We live in a society that craves connectivity in all forms. As technology has progressed, we have experienced increased connectivity to the point that we can get instantaneous messages from the other side of the world within seconds via mobile connection. As is common with most new technologies, however, the more global and convenient that connectivity became, the more threats to online security arose. There are, of course, measures in place to put a barrier of sorts between individuals that those that pose a threat to their online security. Protective measures like organising a VPN after sifting through reviews like the Cyberghost VPN review and changing allowances of apps through phone privacy settings only carry individuals so far. Social media, for example, is a guaranteed hot seat for online privacy invasion. Protective measures abounds and still privacy invasion occurs daily. From simply entering the most basic of personal details into the platform to create an account, to browsing for products on entirely different websites, it seems that our privacy a social media users is being invaded more with each passing day and new technological evolution.
Social media is a virtual extension of the self that we have control over. For us as social media users, the platforms we entrust with our information are merely gateways to connectivity with our family, friends, business associates, and acquaintances. We forge entire digital representations of ourselves that we send out to the world via status updates, check-ins, tagged photographs and videos, and connections. The more time that we spend online, the more of our personal information is entered and stored in the databases of social media platforms like Facebook. The kind of personal information that is so freely shared today was safeguarded so securely years ago that it was unimaginable that we would give it up for practically nothing in 2018. And while we complain about it, we contradict ourselves by continuing to use the platforms. It is the ultimate paradox in global connection; we insist that we want one thing, and yet our actions display the complete opposite.
Social media platforms like Facebook function more strongly as data analytics companies than they do as social connectivity platforms. Try as we might to enhance our privacy online, the social media platforms that we use so often are run by individuals that unfortunately do not have the same regard for our personal information. Instead, they have evolved from the intended fun social connectivity platforms they were designed to be, into gateways for user data to be harvested and used against them – more often than not, without their knowledge. Online privacy has been a concern over the years, but never has it been as prominent as it is currently. A user can be logged into Facebook on their laptop and using their phone to look up products, and the next time they look at their Facebook feed on their laptop, they see an ad pop up for the exact product they were looking for…on a different device. The invasion to user privacy via social media sites has only gotten worse, and there are no signs of it slowing down any time soon.
Social media users are not the consumers that social media companies cater to. Social media users are in fact the product that social media platforms sell, and data is the ultimate payment rather than traditional currency. The data collected is then used to entice users into clicking on, and possibly purchasing, items advertised directly to them. This breach of privacy is an act of social media personalisation that is invasive, reckless, and uncalled for. Users do not sign up to social media to be hounded with advertisements that are literally products they have already looked at. It is blatantly unnecessary to remind users of the products they like. It is a vague attempt at increasing user personalisation that has backfired and sent social media empires like Facebook into a flurry of legal tie ups and misuse of information accusations. The continued invasion of the privacy of those that use social media is now bordering on stalking, and the perpetrators are the very people that reassure us they will safeguard our online information.
Social media may have initially been designed with worldwide social connection in mind, but this nearly immediately has proven to be just one facet of the concept. Social media platforms like Facebook are today functioning more as data analytics companies than they are as social connectivity outlets. With increased breaches of user security on social media sites, companies like Facebook have found themselves in the centre of ongoing controversy, unable to definitively shake the accusations that have resulted in court appearances and constant media coverage. Privacy on social media is a genuine concern, and it needs to be taken into consideration not only by users, but by the social media empires that draw in those users. While we should be responsible to a point for our own online privacy security, it is these companies that must be held accountable for safeguarding that security.