For years, social media has been rapidly growing in influence. From once being a simple way to meet up with old school friends to be a very powerful medium of expression, free speech, social engineering, gender equality, business, politics, entertainment, building communities; social media has touched our lives in every way possible.
But as they say, “everything comes at a certain cost”. The ever-increasing impact and involvement of social media have also made us more vulnerable to abuse, bullying, cyber harassment, and most of all, and exploitation of personal information by politically motivated firms and business corporations. Even if we look at a relatively smaller perspective, it’s not uncommon to hear of someone who has lost their job due to a social media post. From a risqué joke to an ill-advised comment made years ago, everything we say on social media could make or break us. If you hold the ‘wrong kind’ of political opinion for a certain business, don’t be shocked if they can no longer find a space for you once that is made clear via social media.
So, we now are in a place where people are getting more and more concerned about social media privacy regulations, and that is for the right reason. Just last year, US Senate Intelligence Committee quite literally grilled the legal advisors of Facebook, Twitter, and Google on the supposed exploitation of information to influence American Presidential Elections.
A train moving too fast
One scary thing about social media is that its development is directly tied to the development of communication technologies. Artificial intelligence, Internet-of-things, and other latest technologies are now being used to make social media platforms more interactive which means they’ll have the ability to soak more and more personal information.
Facebook, for example, has been investing in AI since 2013 when the company acquired the services of New York University professor Yann LeCun. AI has been deeply incorporated in Facebook – from its neural networks learning to tag, to its image recognition technology. In fact, AI has a lot to do with our time spent on Facebook!
It is a well-known fact that deep learning methods work with keyword queries to help create better search results for people and places, and AI is also used to filter people’s news streams better. In short, AI has a huge impact on social media such as Facebook.
As for the IoT, connectivity is at the heart of the Internet-of-Things, and it is safe to assume this technology of connectivity will also affect the world of social media.
How can we expect to stop this? This has placed society in a dilemma as social media enterprises operate under the idea of “free speech & free world” – a thing that society has for ages fought for. If you are a touch too open with personal details on social media, expect your employer to find out about it and tell you off. Social media was supposed to be a tool for self-liberation and personal expression. Is the openness of social media making that tough?
Every popular social media platform is managed by private companies. A popular belief is that since these corporations are, “for profit” firms, they don’t care about anything outside of their profits. Well, we might not disagree with the argument as every standard firm fights for profit, but the owners or policymakers of these social media firms have been accused of something that they are not guilty of, as society as a whole is confused about how to handle free speech and free media.
Social media platforms must do more to achieve that balance and harmony and one way to accomplish that is through regulations.
How can we improve our social media privacy?
We should look to set some form of regulation on the web for how our data is used. Tools like the recently implemented General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) from the European Union is a start. However, this only impacts EU citizens: anyone else is still fair game to the callous and damaging nature of how social media collects and collates information from just about any source should be a worry – people outside of the European Union deserve protection, too.
Here is how social media privacy can be improved on both individual and global levels.
- Change the default settings of all your social media profiles. The default settings are almost synonymous to an open book of social media. Manually change the settings to maximize your account’s privacy. You can even change data collection by restricting the platforms from using your information.
- Opt out of search engine indexing from sites like Facebook so that your potential employers do not end up on your timeline with a simple Google search.
- Disable email address and phone number lookup feature on your account.
- Disconnect all your social accounts from each other. It is a healthy practice to keep different platforms separated as you do not want to share your Instagram’s morning yoga picture with your colleagues on your other social account.
- Enable tag requests on all platforms that have this feature. This allows you to be in control of what appears on your social profile.
- More and more laws must be placed for data safety violations, and non-compliance must be dealt with some serious measures as see companies like Facebook escaping mass issues with data protection and usage with little more than a few weeks of negative press.
- People often feel like there is no way to change social media now. The patterns are in place, and stopping it now would be too much work. However, regulations like GDPR show us that governance still wins over corporate needs. It’s essential that we do not forget that. If you are would like to make a change to how you use social media, then you have to get tougher on regulation.
- Write to your government representatives and let them know what problems you have: tell them that you wish to see more action taken on social media regulation, add conditions to your usage, and demand a change in circumstance, and social media regulation soon becomes more than a pipe dream.
Thanks to social media, we are giving away masses of information that we would never have given out a decade ago. With so many young people being technologically fluent from a young age, too, it’s important that we regulate the internet now more than ever before. You can see the statistics of the social media profiles on web apps like the Internet in Real-Time. As they grow older with the present system, the opportunity for the next generation to be more or less entirely transparent to corporations is a dangerous future precedent to set.
About the Author
Shawn Mike has been working with writing-challenged clients for over five years. He provides ghostwriting, SMM, and copywriting services. His educational background in the technical field and business studies have given him a broad base from which to approach many topics. He occasionally writes articles related to the Internet.