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Social media usage is constantly growing as people like to connect, share posts, videos, and photos, and engage with others. However, it's essential to be aware of the potential privacy risks and to know how to protect users’ personal information. People are becoming more careful about their privacy, what they share on social media, and what social platforms do with their social media data. Even with tough privacy laws, sensitive user information could be at risk.
Social media managers, content creators, and business owners need to manage data privacy across social media platforms. The first step towards solving social media privacy issues is identifying them. Then, adequate steps for ensuring privacy on social media should be implemented. In this guide, we’ll describe the most common social media privacy issues.
Why Is Social Media Privacy Important?
People often share personal and even sensitive information on social media platforms. Besides this, tracking cookies, cross-site tracking, tracking pixels, or other similar tracking technologies could track a user's online activity such as webpage views, social media sharing, or purchase history. All this data is gathered and sorted by user segments, which then data owners sell for marketing purposes.
However, scammers and fraudsters can also get access to this information and use it for their malicious purposes. Reports about fraud originating on social media have soared over five years. In 2020, 46,000 reported in losses to fraud, while in 2021, more than 95,000 became victims of fraud on social media, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
What Types of Data do Social Media Platforms Collect?
Social media platforms often collect personally identifiable information, together with interests, purchases, internet browsing activities, lists of friends, geo-locations, and others. Often, when users sign up for an account, they agree to the terms and conditions, including access to social media platforms to collect users’ personal data.
There are some examples of sensitive data:
- medical or health records;
- biometric data (e.g. fingerprints or DNA);
- education records;
- credit card data;
- financial records;
- personal identifiers, such as age, ethnicity, and race;
- photo of a face
- personally owned property;
- employment information and applications;
- status updates at work, life, and relationship events;
- religious beliefs;
- location data;
- shared content on social media;
- engagement on social media, such as likes, shares, or comments.
Common Social Media Privacy Issues
To be compliant with privacy laws, you need to understand the most common privacy issues found on social media platforms. In addition to compliance, you also need to protect the data of your customers, retain the trust of customers in your company, and avoid penalties for breaches of data safety.
These are the most common social media privacy issues:
- Data mining. Scammers use data mining for identity theft. They do not need much data for that. Actually, publicly available information on social media can help them successfully target victims. Scammers can get email addresses, usernames, phone numbers, and physical addresses quite easily. With this data, they can send phishing scams or gather more information like leaked passwords or credit card numbers.
- Data breach. If a company is hacked, customers’ social media data is one of the first data to be stolen. People provide a lot of personal information on social media which could be used for malicious purposes. As in the case of data mining, scammers could use this information for phishing scams or could try to gather more information to perform more serious online crimes.
If you become the victim of a data breach, inform your customers immediately. They should change their passwords on social media accounts and be aware of phishing scams. When you are transparent with your customers, you could retain your reputation and keep your customers.
- Third-party data sharing. Many social media platforms are in partnership with third-party services and share user data with them. While it allows the integration of different services, it also creates significant privacy risks. Users often grant permission to share or sell their data to these third parties even without knowing it. When signing the Terms of Services agreement or accepting cookies, read carefully what you are signing for.
- Privacy setting loopholes. Social media accounts often are less private than users think. For example, if you share something with a friend and they commented on it, the friends of your friend can also see the information you shared. Your friend could also repost the information you shared on social media, and it will also become available a completely different people. Even closed groups are not completely private since group members could repost your content, postings can be searchable, etc.
- Location settings. User location paired with personal information can provide detailed information to a user profile. Scammers can use this comprehensive data to physically find and target users or collect more digital data. Even if social media users turn off their location settings, scammers can get device's location by other means such as public Wi-Fi, cellphone towers, and others. If you care about your location settings being tracked, always turn off the GPS location services and browse through a VPN.
- Harassment and cyberbullying. Defrauders can send threatening messages, perform harassment, or cause emotional trouble even without getting into users’ social media accounts. Publicly visible inappropriate comments on social media accounts are one of the forms of harassment. Cyberbullying includes sharing negative or harmful content about persons on social media platforms.
Doxxing is a form of cyberbullying and involves sharing harmful content about persons like revealing a person's address, phone number, or personal photos to cause harm, embarrassment, or humiliation. They also encourage others to harass the person online.
- Fake information. Social media can be used to spread false information or propaganda quickly. Trolls and bots often provoke social media users by manipulating emotions. They can also create a fake account or advocate for a person by posing as a person. It has also been used for harassment, or cyberbullying. Most social media platforms have content moderators or procedures for how other customers could report fake information, but it takes time for posts to be marked or deleted. You should always check information before resending it or making conclusions on social media.
- Malware and viruses. Malware and viruses can spread through social media platforms. They can steal sensitive data, infect, or slow down users’ computers. Cybercriminals can take over the social media account of a user and spread malware to the affected account of the user and all the user's friends.
How to Protect Your Social Media Accounts?
Given so many possibilities for cybercriminals through social media platforms and the troubles they could cause, social media users should be more cautious performing any actions on social media platforms. You should consider the following actions on social media regarding your personal information safety:
- Think twice when opening a new social media account, especially if it comes from another countries than USA or Europe since data privacy laws of these countries could be less strict. Each platform adds additional risk, so if you don’t really need it- don’t open and share your data. If you decided to join the platform- make sure it is safe and reliable, check the service provider and the testimonials about it.
- When leaving a social media platform, do not forget to delete the account and all your data.
- Use strong passwords. Don't use the same passwords across multiple social media platforms or websites. You can use a password manager to store your sign-on credentials.
- Avoid public devices. Don't connect your cell phone to a public computer at all costs since public computers are a prime source for viruses and Malware. Don't use your credit card or social media accounts on a shared computer. When using a shared computer, do not forget to log out when finished.
- Don't overshare your data on social media platforms. Avoid sharing sensitive personal data on social media platforms at all. You never know who can get it.
- Disable geolocation data. Disable sharing geolocation data on apps. When you do not use navigation or similar apps, turn off geolocation data through security settings on your phone.
- Don't click on suspicious links. Even if your friend sent you a link, avoid clicking on suspicious links. Examine the link before you click by researching the web address. Run safety checks if you're still suspicious.
- Use two-factor authentication methods. Two-factor authentication adds another layer of security to the app, so it is advised to use it.
Consent Management Platforms (CMP) and Social Media Privacy Issues
Consent Management Platforms help to deal with social media privacy issues and mitigate these risks. By offering gradual consent management solutions, CMPs allow users to make informed decisions about what data to share with third parties. Users can review, grant, and later revoke their consent for the processing of personal data, ensuring that their information is only shared with trusted partners or not shared at all. CMPs also use advanced security measures, encryption techniques, and other security protocols which help to protect social media accounts against unauthorized access, minimizing the risk of data breaches and infection with malware or viruses.
- Categorizes cookies and provides a cookie declaration table that includes a cookie provider and information about third parties.
- Maintains a full history of user consent for proof of compliance.
- Allows users to withdraw consent at any time.
- Integrates your cookie banner with the most popular CMS platforms like WordPress, Shopify, Wix, Kajabi, Joomla, and others.
- Integrates your Cookie Banner with IAB TCF 2.0.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the most common social media privacy issues?
How to protect my social media accounts?
Consider the following actions on social media regarding your personal information safety: think twice when opening a new social media account, do not forget to delete the account and all your data, use strong passwords, avoid public devices, don't overshare your data on social media platforms, disable geolocation data, don't click on suspicious links, and use two-factor authentication methods. CookieScript can help you to protect your social media accounts.
What types of data do social media platforms collect?