Social media usage is one of the most popular online activities for people around the globe. There are currently 3.6 billion people on social media, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. However, most social media users don’t have concerns about their privacy and private data ending up in the wrong hands.
Not taking your internet privacy seriously can come back to bite you. According to cyber security experts at Smartproxy, having your data stolen can come with serious consequences, like malicious people figuring out your location and more.
Today, we are going to take a closer look at social media privacy concerns and issues. It will help you better understand your position in this landscape and learn how to protect your private data online.
Is There a Case in Point?
Devoted advocates for digital privacy can appear as conspiracy theorists. Unfortunately, there’s a clear example that legitimizes these concerns. Yes, we are talking about the likes of the consulting agency Cambridge Analytica.
The agency in question pulled out the sensitive data of over 80 million users on Facebook. Then, it used it to influence the American presidential election in 2016. All of it led to Facebook facing an inquiry by the FTC. While it might seem like old news, FTC recently announced a new inquiry, reviewing privacy conditions in the most prominent social media channels. The scenario will go like this: nine social media and video streaming organizations will need to hand over their data collection practices. To craft these guidelines, companies have 45 days.
According to experts, social media platforms need guidance and regulations to serve their original purpose: connecting people worldwide. However, many concerns indicate that these platforms might take advantage to monetize from their users. These practices include the streams of personalized ads that users are constantly subjected to during their digital lives. Pew Search Center has conducted a study highlighting the fact that people want to have control over their digital data. Currently, many companies simply suggest that they might share data with third-party companies. However, social media users have very little control over how their data is handled.
While social media is one of the channels that potentially could compromise your digital identity, it is far from being the only one. Websites and other digital apps have similar powers. Hence, there are many concerns, but it all boils down to one thing – our private data on social media is up to the taking for whoever manages to pull it out.
Data Being Shared Without Users’ Knowledge or Consent
Have you ever heard about data mining? It refers to a process of targeting specific data on a website, recording, storing, and using it for a company or personal gain. Data mining and scraping are handled by bots capable of combining tens of thousands of social media pages to get the targeted data.
The data sets don’t have to be overly complicated. They need only to contain a name, surname, birthday, geolocation, and personal interest to be of great interest to advertisers. The worst thing about it is that the data collection agencies can then sell our private data to the highest bidder.
Social Media, Scams, and Phishing
Do you remember the infamous phishing attack on Instagram that took place in August 2019? Hackers targeted millions of Instagram users to steal their usernames and passwords. It’s not the first or the last time hackers tried to access social media users’ private information.
The request appeared completely legit as a new Instagram’s two-factor authentication system. Social media platforms attract millions of people daily, making them a perfect target for scams and phishing attacks. It’s another concern to add to our list.
Social Media Make Malware Sharing Easy
Malware is software or a code that allows hackers to get complete control over your device, encrypt your data, ask for money to unlock it (ransomware), or enlist your device in an advertising network to earn extra cash. Once a hacker gets access to your social media account, your personal data is already lost.
On top of that, they can send malware to your friends. Since they trust you, many of them will click on a link and will themselves get infected. Unfortunately, social media platforms are being used for malware sharing despite their best efforts to use cutting edge cybersecurity solutions.
Social Media Bots
Finally, we have social media bots. They can be programmed to behave like a human user, appearing as a regular social media user. Cybercriminals use them for various purposes. They can be programmed to extract your private data and spam your inbox with messages containing phishing links and malware.
The bots on social media can also work together to launch denial-of-service attacks so that hackers can get access to entire networks of computers and servers.
The Lack of Privacy on Social Media and What to Do About It
All the above are real privacy threats on social media. Social media platforms are a part of the world wide web, and it’s quite logical to see that the lack of privacy on the internet impacts them overall. Most of the privacy issues online can be addressed via a reliable VPN service such as Atlas VPN. It encrypts all your web traffic, gives access to geo-blocked services, and guarantees protection on unsecured Wi-Fi networks. Still, social media users have to go one step further to protect their privacy.
Some of the best practices include setting up privacy on social media accounts, avoiding smartphone apps that require access to social media accounts, and discarding all messages and emails that contain suspicious links. Overall, users’ accounts are also a goldmine for deceitful parties and stalkers. These perpetrators could get your home address, occupation, date of birth, relationships, and digital preferences from your social media handle. All these details are perfect for a personalized phishing attack. So, if you feel like an extensive social media account is necessary for you, keep it private. It means that only your friends will be able to see your full information. Additionally, do not accept friend requests from people you do not know.
With so many social media privacy concerns, the end-users can do very little to protect their sensitive data. Besides privacy settings, responsible behavior, and using a VPN, other options are limited. It calls for skilled cybersecurity experts to tackle social media security and privacy challenges.