There is no doubt that social media is a driving force in today’s society. With each passing day, it plays an important role in our lives, therefore making privacy a top priority.
According to Heidi Cohen, despite negative press about data leaks and Cambridge Analytica and personal information privacy concerns, recent data reveals almost half of Facebook users haven’t changed their use of social media network (Cohen, 2018). In fact, it is even surprising to know that 26% of Facebook users have increased usage (Filloux, 2018).
Does that mean there are no impacts of privacy concerns on social media? How then can we make use of social media for better usage?
What is the impact of users’ privacy concerns on their acceptance of social media? How can privacy on social media be optimally used?
Account hacking and impersonation
Increasingly, spammers, hackers and other online criminals are targeting social media networks. Without privacy settings, you can make for an appealing target for impersonation. By making an exact replica of your account, bad actors can spread viruses, malware, and scams, all of which are no longer restricted to traditional spam emails.
Twitter, one of the world’s largest social networks, reports over 328 million monthly active users (Sparks, 2017). While that number alone seems immense, there are only a certain number of users who tweet on a regular basis. With approximately 982 million users registered on Twitter (Edwards, 2014), that means only 66.59% of Twitter users are actually using the platform.
With more users on Twitter, the more value Twitter’s stock is worth. But with all these inactive accounts piling on their databases, advertising becomes pointless as there is no focused target audience, thus no monetary value behind it.
As a Twitter user myself, I have come across numerous ‘ghost accounts’. Since the users do not monitor their accounts anymore, hackers or viruses inhabit them, making for an ideal spam account. Active followers eventually receive DMs, tweets or random follows from such accounts. Even if DMs don’t contain links to malware, they can create potential privacy issues. ur private social profiles contain a wealth of personal information, which can be leveraged to open credit card accounts or otherwise abuse our digital identities.
Privacy downside of location-based services
Social media is enhanced by our smartphones and their location-based services. This creates an increased potential for privacy and security threats. In fact, with more of smartphone users switching on their GPS, this will automatically collect location data continuously, with social media apps being some of the heaviest users of this data.
On Instagram for example, a pesky feature is the location tag – automatically attaching a location to your picture (unless you’ve turned the setting off). This safety issue could potentially affect minors. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that letting strangers know where a minor is taking photos is actually a bad idea. With location sharing on, anyone following a minor’s feed will know when they’re at home, school, or anywhere else (Yates, 2017).
Eventually, without regulation, social media services have a lot of leeway on the way they use such data. With geo-location data being automatically shared on social media apps, the possibility of being targeted by thieves or stalkers increases. While application providers need to respect the privacy of consumers, what we can do for now is to protect ourselves and take the effort to understand and adjust our privacy settings.
Walking the Fine Line
With continual attempts at information gathering and privacy intrusions, we need to remember that there are flaws with social media. These apps, whether seasoned or still at infancy, are never perfect, but that’s part of the fun. With rapid, global growth of social media applications, privacy concerns will continue to be significant. It is important that users look into all aspects of their privacy concerns and ensure they are getting the best from their apps without giving more away than they intend.
Cohen, H. (2018). Social Media Use Has Changed: What You Need To Do [Research] – Heidi Cohen. Retrieved from https://heidicohen.com/2018-social-media-use-research/
Edwards, J. (2014). Most People On Twitter Don’t Actually Tweet. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.in/Most-People-On-Twitter-Dont-Actually-Tweet/articleshow/33621062.cms
Filloux, F. (2018). Facebook’s biggest concern: teens are leaving – Monday Note. Retrieved from https://mondaynote.com/facebooks-biggest-concern-teens-are-leaving-3f37ebda0df
Sparks, D. (2017). How Many Users Does Twitter Have?. Retrieved from https://www.fool.com/investing/2017/04/27/how-many-users-does-twitter-have.aspx
Yates, L. (2017). Parents Guide to Protecting Your Kids on Instagram. Retrieved from https://blogging.com/kids-instagram-safety/