Hot topics and popular trends come and go, but the issue of data privacy remains long after all the hype has died down. While these concerns are not groundbreaking in their novelty, more users are being rightly informed of the delicate matter to do with the handling of their sensitive information.
As society becomes increasingly data-driven, it would be wise to spend more time looking over your vulnerable spots in the digital landscape.
It has been reported that the average user spends 2 hours to 24 minutes per day, scrolling through social networks and messaging apps. Throughout all of this, personal content and information are being shared. In this documented era of social media distrust, paired with the relative ease of crafting an online persona, you have a responsibility to yourself to be held accountable for your digital footprint.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and the likes have fashioned themselves as digital billboards for internet users. Through these social media platforms, it’s become almost reflexive to hit that like button or comment on a friend’s post. However, it has also become just as easy to mine the tons of metric data being transferred per second in doing so.
All of that information, some of which are very personal, is going up on the internet. Do not be deluded into thinking that only a select few of your inner circle will be able to see what you post.
Cybercriminals, spam bots, skilled hackers — all of these people are also lurking behind your accounts, hoping to seize a vulnerable moment to steal your identity and market it on the dark web for whichever reason it appeals to them.
Reading the fine print
There has been much said about not glossing over the terms of agreement which every social website is legally required to present, and yet there are still those skipping right to the end and ticking “Agree” — not knowing exactly what they’re even saying yes to entirely.
It’s important to pay particular attention to what information you are agreeing to share when you sign up for a social media account.
Take some extra time to wade through the legalities, as you are just accountable for willingly signing yourself up for something you might have conveniently “missed” the first time. Some of the terms listed might not be for the benefit of the end user, but only the platform. Make sure your permission choices are right for you.
Tweaking privacy settings
It’s rare to find any social media platform these days without the option to adjust their privacy settings, so you won’t find yourself hard-pressed to look for a way to fine-tune your experience in the platform in such a way it suits you. Before sharing anything, keep in mind who you want to be able to see the post, react, or comment on.
1 in 4 social media users actually takes the most conservative approach possible, opting to have all of their social media updates and posts set to private and only visible to a select group of followers. This is a brilliant way to practice some safety when cyber living. Different people will have different privacy settings in place, some exclusive to the platform itself or their general rule of thumb to follow, but what’s important is that the restrictions are enforced.
Social media skepticism
It’s no question that consumer fatigue has plagued many industries since the onslaught of the pandemic. As the overwhelming amount of information and content is refreshed by the hour, they feel that social platforms have the responsibility to safeguard the data they share.
As major social platforms draw inspiration from each other in a bid to stay competitive in the industry, this trust in social media companies will become even more important as consumers will be the ones to ultimately decide which platforms to favour.
The general skepticism around social media – the delicate handling of data, the invasion of privacy, potential cybercrimes at play, etc – will most likely never go away.
While these platforms continue to address the ongoing problems with their data collection, they will also need to take a different approach in terms of providing users with relatable and individualised content that does not seem to enforce beliefs unto them; but more so just the right nudge on the shoulder. This will go a long way in building genuine relationships with the user.
In today’s world, one can argue there is no shortage around the lengthy discussions to be had over data privacy issues for online platforms. There will always be those who don’t read the T&A, or use their real names and reveal their real addresses; the same way there will also be those hiding in the shadows waiting to take their vulnerable information and use it to their advantage.
But at the end of the day, there is also the choice to make better decisions during a time where information is the new currency and who you are online is fast becoming your genuine personality. Hold yourself accountable and surf safely.