Social media is highly beneficial to our lives which is why the companies behind them are so valuable. For one, social networks aid communication with the use of text.
Traditional SMS texts cost a lot. On the other hand, texting on social media is so cost-efficient that a significant percentage of people on the globe can afford to use it.
Benefits of social media
Social media networks also allow us to follow up on the lives of our friends, acquaintances, and family. With a platform like Facebook, thousands of people have met up with friends they’ve lost contact with for several years.
Social media helps expedite processes in the workplace. For instance, some firms utilize remote working where employees can communicate with each other to assign tasks.
Platforms like Twitter also allow quick dissemination of news and trending topics. There have been several issues raised on Twitter that kick-start judicial processes. Presidents and other politicians communicate with others on this network.
Another silent benefit of social media platforms is the convergence of different opinions and perspectives. Beforehand, reliance on traditional newspapers and blogs allowed readers to look through the lens of the news reporter and editor.
These one-sided opinions greatly influenced people’s attitudes towards a person, organization, or other entity. However, with social media, people can get all sides of a story and form better opinions on events.
Privacy Concerns with social media
Despite the numerous benefits social media offers, people are starting to have privacy concerns. There is a risk associated with communicating with someone on social media, which is account hacking.
Private conversations could get exposed to the public if your account gets hacked. Even if your account is secure and a friend’s account gets hacked, your chats with that person can be revealed.
There are also significant concerns related to how user data is managed. Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal opened the public eye to this fact. Articles claimed that the data gotten in the scandal was used to influence the 2016 US Presidential election.
How social media platforms use private information concerning advertisers is also unknown. You can search for something on social media and see the same product or service shown to you by an advertiser.
It is estimated that at least half of the world’s population uses social media in some way. A coalition of social media oligopolies means that the opinions of half the people can the globe can be manipulated. It has happened with Cambridge Analytica and can, in theory, be repeated.
Privacy Threats on social media
- Mining of Information by Big Tech
Using social media platforms ensure that you leave some form of data trail. For instance, when you sign up on a network, you divulge your name, age, hobbies, and other sensitive information.
Spending time on the social network also allows the platform to understand your behavior. The platform will record those videos you spend time on, the person you can’t stop chatting with, and other forms of activity.
The platform uses these analytics to help advertisers target you better. That’s why you seem to get interested in sponsored ad posts. Your information could also get sold to advertising firms without your approval.
This form of threat comes directly from hackers. Phishing is a tactic employed by a cyber criminal to get your login details. Phishing attacks don’t only attack social media users. Credit cardholders and email users can also get phished.
However, in the case of social media, it could come through email. You could be deceived to take action on your account when you’re landing on a bogus page that looks like your social media platform. Fixing your login details on such a page will reveal your credential to the hacker.
Another way social media users get deceived is by using a re-login page. For instance, on Facebook, you could get your attention attracted by a game or tool that interests you. Clicking on the link can lead you to a phishing page that asks you to log in again to your Facebook account to access the tool.
Data weaned this way is mainly sold by hackers. If you surf the dark web, you might have come across posts advertising social media logins for sale. Imagine your account getting sold to the highest bidder and all your messages being scrutinized by that entity.
- Malware Infections
Hackers use malware to steal every possible form of data on a device. The consequences of having malware on a device are so severe that people turn to anti-malware software for protection.
The two most popular types are the Trojan and ransomware. Trojans serve to steal your data so they can get sold in packs on the dark web. On the other hand, Ransomware locks all access to your files until you make a ransom payment.
Malware infections are easier to distribute on social media. Since they’re usually hosted on websites, devices can get infected through links.
For illustration, a hacker can buy a hacked social media account of a trusted contact and send you a message containing a link. Since you assume it’s from a trusted source, you head over to the link and download the malware. This way, your social media account may remain safe, but your device might be compromised.
- Online Stalking
Social media makes online stalking easier. Online stalking in this context includes finding out the whereabouts of a person online and tracking them offline.
Many social media platforms have this and geo location features. A stalker can decide to target you once your location is known. Usually, online stalkers are people that you know. Nevertheless, total strangers can still track you offline without your knowledge.
- Social Profiling
Social profiling involves judging an individual by the words they type on social media. It is a known fact that employers check social media posts before hiring a person.
If you make posts that contradict the employers’ opinions, you may not get offered a job. Your social media profile can also aid employers in discriminating against certain applicants. Questions that they aren’t permitted to ask can be checked through social media, and thus, you lose the job of your dreams.
Tips on Making your social media Private
- Keep Sensitive Information Private
Refrain from posting sensitive information on social media. For instance, sharing your flight ticket or driver’s license on social media can induce a privacy breach.
Your real-time location should be kept private too. Whether you’re at home or away from home, do not share your location on social media. For one, sharing your home location can attract online stalkers. Avoid sharing pictures that denote where you live.
If you post pictures of you being away from home, someone who knows you could burgle your home. If you need to share images of you having fun outside, wait until you’re back home.
- Leave Profile Spaces Blank
On social media platforms that encourage you to share a lot about yourself, you need to leave spaces blank. For example, Facebook asks for a lot of material like birthdate, college, the organization where you work, and so on.
You don’t need to fill up every space in your profile. You could just put your profession instead of fixing your company’s name. You could just put your state or province instead of the city you stay in. These acts will keep your social media private while also allowing you to enjoy your social media experience.
- Change Privacy Settings
You can set your privacy on social media to limit those who can see your profile and posts or contact you. On Twitter, you can use a protected account so that only your followers can see your tweets. They can’t be indexed by search engines as well.
On Facebook, you can use the tools in the privacy section to limit your posts to only your friends. You can also prevent your posts from appearing on search engines.
LinkedIn users can select their connections to be the only ones that can view their updates. LinkedIn also has an activity feature that allows connections to follow your every move. You can stop this by deactivating ‘activity broadcasts’ in the settings.
- Choose your Friends Wisely
You should not add up people you don’t know on social media. If you want to meet new friends, keep your additions to a bare minimum.
The fact is, adding just anybody up can expose you to some unsavory characters. You can start limiting your friend list on Facebook by changing your privacy settings only to allow friend requests from friends of other friends.
Other Measures to Protecting Your Online Privacy
- Utilize a Strong Password
If your password is your birth date or your best friend’s name, you need to change it ASAP! Easily guessed passwords are like open invitations to social media account hackers.
You need to use a resilient password that combines letters, symbols, and numbers. The harder it is to guess, the better. If you think you’ll forget your social media passwords, you can use a password management service to store all of your passwords.
- Use a VPN
A VPN is an app that protects your privacy in this era of mass online surveillance. A VPN is effective in ensuring your privacy.
With this app, you can hide your IP address as well as your online traffic. This means that no one, including websites you visit, or even your ISP, would be able to log your activities. This ensures that your traffic is often kept private.
Also, it protects your login credentials while using free Wi-Fi. Sometimes, free Wi-Fi can get hacked, with the perpetrator spying on the online activities of anyone connected to the network. If you’re using a VPN while on public Wi-Fi, your online activity and passwords would be encrypted.
Downloading a VPN for privacy is a much-needed move to protect your data online. One thing to note is that there are numerous VPN providers out there. Make sure you have done your research before subscribing to a service. Choose a reputable and paid option since free services are notorious for tracking your data and selling it to advertisers and other third parties.
- Activate Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication ensures that even if another person has your passcode, your account will remain secure. It is a form of verification that is requested during a login attempt.
A code could be sent to your smartphone, or you could use an authenticator app to get a constantly changing code. Usually, this form of verification is requested once a login attempt happens from a different device. That’s why you need to protect your device from falling into the wrong hands.
- Cross-Check URL Addresses
To prevent phishing, you need to be familiar with the way hackers use this technique. First, an email is sent to you, prompting you to take urgent action. The message could claim your account has been hacked or experienced suspicious activity.
Before you click the email link, check the sender’s address. If it’s unfamiliar, mark the email as spam and delete it. If you’re redirected to a login page from your social media platform, check the URL address. The same URL check should be done if you open the email and see a link sent to you.
Some hackers are so thorough that the URL address or email address can be made to look legit by replacing a letter with one from another alphabet. For instance, if Facebook is replaced with ‘Facebook.’ You’ll have to ensure every letter is scrutinized well.
Social media provides several benefits related to communication and info. However, problems like the mining of data, phishing, malware infections, and cyber stalking plague the social media space.
To guard your privacy on social media, you can change privacy settings, block specific friend requests, and keep sensitive information private. To make your online experience more private, you can also use different measures like utilizing a VPN, making your password stronger, activating multi-factor authentication, and cross-checking URL addresses.