Personally, for me, I cannot remember a time without social media.

For me I would watch my older sister go on Bebo and Myspace and wonder what type of things were on there. I was so naive to the world it led to.

The number of people using social media is increasing every year. There are now nearly 3.2 billion people using social media, in which 3 billion of them use it at least one a month.

The vast amount of people using these social media sites means the amount of personal information available on these sites have had a massive influx. Therefore, this has put users at an incredibly high risk of breaching their privacy as these sites have an exponential number of people’s personal and private information.

You may ask, well if my information is out there on social media, it can’t really be that private then, can it?

However, although someone knowing your name and birthday may not seem like a huge deal, identity thieves tend to prowl social media sites in order to get this type of information and seek victims.

Flowers with 5 Social Media sites in the center

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Snapchat 

A new concept I feel that has changed our privacy and lives completely is that we can now spy where people are at every moment of everyday. I now know that the boy with the bright pink backpack who always sits at the front of the lectures lives down the road from me, and I’ve never even spoken to him. I now know that the girl I spoke to at freshers rather drunk for a maximum of 5 minutes likes to go to the gym every evening at the same time. This is all because of the snapchat feature added in recent years. Snap Maps

Although you can choose whether it is on or off, it is hard to really remember that people can actually see where you are constantly. It is helpful in the fact that I know I have forgotten my keys and I can see my housemate is in the house to let me in. But in reality, I should have really remembered my keys and not relied on the Snap Map to see that they are in.

Yes, it is very handy, but there is something very wrong about it and I feel like the way technology is going, it can only get worse.

Social media is now at the forefront of privacy issues because the government does not have many regulations for these sites. Social media regulates their own websites without the need to follow governmental regulations. The only regulations social media sites have, are all based around personal information such as The Data Protection Act (1998).

One of the biggest platforms that have had numerous amounts of problems with breaching on privacy is Facebook.

Facebook

Facebook have come under scrutiny many times due to continuous outbreaks of privacy issues.

However, there has been recent incidents bought into light that Facebook has had yet another bug. In December, Facebook had a bug which affected million’s users. It let app developers see photos which people had uploaded but never actually posted.

Tomer Bar said that the bug “impacted photos that people uploaded to Facebook but chose not to post”.

However, this bug was minor compared to the one in September where 50 million accounts were affected by a data breach. This meant hackers got hold of personal information such as name, relationship, status and even recent location check-ins.

Although again this would seem pretty minor, these attacks allowed hackers to steal Facebook “access tokens”. Access tokens are basically digital keys that keep people logged in to their profile’s, so they do not need to re-enter their password again and again. Meaning these hackers had access to millions of people’s profiles.

Facebook also allowed the search engine Bing, see the names of all the users on Facebooks and their friends without consent. Furthermore, they also gave Netflix and Spotify the ability to read users private messages.

Mark Zuckerberg and other Facebook employees have apologised profusely again and again, yet not much is changing.

The problem with the data breach is that although notifications come up mentioning about data sharing, it is usually ‘opt-out’ options rather than accepting the conditions of them sharing your data. Therefore, to many users, they are unwillingly accepting these conditions as the majority of the time, banners that pop are usually ignored, and accepted just to get rid of them. This is clear as 68% of users do not understand the privacy settings on their sites.

Facebook with a padlock

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Tips and Tricks

However, it is not all doom and gloom. This doesn’t mean you should ban all social media and deactivate your Facebook account, there is just a few things you can do to protect yourself.

I am not going to be condescending and say things I know a lot of you all know, but you would be surprising about how common some of these little things are which make a huge difference.

A key one is password creation. The stronger the password, the harder it is to guess. Many common passwords are things such as pet names and special dates so try avoiding anything with personal information, as these will be guessed by hackers.

Reviewing your social media profiles is another way and paying close attentions to how each site looks out to protect you. For example, Facebook can restrict certain people from seeing certain things on your profile. Although going through each one of your social media profiles is very long winded and many of you will feel it is not worth the hassle to go through them all, it is still good to be aware of how far each social media can protect you.

I think the main one I am going to say though is be aware. Once you put something out on social media, it is there. Although you may be able to delete it, has it really gone forever?

Next Week

I have discussed all the reasons why our privacy can be affected, but I have not spoken about the dangers for certain groups of people. That is why next week’s post will be talking about children’s privacy and how their lives online and their rites are different to adults.

So, have a wonderful New year. I shall see you all in 2019 and remember, stay cyber safe.

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