Top 5 Social Media Privacy Concerns
Recent years have brought both growth and challenge to the world of social media. Though more people and companies are finding innovative ways to use social media platforms, their successes have been marred by highly publicized privacy concerns. In fact, as the popularity of social media continues to grow so does the public’s awareness of how their information is being used.
We can’t know what the future holds for social media, but we can educate ourselves on the top social media privacy concerns of today.
As social media websites merge, will privacy get lost in the shuffle?
Many smaller and up-and-coming social media websites are merging in order to better compete with industry giants like Facebook and LinkedIn. As these companies jostle for position, it’s likely that they’ll continue the trend of acquiring start-up companies and their cutting-edge plug-ins and apps. Such efforts allow social media websites to add even more features and functionality to their websites — and attract more customers.
What might get lost amid this mad scramble of mergers and acquisitions is the consideration of key privacy concerns. After all, when one company merges with another or adds new technological features, there always seem to be a few “growing pains” along the way. Social media websites must remain diligent about privacy and security even — and especially — during periods of rapid growth.
Single sign-on raises red flags.
Single sign-on is a property that allows users to log in once and gain access to multiple systems and websites without the need to sign in to each. Though the convenience of this feature makes it popular with users, it brings with it a number of security and privacy concerns.
As the use of single sign-on becomes more common, it’s likely that websites will also start to share information. This kind of access will make it easier for a single social media website to show your actions and activities on other websites. Social media websites will need to take care to ensure user privacy; otherwise, this highly convenient feature could become a liability. Keep this in mind when learning about social media privacy concerns.
Watch for universal legislation.
The giants of the social media world possess a mind-boggling amount of personal information about their users. Without good universal guidelines, this information could be misused — intentionally or not.
Though legislative realities are starting to change, websites have by and large been allowed to determine their own privacy policies. This has created not only a great deal of variation between them, but also a great deal of confusion on the part of users, who often don’t know what privacy controls are available or how they should be used.
To make matters worse, most people don’t recognize the potential for information misuse; they share information innocently because they want to use a specific feature or qualify for a free product or service. Universal legislation will provide standard guidelines and policies to social media websites, creating a more secure and less confusing user experience.
Effective marketing or privacy intrusion?
Companies have traditionally focused their advertising dollars on traditional media or websites. In recent years, however, more companies have begun dabbling with the advertising and marketing aspects of social media. As these companies catch on to the vast audiences that can be reached through social media websites, they’ll increasingly throw more dollars at information gathering and targeted marketing.
Social media websites and the companies that use them for marketing will be walking a fine line between effective marketing and privacy intrusion. As more people become aware of privacy-intrusion issues, they’ll inevitably become more wary and mistrustful. Companies that want to succeed at these kinds of marketing and advertising efforts must pay close attention to the privacy needs and sensitivities of their users.
Will the dream of location-based services become a privacy nightmare?
Added to the tangle of online privacy issues is the fact that today’s social media websites aren’t limited to online use. The explosion of mobile devices and location-based services will expose users to a whole new world of privacy questions. Without the guidance of overall legislation and privacy laws, websites will be on their own when deciding how to best leverage location-based services. Even though users will undoubtedly enjoy using some of these services, they could potentially expose themselves to privacy risks.
Social media websites that use location-based services will have to focus on user privacy and security concerns if they expect people to trust them. If used properly these services could open up a whole new world of social media interactivity. If not, the result could be a privacy nightmare, which makes it one of the top 5 social media privacy concerns.
Susan Campbell is an independent privacy consultant and author of several articles on online privacy management and reputation management.