Society has always managed the delicate balance between sharing and privacy. From the beginning of time, humans have built their communities around this balance. We built doors to keep our home life separate from the public eye, yet we built the side of our house by side to create neighborhoods. As technology advances, so do the means of our communication, and the ways we need to protect our privacy.
As information technology developed, and with the advent of the internet; social media was born. We abandoned newspapers for news feeds on various apps and the radio for Spotify and other audio streaming platforms. We attracted more people to our pages using Jaynike, accruing a long list of friends and followers that we wouldn’t dream of in real life. We should be asking ourselves; Do I need all these people to know the private details of my life? Am I safe sharing these details online? Rarely do we stop and think of the consequences of sharing our lives on social media. There are millions of users around the world daily that have probably agreed to the “Terms and Conditions’ ‘ to use an online service. What harm could it do?
As we scroll through feeds, we produce a huge amount of data. Websites and apps are able to constantly gather data about our location, online habits, personal information, moods, purchases, among other things. They are then able to sell that data to other companies that can strategize to use that information to their advantage. This is even true for smart devices such as smart speakers, routers, smartphones, etc. You have probably experienced the strange feeling when you’ve spoken to your friend about a product and then suddenly found sponsored ads for the product showing up conspicuously on your feed. It might be that you searched for it and forgot. Another explanation is that your devices are always listening, collecting data, and sending it to servers far away for later use.
It may be a useful trick that these devices are able to suggest products to you based on collected data. However, as with all technologies – someone could easily hack into your devices and have access to that data. People with ill intentions could just as simply have access to your whereabouts.
Sharing On Social Media
Technology allowed us to communicate in new ways, and whole communities have been created on social media platforms. These apps and websites are available to us at all times. We have them on our desktops, tablets, smartphones, smartwatches. There are even home appliances that can synchronize with your phone! This makes it almost second nature for us to share our information with social media platforms. Millions of users post photos of themselves whenever they are out, usually tagging their location to the post. The sheer number of photos and videos that users post on social media means that many of them can be pieced together to make assumptions about a person. For example, a typical user going out for a run in the morning might post a photo of themselves at the start of their route. A hacker can easily use a search engine to find search using the image, for landmarks on that route.
With minimal effort, they can find the exact location of that route. That same user might periodically post that they go for a post-workout cup of coffee at a local coffee shop. The hacker can then deduce that she will not be at home for a certain amount of time on specific days. But how is this information useful? More posts lead to the hacker gathering more data to find more specific details on the user. Soon the hacker knows all sorts of information about the user. They might be able to get the specific home address and use it to open bank accounts in the user’s name. Someone with a little hacking knowledge can do much harm, all based on information found online, that the user willingly shared. Identity theft is a serious matter we should all be concerned about, and find ways to protect ourselves from it.
How Are Big Tech Companies Protecting Users?
Undoubtedly, major tech companies such as Google, Apple, and Facebook realize that their users do not want everything about their lives to be easily found. They also understand that the public perception of companies that do not protect the privacy of users is unfavorable. To keep a loyal user base, these organizations employ various methods to keep their data safe from intruders. These are only a few ways that tech companies protect their users’ data:
- Advanced Encryption Methods – Much like banks can keep the data of the millions of dollars worth of money stored on their servers, tech companies use high-quality encryption to keep from being hacked. This method is also used by governments. It is worth noting that hackers are always trying to decode encryption methods, and companies need to constantly update their servers’ encryption.
- Privacy Options Within Social Media – Platforms that offer social media communications to their users, usually allow the user to customize what parts of their feed can be shared. For example, Facebook allows its users to control which other users are able to see their feed and whether their information can be searched for on mainstream search engines such as Google. This puts some part of the privacy control in the users’ hands. Again, this is not a perfect solution to keep the users’ information undisclosed, as it is prone to hacking. The safest way to keep information off social media is to simply abstain from sharing it in the first place.
Users of social media and other technologies should pay close attention to the way their data is being collected, as privacy is a major concern for us all. So keep the information you share online to a minimum, it might help keep your anonymity.