The impact of social networking has come a long way from many years ago. People are surrounded by technology everywhere because many new technologies are being developed and formed. Today’s developers are constantly creating new technologies that will affect the lives of millions. Although technology has made life easier for many people, technology has influenced social networking in a way that makes people spend more time using it. And while social networking has influenced individuals, many social networking companies have begun to use personal data to make the company a success. In today’s modern world, the most used social networks such as Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and LinkedIn are companies known for connecting people. But social networking is not just about tweeting about your newest purchases or taking pictures of your meals, it is now becoming a tool that can harm you in the future. In The Value of Science, Richard Phillips Feynman highlights “the same key opens the gates of hell” (6).
Social media has the potential to spread and penetrate deeply, changing the nature of society as well as the psychological life, cultural norms and human habits. Thanks to modern technology, people have been given the opportunity to connect with anyone, but it also negatively affects society as people become lazier to communicate. Although social networking is an almost unavoidable part of everyday life, social networking is one of the major threats to the safety of personal information and privacy that affects the lives of individuals or organizations in society.
With the arrival of free Internet access, social networking has become a part of almost every daily routine. Social networking users are always connected with chatting groups on WhatsApp, posting cute videos on Facebook, posting updates on Twitter, and uploading daily images to Instagram. There is a lot of information on the internet about everything – thousands of blog posts on Wikipedia, videos entertainment on YouTube, millions of pictures on Instagram- but the most valuable information to date is personal data. In Does Your Social Media App Know Too Much About You, Jayson DeMers asserts that “it is no secret that social media apps are hotspots for collecting personal data.
These are applications that mandate people to share personal details about themselves, identify their interests, and emotionally react to posts they encounter.” (2). All status updates, images and videos posted by people on their social media all contain compelling information to sales companies. Social networking companies use algorithms to analyze the data of social network users, so they may know what people’s preferences are in order to help companies advertise their products better to the consumer. Advertisements do not appear randomly but are interfered by software engineers. It is a smart idea for social networking companies, they can kill two birds with one stone: make it a popular tool in everyone’s life and can also use the user’s data for advertising purposes. Data information is viewed as a “product” of value for data analysis companies. In the United States election, information from users of social networking sites was shared by Facebook with third parties.
Cambridge Analytica, the data analytics firm that helped Donald Trump get elected president, amassed a trove of Facebook user data for some 50 million people without ever getting their permission, according to a report from the New York Times (Rosenberg, et al). Sharing information is a good thing for scientific research but sharing customer information with third parties for other purposes is considered unacceptable without the consent of the customer. Information being served for political purposes is even more dangerous, as politicians no longer interested in policies that serve the people. Today, politicians are racing to analyze information about competitors and supporters that help them win. Therefore, they are no longer interested in developing policies that serve the people and the country.
Moreover, social networking, which can be used to advertise products to increase sales, search for jobs, connect to a professional network or as a way to follow friends, plays an important role with the majority of the current company executives. However, the flexibility of social networking platforms, along with their ease of use, also contains potential risks, such as information theft. In Why Cyber Criminals Want to Get into Your Inbox, Cristina Chipurici argues that “68% of the identity theft victims don’t even know how the thief obtained their information in the first place and 92% don’t know anything about the individual / group that stole from them” (15). Today, most malicious users do not possess a high level of programming skills and instead make use of tools available on the Internet. However, most users do not know about getting attacked because they think there is nothing valuable in their email or social networking accounts.
That is a misconception of users of today’s social networks because user’s information can create a gold mine for hackers. Hackers can attack a user’s account on a user’s computer or phone and steal user’s personal information because most of the personal information about bank accounts or accounts that has transactional value are linked to their social networking sites. Today, people carry all information, including personal information, over the Internet and that information can be targeted by attackers. Erin O’Loughlin states that “cybercriminals can guess your passwords simply by the items you post online, such as your pets’ names, children’s names or details regarding your former schools or current city” (par.4). Hackers can steal user’s personal information and use this information for malicious purposes.
For example, using their personal information is common for creating easy-to-remember personal passwords. Therefore, hackers can exploit this information to look up the user’s bank account password. This issue emphasizes that people need to carefully manage and filter information before putting it online. For businesses, information theft is completely unacceptable because each company has its own methods for producing products and strategies to attract their customers. If that information is leaked, someone can use it to create counterfeit products that affect the company’s reputation and revenues. Therefore, user should be careful about personal information on social networking and social networking companies should be responsible for protecting the information of their customers.
In addition, owning a smartphone today is easy for everyone. Because anyone can get a phone, people can create a profile of their own liking by using fake information or even someone else’s. In Why Social Media Isn’t Social, Thomas White argues that “focusing on cultivating our online persona is a crutch and the expense is our real-life persona. It’s the willful commodification of who we are. By crafting our image like a celebrity, we become unattainable and unrelatable” (8). In other words, people can put on masks to be who that they are not. The service of using social networks is too easy for the users, they do not need to provide the address or proofs or pay a monthly service fee, all the service is completely free. Thus, people can easily be “catfish” on the internet. Catfishing is a term to refer to the practice of setting up a fictitious online resume, most often with the purpose of engaging another person in a fraudulent romantic relationship. People need to understand that setting up fake profiles online and communicating with someone for the purpose of hurting them or cheating them is a violation of the service policy of most social networking companies or even illegal.
Catfishing especially affects teenagers who are going through adolescence — a turbulent time of life — and are vulnerable to anxiety and depression. Teenagers are the most used social networking group to share their personal information and connect with their friends. In Suicide and Social Media, Libby Mitchell states that “teens may struggle with how much information they put out there making them a target for bullying or harassment” (3). It is easier to be blinded by emotions, especially when someone gives them the positive attention that they do not receive from anyone in their real life. It can make people fragile and unsafe to themselves with negative comments that can happen. Whenever someone uses the technology in a repetitive way to harm others, it can be classified as cyberbullying.
Therefore, sometimes catfishing can lead to an extreme behavior and it may cause some to commit suicide or thoughts of suicide. In the movie called Trust, David Schwimmer, director, has conveyed a message about “a story of a 14-year-old girl and a predatory pedophile as a series of repercussions in which rape is only the first, and possibly not the worst, tragedy to strike its naive and vulnerable victim” (Schwimmer). Social networks or indirect technological devices help pedophiles who target the underage teenagers who trust people online too easily leading to child pornography, abuse, or even non-consensual sex. Someone who is trying to trick them into developing a romantic relationship for a bad purpose or just to harm them is wrong. Catfishing is one of the many negative effects that can be found on all social networking that can have a serious impact on an individual’s life.
Despite the negative impacts from social media, experts suggest a few solutions to the issues such as in Privacy and Security Issues in Social Networking, Brendan Collin argues that “people should just exercise common sense online, but the problem with common sense is that it’s not very common. If you wouldn’t invite these people into your house to see your cat, you certainly wouldn’t let them see pictures from holiday” (6). Information security depends largely on to the users if they are alert to unfamiliar information from sources they have not visited before and share too many personal information on the social networking sites. Passwords that are too simple to coincide with their birthdays, phone numbers or even their names are indirectly causing their personal information to leak.
In a recent study, social networking companies are still dealing with the privacy issues concerning their customers. The rapid development of social networks makes it difficult to effectively monitor and protect users and their activities because the task of security programmers is overloaded. Collins also gives an example “imagine if a prison whose inmate count jumped from a few dozens to 250 million in less than five years only employed 300 guards” (5). Most of today’s social networking solutions are allowing users to put their own security controls on their accounts to deal with the potential threats that users are exposed to. However, considering the application vulnerability on Facebook, increasing the privacy settings do not always guarantee privacy. Facebook seems to be overloaded with its huge data sources. However, Facebook still hides the truth from their users, while users still post tons of personal data on social networks.
The only solution advocated by experts is to limit the presence of personal information related to work and personal life on the social networking sites. We should not post anything that we are afraid to tell strangers because it helps to prevent the access of information from potential hackers. And we should be careful with the people that we add as “friends”, because there is simply no way to verify the true identity of these online users. In Social Networking Searching and Privacy Issues, David Evans states that “any complex system has vulnerabilities in it. It’s just the nature of building something above a certain level of complexity” (3).
There will be no social network without a security violation. To be added, Collin claims that “social networks are great fun, and can be advantageous but people really need to understand that it’s complicated world and you need to step wisely” (9). Good or bad social networks depend on how we use them, so the biggest issue that people face is the amount of time they spend on social media. Still, we cannot ignore the positive impacts of social networking for bloggers and other professionals.
In conclusion, social networking sites have really changed our lives even though sometimes it can cause more harm than good. It is still a great place to promote and meet new people, support communication and find new job prospects among many other advantages. However, social networking has affected the data and privacy issues of users. It also influences the formation of the mind and develops the physiology of the teenagers. So, we need to find a way to deal with the inevitable social media issues which are only resolved if the users use a more careful approach to what they share online. Some of the simple solutions to combat the misuse of social networking include finding yourself some offline favorites, friends or other ways in which we are not addicted to the Internet.
- Chipurici, Cristina. “Why Cyber Criminals Want to Get Into Your Inbox.” Heimdal Security Blog, 19 June 2017
- Collins, Brendan. “Privacy and Security Issues in Social Networking.” Fast Company, Fast Company, 30 July 2012
- Delello, Julie A, and Mokhtari, Kouider. “Blurring the Boundaries.” International Journal of Interactive Communication Systems and Technologies, vol. 7, no. 1, 2017, pp. 1–14., doi:10.4018/ijicst.2017010101.
- DeMers, Jayson. “Does Your Social Media App Know Too Much About You?” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 23 Jan. 2017
- Evans, David. “Social Networking Searching and Privacy Issues.” Information Security Technical Report, 2011, doi:10.1016/j.istr.2011.09.005.
Feynman, Richard. “The Value of Science.” A World of Ideas, edited by Lee A. Jacobus, Tenth Edition, Bedford/St. Martin, 2017, 621-630.
- Mitchell, Libby. “Suicide and Social Media.” University of Utah Health
- O’Loughlin, Erin. “Identity Theft and Social Media: How Are They Related?” Security Intelligence, 5 Aug. 2016