Social Media, Privacy, and Security

The explosion of social media has created a lot of issues regarding the privacy and security of information shared on Face, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media. The issues range from people sharing their own private, personal information and having it fall into the wrong hands, to people sharing the information of others. In the latter category falls concern by companies about employees sharing company secrets on line, and the phenomenon of angry individuals sharing personal information of others, as by an ex-spouse or ex-lover.

Facebook has an estimated 400 million users worldwide. Twitter has an estimated 100 million global users. It’s inevitable that in an information marketplace this large, concerns about privacy and security would come to the fore. The values embodied in social media, which include openness and widespread connection, unfortunately are inimical to privacy and security. Just as pickpockets and con artists operate best in crowds, so criminals take advantage of the open character of social media networks.

Facebook and Privacy

There has been a lot of criticism of Facebook regarding its privacy settings, and much of that criticism is warranted. The privacy settings (as with the control system of Facebook generally) are not very user-friendly and are too cumbersome for really nuanced differentiation between those who should and should not see a given item. There is also legitimate concern over the security of the network in regard to distribution of malware and other malicious piracy. However, in the end the solution may not lie in either software or site design, but simply in people’s adaptation to this still-relatively-new aspect of modern life.

Looking for Solution

For the individual concerned about personal information being available to the wrong people, one solution is simply to recognize that social media are more like a rally in a public place than they are like an intimate gathering of friends. Despite the title, Facebook friends are not necessarily friends in the ordinary sense. No information should be shared on Facebook or other social media that you would not want in the hands of a complete stranger. If you want to share something private with a social-media “friend” who really is a friend, do so using a more private form of communication: email, a phone call, or an in-person meeting.

Selling information

A potentially larger problem involves the sharing of information by third parties. A company has a valid interest in protecting its trade secrets which potentially conflicts with the privacy rights of its employees where social media are concerned, and obviously an individual has a valid complaint when someone uses social media to broadcast his or her naked pictures or other private material. This may have consequences for future legislation or lawsuits that have not been fully considered.

Privacy can be hard to attain by joining social media sites. Not only can you get computer viruses, but you have to put up with random friend requests or explain why you didn’t accept friend requests from people you know. By using a free people search you can get the information you want without any strings attached.


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