Why Maintaining Social Media Privacy is Important in 2023

January 20, 2023

What is Social Media Privacy?

The nature of social media encourages sharing in a way that can be a challenge to people’s privacy. It could be argued that “social media” and “privacy” are diametrically opposed. While social media is about sharing with others users – known and unknown – limits are necessary for the sake of safety and security.

Social media privacy is important because it helps protect social media users from harassment, exploitation, and exposure to fraud. The concept of social media privacy aims to reduce the amount of private information we receive concerning others and how much they receive about us. 

Also, Read This: How to Protect Kids from Cat Fishers with Social Media Spy App?

What are the Biggest Social Media Privacy Issues?

Criminals can use the personal data we publish online against us. 

But it’s not only criminals we need to protect ourselves from. Social media giants also profit from our personal information. They can (and do) use data mining to analyze their users’ likes and dislikes, interests, demographic, professions, photos, religious beliefs, and more. They can then (and do) use this data to deliver targeted ads.

If you have not updated your settings to deny their ability to use your data, they can also:

  • Sell the data to third parties – you might feel relatively safe with a reputable social media brand, but they can sell your data to third parties that you don’t know or trust.
  • Share data with their business partners.
  • Transfer your data to countries with less strict laws regarding your privacy and rights.
  • Influence opinion, such as with Cambridge Analytica, the firm that used data on millions of Facebook users to influence the 2016 US presidential election. There were also accusations that the Russian Internet Research Agency also had a hand in influencing the US presidential election of 2016 by sharing fake news and causing conflict.

Who is Affected by Social Media Privacy Issues?

Everyone. Even if you’re not using social media, someone you know probably is. According to Statistica, more than 4 billion people were using social media in 2021. Every social media user increases the chances that your image and your private information may be shared online.

And what about those times when a social media user takes a selfie and you or your car happen to be in the background? In a world where anything and everything can be shared online, social media privacy is an issue for everyone. Here’s why:

Phishing and malware are two of the most common issues involving social media – highlighting the need for social media privacy awareness and control.

Phishing – these attempts to get hold of your private information frequently take place via social media. A common phishing attack involves the criminal pretending to be a social media platform. When victims attempt to log in to the social media network, the criminals gain their password and username, which makes their real social media account vulnerable.

Malware – Having attained a username and password via a phishing attempt or another ploy, fraudsters may use their victims’ social media accounts to distribute malware. This malware can create havoc, such as sending emails from the victim’s email account or denying them access to their files.

How to Help Protect Your Social Media Privacy

Because you can lock yourself in a woodland cabin and people will continue to send your personal information around the internet, it’s near impossible to ensure 100% social media privacy. Nonetheless, you can take some actions that will reduce your vulnerability to social media privacy issues.

  1. When you visit a new site and that banner opens up telling you about cookies and how they will use your information, do you ever read it? Doing so and taking appropriate action is among the most effective ways to stay in control of your data online. Read any contract or agreement regarding third parties and how they might use your data.
  2. Go into your settings for each social media platform you use and read the information until you understand who will see your messages. Friends? Friends of friends? Everyone?
  3. Exercise caution when sharing photos – The photos you share online say more than how you wear a sarong or what you had for breakfast. They also identify you and potentially your whereabouts. Posting holiday pics, for example, can make the social media users’ homes vulnerable to criminals back home. 
  4. Do not share personally identifying information with people you meet online unless you are sure they are who they say they are and the connection is secure. Note that the information demanded by social media platforms is enough to provide criminals with the means to harm you. To make it harder for people to get this information, use the privacy tools available on social media platforms. This may enable you to hide data, such as your location, your real name, and your date of birth.
  5. Note that accepting a follow or friend request from someone you don’t know can threaten your social media privacy. This person could affect you negatively with the content they share and who they share it with, including shared posts that originated with or included you. If you’re unsure of who someone is online, you can find out more information about them and verify their details using Nuwber.
  6. Use strong passwords – a strong password typically includes one or more numbers, special characters, and/or capital letters. Make the most of all these aspects to make your password more difficult to crack. It’s wise to use different passwords for each social media platform you use. This can limit the damage if one of your accounts is compromised. 
  7. Avoid using public Wi-Fi, such as Wi-Fi at a cafe or bookstore. Public networks are not as secure as private networks, making public network users more vulnerable to attacks and social media privacy problems. If you must use public Wi-Fi, use a virtual private network (VPN) where possible.

The world is increasingly connected and more of what we do takes place online, making social media privacy more challenging and more important than ever. While it’s not completely possible to control where our information is used and how it is stored – that particular genie is out of the bottle – we can improve our awareness of social media privacy and take steps to protect ourselves and those we love from nuisances, criminals, and big businesses.

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