How Social Media is Increasingly Infringing Your Privacy

Each year, a new social network rises in popularity that everyone jumps on and uses religiously. Last year, we discovered Snapchat, before that was Pinterest, and before that, Instagram. But all of these social networks come with their own privacy issues, and each time we sign up for one, our information is spread out a little bit further around the Internet. Let’s look at a few pros and cons of our dwindling privacy.

Con: Your Images Rarely Belong to You

At the end of 2012, Instagram wanted to monetize, and looked to crowd source images uploaded to its social network. They announced that all images belonged to them and could be used for advertising purposes. This means the Starbucks cup photos that you uploaded on the way to class could be sold and used in a Starbucks ad. Big brands like National Geographic were not okay with having their photos used in advertising and immediately boycotted. A few days later, Instagram backtracked and gave users their photos rights back.

Many people actually blamed Instagram’s parent company of Facebook for the fiasco. Facebook is the worst social network for privacy, and regularly gets in trouble for using the photos and actions of users to turn a profit.

Pro: Social Assists Law Enforcement

Social media provides profiles and background information on potential criminal suspects. After the shooting at Sandy Hook, police and news outlets both turned to the Facebook page of Adam Lanza to dissect what kind of updates he posted, what pages he liked, and how he interacted with friends. In standoffs, social media helps the police get a handle on who they’re dealing with.

On a lighter note, criminals can be rather stupid. It’s easy for the police to catch a criminal if they update their status, tweet, or send a snap to someone. Last year, privacy advocates were worried that Snapchat actually wasn’t deleting the photos after people opened them because they could be accessed by the police. More than a dozen unopened snaps have been turned in to the police, and Snapchat confirmed that the pictures live on their servers for 24-hours before they are deleted. Yes, this infringes on your belief that snaps immediately die after they’re opened, but the purpose is to catch criminals.

Con: Employers and University Admissions Admins Are Watching You

In a national survey by Kaplan, 31 percent of college admissions officers check the Facebook pages and other social media pages of applicants. This number increased from eight percent in 2008 and 26 percent last year. Furthermore, 56 percent of employers check a candidate’s Facebook page before hiring him or her, and continue to check it after the hiring process is complete. Facebook privacy in the workplace has become such an issue that legislation is forming to name social media posts protected speech. This way, employees can’t be punished for their lifestyles or what they put on the Internet.

Pro: You Can Find the Contact Information of Everyone

When applying for a job, there is no longer any reason to put “to whom it may concern,” or send an email to an “info@” address. With social media, it’s possible to learn almost anyone’s name, position, email address, and anything else you want to know.

LinkedIn is great for learning about the people who work at various companies and what positions they hold, Facebook helps you learn about the person and tailor your email to their interests, and Google helps you find their email through press releases or company websites. Personalizing an email can go a long way toward receiving a response.

Con: Everyone Can Find the Contact Information of You

That being said, the door swings both ways. In the same way that you can piece together information about someone to contact them for a job or opportunity, someone else can piece together information about you to potentially steal your identity.

Privacy policies aren’t like terms and conditions that you check the box to agree and ignore forever. They need to be regularly checked and updated. The social networks are always changing what information they can show or sell, and it’s up to you to say no.

social media privacy

Flickr / Sean MacEntee


Guest author Abigail Clark is an up-and-coming freelance writer. She graduated from The University of South Florida with a bachelor’s degree in marketing, minoring in journalism. When she isn’t up to her neck in coupons she is enjoying the outdoors fishing. She loves doing reviews for technology, home products and beauty products. If you would like her to do a review for you look her up on twitter @downtownabby17.


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