Are social media concerns justified? Well, statistics show that yes, they are. Just remember the massive data leaks social media giants have experienced. For example, 533 million Facebook users' phone numbers and personal data were leaked online back in 2021. The 2021 report by Norton states that 14 percent of respondents experienced unauthorized activity on their social media accounts. A 2020 study conducted by Statista shows that 34 percent of users were concerned that their accounts could be compromised.
Moreover, a 2021 study conducted by Pew Research revealed that 41 percent of American users experienced online harassment. Seventy-five percent of those cases took place on social media sites.
You should use your common sense when using social media in 2022. Make sure to implement all the protection tips listed below. Also, think twice before creating a new social media account. Each platform introduces additional risk, so it is better to use only those essential to you. Also, make sure to follow proper deletion procedures when leaving a social media outlet. Moreover, always research a social network before joining to be sure it's safe and reliable. Make sure the apps you use are not malicious in terms of privacy.
Below you can find our texts on safety of a few social media channels:
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