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Protecting yourself on social media

Social Media is an umbrella term for the websites and applications that enable users to create and share content, or to participate in social networking. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Youtube, TikTok and SnapChat – while non-existent twenty years ago – are powerful social media platforms that have global influence, and reach billions of active users. Because of their meteoric growth in a short space of time, serious concerns exist around the impact of these platforms on users personal privacy.

Social Media Privacy Concerns

Social media companies rely on paid advertising as one of their main sources of revenue. Over time, dubious and manipulative practices like data mining, data harvesting, and algorithmic processing have developed to glean information from voluminous sensitive and personal data shared by social media users. Data about their activities, likes, interests, political views and purchasing history can be used to better help advertisers micro-target ads. Often this information is updated contemporaneously as users engage with the sites allowing comprehensive studies of individual users behaviour and preferences to be built. This is arguably a form of serious commercial exploitation that most social media users are not aware of, will not have knowingly consented to, and it is deeply offensive to individual privacy rights.

Corporate privacy policies will exist and be available on social media websites, and users will often have agreed to their terms in order to access the services. However, the terms of such policies are often vague, difficult to enforce, and wholly inadequate to protect users privacy. Sensitive and personal data shared on social media sites is also at constant risk of exposure to other third parties (apart from advertisers) whether individual hackers, or the wider public through data breaches, malware or viruses.

Tips for Protecting your Privacy

Users must take their individual right to privacy into account in the way they engage with social media. Save deleting all profiles and closing down all accounts, proceeding with greater caution and risk awareness is the only option available.

Actions to consider include:

  • Pause and reflect before posting and sharing content. Choose to share less in the About sections. The more of your personal data you share on social media, the more you put yourself at risk. 
  • Find the privacy settings on each of the social media accounts that you own. Take time to read through these settings. Exercise as much control as you can over who has access to your personal data.
  • Dont accept connection requests from people that you do not know, and check carefully when clicking on links.
  • Switch off GPS, and avoid sharing real time details of your location.
  • Use strong passwords, change password frequently, and consider two-factor authentication where this is available.

Reputational risk on Social Media

Whether personal, professional or business, reputation is a key asset, and a good one can be highly valuable. Damage to reputation can be devastating. Since the advent of social media over the past ten to twenty years, the importance of our reputations in the online space has become a key consideration, and can offer both immense risk and reward depending on the approach taken.

Protecting Reputation

Personally and professionally harnessing the power of social media is both a skill and an art. It requires savvy, discernment and creativity. Sharing opinions publicly may be a boost to your career/employer/business but, if mis-aligned, may lead to awkward conversations, and even job loss.

Follow these steps to safeguard your reputation on social media:

  • Do not share information that may jeopardise your, or anothers, privacy or reputation.  
  • Self-monitor when you are writing a post, or engaging with someone elses content. Does it accurately reflect how you want to be perceived personally or professionally? Remind yourself of who else may see your activity, and how it may impact on your reputation, for better or for worse. 
  • Consider that the internet is permanent and once information is shared, control is lost to a certain extent. While you may able to delete published content, third parties may retain copies which can surface in the future.
  • Taking the above into account, by all means create your own content, and let it reflect what you are passionate about (as long as this is in line with your personal/business/employer brand). If your content relates to your employment, make sure it is positively reflective of your employers brand.
  • Make use of privacy and other settings (e.g. audience and visibility) which provide some additional controls over who has access to what you share.
  • Engage with, and respond swiftly and positively to, comments and other activity.
  • Take care with formatting and spell checks when composing posts, and delete any negative content.

The information on this website is intended as a guide and does not constitute legal advice. Vardags do not accept liability for any errors in the information on this website, nor any losses stemming from reliance upon the statements made herein. All articles and pages aim to reflect the legal position at time they were published, and may have been rendered obsolete by subsequent developments in the law. Should you require specialist advice, tailored to your situation, please see how Vardags can help you.

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