Let’s Talk About Data Breach!
Social media user’s concerns about their privacy have spiked in recent years. The dramatic story of the consulting agency Cambridge Analytica is a case in point. The firm exploited the private information of over 50 million Facebook users to influence the 2016 American presidential election.
According to a study conducted by the Pew Trust, 80 percent of social media users report being concerned about businesses and advertisers accessing and using their social media posts. These growing privacy concerns have prompted advocacy for tighter regulations.
1. What information are you sharing when you use social networks?
Facebook still is the most popular social network in the world, Facebook still has more than 2 billion active users in the world, and they all give access to their private data to the company. You see, Facebook Terms and Conditions allow the company to gather and to store all kinds of user data. Your photos, likes, online activity while on Facebook (and while browsing the web in general), pages you visit, purchases you make online, your contacts list, even your location, it’s all stored somewhere on Facebook’s servers used for one major purpose – to give the network better data for advertising purposes.
Names are unimportant here – all that matters is data, your age group, your gender, where you live, which brands you like, everything but your name. Metadata used by the company to serve better ads function better without names, and we aren’t even numbers. For Facebook (and other social networks and many online services) we are just nodes filled with lucrative data that can make those nodes spend more money and raise the profit margin.
2. How may your social networking information be used and shared?
As we said, our names don’t matter, but everything else does. Sites we visit, pages we like, platforms we have accounts on, our gender and age group, and much other info that some (if not all) users would consider private. Based on your age group, gender, location, and stuff you do online, they can completely customize your experience while browsing Facebook, reading the latest Tweets, or checking out Instagram. Above all there is, of course, a black market for stolen user data. Passwords, social network accounts, data gathered via smartphone apps, medical records, credit card info, you name it. The market is huge and you can buy practically anything you want there.
Facebook isn’t alone in this, While Facebook was, and still is, the most controversial social network of them all when it comes to handling user data and using their user base in social experiments, they aren’t the only social network or a large online company mishandling private data. Google, Twitter, all kinds of online platforms, LinkedIn, Instagram (owned by Facebook), Snapchat, and many more all have access to highly sensitive private data, which is stored on their servers and could be stolen anytime now. So, when a breach happens, who is responsible?
Keep your account private. According to a new study from Viasat Savings, nearly 50% of those surveyed keep their social media accounts in private mode, while the remaining half chose to be public and open.
Source: Viasat Savings
Here are some more useful tips:
✔Choose a “strong,” secure password.
✔Use different passwords on all your different social media accounts.
✔Change your passwords frequently.
✔Avoid logging into public computers or using friends’ phones to log in to your social media accounts.
✔Use caution with public wireless connections when accessing your social media accounts. If possible, use a VPN.
✔Avoid using public or shared devices to access your social media accounts.
✔Avoid clicking on social media links, even the ones sent to you by a friend.
✔Secure your devices with password protection to protect your social media and other information in case they are stolen or lost.
✔Consider creating a new email address to use only with social media profile(s).
✔Provide the minimum amount of personal information necessary, or that you feel comfortable providing.
✔Log off from social networking sites when you no longer need to be connected.
The Bottom Line
So, when it comes down to online privacy and the protection of our own personal data, the penultimate responsibility is on us. Next, don’t visit unsecured sites, if you decide to visit them don’t leave any kind of personal information (like usernames, passwords, credit card info, etc.) on them. When you discover that a service you have an account on is compromised, change the password immediately even if your account isn’t part of the breach.
Be responsible, your online data is as important as your passport, your ID card, or your medical record. Don’t hand out social networks your privacy on a plate, there are already billions of people who already did that, and more will come. Don’t be one of them.