Russ Harvey Consulting - Computer and Internet Services

Social Media

Are You Sharing Too Much?

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Are You Sharing Too Much?

What is Social Media?

Social media is a generic term that refers to companies like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. Unlike websites or blogs, social media sites provide a medium for networking, discussions, sharing content and much more.

Social media sites provide a convenient way to stay connected with friends and family as well as a place for businesses and organizations to interact with customers, clients, donors and members.

There are dozens of social media services. I've only covered a few of the most common, but the principles are the same.

Connecting Families

There are many wonderful features that social media provides.

  • Posting photos on social media sites or on photo sites like Flickr provides access to everyone without sending out photos by e-mail.
  • Facebook allows people to remain connected to friends and family as well as to share with others with similar interests.
  • Families can use Google Calendar and similar products to keep their schedules organized.

The Dark Side of Social Media

Unfortunately, there is a dark side to social media.

If the service is free, then you are the product.

Social media companies use your trust in your friends to make you relax and not worry about the other uses this data is being put to including profiling you, your family and friends to sell to advertisers.

Tech companies like Facebook have mastered the art of distorting choice and consent.
EFF

Called transfer of trust, this is the same technique used by con artists in phishing attacks and “tech support” phone scams to lure you into trusting someone you shouldn't.

Facebook “Morally Bankrupt”

Frances Haugen, a whistleblower, has called Facebook “morally bankrupt.” comparing Facebook's deception to how cigarette companies lied for decades about the risks of cancer.

When we live in an information environment that is full of angry, hateful, polarizing content it erodes our civic trust, it erodes our faith in each other, it erodes our ability to want to care for each other, the version of Facebook that exists today is tearing our societies apart and causing ethnic violence around the world.
Frances Haugen
We are now in social media's Big Tobacco moment. And that's largely thanks to the courage of one woman: Frances Haugen.

 

One of the things that really struck me about the change to meaningful social interaction is that as Frances has said, it forced political parties to take more extreme views. And on free speech, how can you have free speech when people's true beliefs are being held hostage to Facebook's need for virality?
Center for Humane Technology

Facebook's algorithms have made it much too easy for an extremely small number of very active users to massively influence what other people see in their feeds.

You're saying that if someone gets invited to a [QAnon] group, they don't even accept the invite. They're not saying, "Yes, I would like to join your QAnon group." You're saying, suddenly by just the invitation alone, their feed gets flooded with QAnon posts. And then if they engage at all, it kind of auto-joins them in some way?
Center for Humane Technology

Algorithms Alter Viewers' Realities

These companies use algorithms to determine the content shown to an account based upon that account's profile (likes, interests, friends, etc.). These algorithms provide a completely different view of events based upon that profile, one that seldom exposes them to alternative points of view.

One example is how Biden and Trump voters were exposed to radically different coverage of the Capitol riot on Facebook:

Those on social media self-identifying as Republicans thought the event was an attempt to preserve democracy while those self-identifying as Democrats were told it was an attack on democracy (an “insurrection”).

Blackmail Information

Social media's popularity also increasingly is used to obtain information about people that is easily converted into a blackmail attempt:

With…many people actively using Facebook, it makes it easy for Facebook sextortion scammers to find information about you, including: a list of your family members, friends, where you live, where you work, etc — all without having to spend time looking it up elsewhere, or having to pay a third-party website for the information. This is what makes Facebook blackmail so popular.
Dennis Faas

Finding Help

If you're being blackmailed online (or a victim of sextortion) seek help from someone qualified. Paying the blackmailer will only result in further demands. Dennis Faas has successfully helped many others deal with this situation.

There's more about this on the phishing page.

Dating Apps

Mozilla's review of 24 dating apps shows privacy warnings for all but three.

Immediately deleting your profiles on Tinder and Grindr is recommended.

When signing into these apps with your Facebook account (called single sign-on), both the apps and Facebook can share a lot of information with each other.

Transparency is Lacking

Mozilla's Internet Health Report 2020 looked at the poor job these companies have done in making their processes transparent:

For the billions of people who frequent social media platforms (four of the most popular of which belong to Facebook) global crises are mediated via automated systems with opaque inner workings.

 

Evidence from researchers continues to mount demonstrating that these systems enable harmful content to thrive and make communities more susceptible to disinformation and polarizing information.

 

Yet companies are usually only superficially forthcoming about harms or their policies, even in moments of heightened political tension or violence affecting millions.

The Social Dilemma

The Social Dilemma is a controversial look at social media on Netflix.

Using interviews with people in the tech industry and facts about the rise in teen suicides, it warns users about the potential for harm.

The story line follows a fictional family's struggle to limit social media as we watch as two of the children be drawn into a situation that gets them arrested at a protest because of misinformation.

You are studied so well to only be sold to the highest bidder. Data is the new oil. It's valuable. Full psychological profiling is stored about you at every social media channel, how long you spend looking at an image, they know who you are more than you do.
Check Point blog

The longer social media companies can keep you on their site, the more likely you are to click on advertisements (or to reveal something marketing companies can use to lure you).

The whole thought process that went into building these platforms …was all about: 'How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?' God only knows what it's doing to our children's brains.
Sean Parker, co-founder of Facebook

“Personalized” Advertising

Never forget the real business model of these “free” sites: selling your profile to advertisers.

You're encouraged to allow online sites to make the ads more relevant — usually called “personalized” advertising to make it sound friendly and inviting.

Personalization makes it more likely that you'll click on ads customized to your interests based upon data culled from your surfing history and social media posts.

In other words, personalization makes it easier for advertisers to sell to you.

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Choose Carefully

Carefully consider the social media services you choose and how you use them.

A lot more space is dedicated to Facebook than other services primarily because of Facebook's arrogant attitude towards users' privacy.

Social media like Facebook seem to raise particular risks, with phishers enjoying a much higher hit rate — perhaps because they can glean more information to personalise their messages, and because we are so keen to build our friendship group. Quite simply, the more you use a particular social network, the more likely you are to fall for a scam on that app.
BBC Future

Any social media service can exploit their users and not all are responsive to privacy issues.

You shouldn't have to be a settings wizard in order to enjoy a popular platform in a safe, private way. Platforms should protect your privacy by default and by design, collecting information only with your affirmative, informed consent. You should have meaningful control over your information and your experience.

 

And, if you decide that a particular platform isn't doing a good enough job protecting the data you've entrusted it with, you should be able to leave and take all your information with you.

 

These are just a few of the privacy rights that any responsible social media platform should provide for its users.
EFF

Too often it is more like dealing with a self-proclaimed “conscientious” drug dealer where the only path to profit is contrary to the needs of the clientele.

The best option is to quit using social media, but if you continue, be sure to secure the privacy settings.

Deactivate or Delete Your Account

If you are no longer using a social media site (if you've moved to another site or just don't check your account any longer) you should delete (not suspend or deactivate) that account for your own protection.

A good rule of thumb: if you have not logged in for six months, delete the account.

There are specific instructions for closing or deleting accounts for each social media service listed on this page.

Data Inheritance

You can sometimes make plans for your social media account if something happens to you. This is called data inheritance. In today's connected world this is as important as maintaining a current will.

What happens to your online accounts when you die? includes information about your Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, Gmail (Google) and iPad accounts.

Think Before Posting

Think before posting content or comments that could potentially come back to haunt you.

Nearly 40 percent of internet users between the ages of 18–35 have regretted posting personal information about themselves, and 35 percent have regretted posting personal information about a friend or family member.
Webroot

When posting or storing information on social media you are no longer in control of what happens to it. There is a good chance that sooner or later you'll find that both your trust and privacy has been violated.

Sharing Health Information

It is particularly important that you verify information before spreading it when it comes to health information.

Misinformation about COVID-19 is having devastating effects on vaccination rates. There is strong evidence that this was intentional and, at least in several instances, was a planned attack organized out of Russia.

See CheckThenShare.ca for details.

Help stop the spread of misinformation! Check first. Share after.

Who's Looking at Your Social Media Activities?

Employers, customers, potential dating partners and spouses are just some of those that might check for information about your past. Something that seemed funny at the time, might cost you that prized promotion or your dream relationship one day by portraying you as immature and irresponsible.

It's worth keeping in mind, though, that people may use your social media profiles to assess, for example, your ability to repay a bank loan. Or to decide whether you're suitable for a particular job.

 

The measure of a person's potential based on past actions, social circle, and the like is called a social rating. A person's social rating is similar in some ways to the credit rating that banks use when issuing loans, but it can include a far wider range of information.
Kaspersky
An industrial painter working for Seaspan Victoria Shipyards was refused security clearance to work on Royal Canadian Navy warships and submarines in part because some of his Facebook friends include people with ties to biker gangs, Mexican drug cartels and drug-traffickers.
Times Colonist

Snowden's revelations about what the NSA and others are storing should also concern you.

Fake News & Post-Truth

Fake news is a huge problem on the Net.

There is a huge amount of sharing of third-party images and gossip.

Seldom does anyone fact-check the story before reposting rumours and innuendo. Instead, unsubstantiated or outright falsehoods are allowed to go viral.

Consider this sobering statistic from a recent MIT study: on Twitter, lies are 70% more likely to be retweeted than facts. Somehow, the information age became the misinformation age.
Mozilla [emphasis mine]

The belief that everyone sees a different “truth” and is sheltered from alternative points of view on social media should concern everyone.

Because people are not exposed to alternative points of view, they become convinced that theirs is the only way to explain things.

Truth has become subjective and, worse than that, cancel culture can prevent it from being posted at all.

Cancel culture represents a narrowing of dialogue and a closing of minds that threatens our most basic freedoms.
Times Colonist

There needs to be a discussion about the algorithms that have potentially caused the huge rifts in public opinions and promoted fake news and social disobedience.

Facebook allows a wide mass of its users the freedom to spread fake news (which they won't regulate), while simultaneously working to prevent another group from sharing actual news.
Mashable
Decisions about what material (including advertising) to deliver to users are informed by a web of inferences about users, inferences that are usually impossible for users even to see, let alone correct.
EFF

Truth in what we read online has degraded into post-truth where emotion and what we believe is seen as more important than facts.

[A]n adjective defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”.
Oxford Dictionaries

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Tighten Security

You need to be proactive in setting up privacy and security settings. Posting on social media is the antithesis of privacy.

[R]esearch has consistently shown that users of online platforms rarely adjust default privacy settings and often fail to understand what information they are sharing.
The Washington Post

Have Social Media Companies Become Too Powerful?

The question has to be asked: are social media giants like Google and Facebook too big for society's good?

We need to pay more attention to mergers and other strategies that are limiting competition.

A majority of Americans don't know that Facebook owns Instagram and 45% don't know that Google owns YouTube.
DuckDuckGo

Don't Sign-in Using Social Media Accounts

If you've signed up for access to third-party sites using your Facebook or Google account rather than creating a new user name and password, you'll want to revoke that access.

Single Sign-on a Single Point of Failure

While it is easier to remember just your Facebook, Google or LinkedIn account password, single sign-on provides a single point of failure. If the social media account is compromised, so is every other linked account.

Making it Easier to Profile You

Signing into a website using your Facebook, Google or LinkedIn account also reveals a great deal about you.

That website obtains unlimited access to your social media profile — your interests, friends, occupation, religion, political views hobbies, etc.

Controls Most of the Advertising You See

Considering that Facebook and Google now control well over 90% of advertising on the Web, that is exposing you to the most potent advertising forces in today's world.

Check Your Account Privacy Settings

The search features of social media sites have been used for malicious purposes.

They add your posted personal information (phone numbers, email address, hobbies, home town, photos and more) to what they already know in order to improve the odds that you'll click on advertisements.

Unfortunately, your privacy isn't a priority for social media companies. After all, they make money by selling ads, and by selling information about their members. Proper privacy can interfere with a social media company's ability to monetize the time you spend on their site.
PC Mag

In-app Browsers

Many social media apps use a built-in browser to bypass your privacy and security settings by opening linked sites and ads within their app.

TikTok's in-app browser is a privacy nightmare, but it's not the only one to watch out for. Beware of other popular app browsers that could be recording everything you type.

Learn why you should stop using in-app browsers now.

Minimize the amount of information that you are sharing by changing the privacy settings to provide information only to trusted friends and family:

  • Most social networking sites allow you to create multiple groups, each with different privacy settings.
  • Don't share vital information that could be used for identity theft such as your birth date, place of birth, mother's maiden name, etc.
  • Minimize what can be searched by anyone or included in search engines like Google or Bing.
  • Watch for inappropriate or untrue postings about you but posted by others. Take steps to have them removed.
  • Avoid posting information used in standard password recovery questions.

Removed Malicious Postings

If you click on a scam and it creates a posting on your wall, remove it by going to your profile. Hovering over a posting shows an arrow on the right that gives several options, including “remove post.”

Who Owns Your Private Data?

Your right to withhold private information ends the minute you post it onto a social media site. Even if the terms may allow you to remove it later, you no longer control its propagation, especially once it has gone viral.

…[P]eople believe they own their data. Even though the user agreement might technically give companies the right to sell the data, change the access rules to that data, or otherwise own that data, we — the users — believe otherwise.
Bruce Schneier
In the past, when a business folded, it physically closed. However, with brand deaths in the digital age, what will happen to the experiences, communications, customer data, and associated information left behind? — fastcodesign.com

While Canadians need to ensure they follow Canadian laws, they are also subject to many U.S. laws because most social media companies (and tech companies) operate in the United States and are subject only to U.S. laws.

One example is the culling of personal photos by Clearview AI without permission. This essentially places everyone in their database into virtual police lineups all across Canada and the United States. Clearview AI insisted that B.C. had no legal right to deny them access.

Read the Terms of Service

The terms of service are a legally-binding contract on the users of a social media site, just as they are with software electronic agreements.

These agreements are often complex and change constantly.

You shouldn't click to accept the agreements without understanding what you're agreeing to any more than you would sign a loan application without understanding the terms.

  • Be aware of what you're giving away.
  • In many cases you are agreeing that your content will be owned by the social media site. Their site has no value without content, but it may also mean that you may not be able to use the same material elsewhere.
  • Posting copyrighted content can result in legal action.

In general, the larger a terms of service agreement is, the more rights and freedom you're giving up.

Most People Don't Read Terms of Service

Most people don't read the entire terms of service, simply glancing at it.

[A]t least 70 percent of users spent less than 12 seconds reviewing the terms of use before accepting them.
— Check Point blog

The size and number of such agreements as well as the terminology make it virtually impossible to do so.

TL;DR

Most people balk when seeing large blocks of legal speak. Hence, the term tl;dr (too long; didn't read).

Use Secure Passwords

Be sure that the information you use to log into your account is difficult to guess. Weak passwords can allow others to log into your account without your permission.

Do not use your Facebook, Google or similar accounts to login to third-party sites.

Don't Post Password Recovery Information

Watch that you don't unknowingly give away the key information needed to “recover” your password, including those used elsewhere.

Many folks routinely post the sort of information that could be used to guess their password or answer the password-recovery questions. Social media companies make it harder to avoid by requesting exactly the sorts of data that those recovery questions ask.

Most social networks let you fill in a vast amount of profile information about yourself. Where you grew up, your favorite band, your high school mascot, your favorite color…you can fill in all of these and more. But you shouldn't.
PC Mag
We found that 51% of people believe there is no way a hacker could guess one of their passwords from information they've shared on social media.

 

But we know hackers aren't dumb — if you're being targeted and don't have a strong password guarding your account, it would take a hacker seconds to do a search on your social media profile, learn the name of your pet, family member — even learn when your anniversary is — and use that info to guess your password.

 

Don't make it that easy for them — try to be a bit discreet on social media.
LastPass Blog

Because this information is so frequently posted on social media sites it create a huge risk to all your on-line accounts (including your bank accounts).

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Social Media for Business

Social media should be viewed by businesses like they view business lunches, meetings on the golf course and other client-building social events.

View it as an opportunity to get to know your customers and clients and let them learn more about yourself. It is about relationship.

10 years ago, corporations would have paid millions of dollars for the type of information that your customers VOLUNTARILY share on social media now.
— Kyle Reyes

Building New Relationships

Social media provides a way for businesses to build a relationship with their customers, members, donors or fan-base:

  • Businesses can connect with their customers and build brand loyalty.
  • Emerging writers and musicians can generate a fan base than may lead to publication or a recording deal.
  • Clubs and social groups can use it to keep their members informed.
  • Non-profits can connect with donors and those they serve.

Be careful in how you word your posts so as not to be misinterpreted. Social media can appear one-dimensional because it is missing the voice intonations and body language clues offered by face-to-face relationships.

Don't Talk AT People

Engage with people within the social media community rather than talking at them.

Unlike traditional advertising platforms, you should be listening as much as telling.

Value doesn't come from talking at customers; value comes from having customers talk to each other.
— AnswerHub

Interruption Marketing

People go onto social media to be entertained, to socialize and to follow their interests.

Disruptive ads pitches annoy potential customers whether it is an ad preceding a YouTube video or a popup ad covering an interesting article.

Tara Hunt's YouTube, Rethinking Your Approach to Marketing, discusses these problems and how to be more effective with social media.

Viral Growth in Virtual Communities

Try joining in the conversation. Give a little of yourself. Think social, not sales.

It can lead to viral growth in attendance at real or "virtual" events as well as widen brand awareness.

  • When people re-post your product or service announcements this is a powerful word-of-mouth recommendation.
  • People are busy. Post short, frequent updates.
  • Attendance at events such as book signings, workshops and fundraisers can be encouraged with short preview snippets.
  • Physical events that are posted only in "virtual" social media are becoming more frequent and successful.

There are limitations to 'Like' when assessing popularity. Sudden drops in your followers can affect your profile and visibility. It may have nothing to do with you.

Social media gurus neglect to mention that very few pages go viral. For every internet phenomenon, there are billions of people and companies who have never achieved cult status.
Craig Buckler

Participate in the Community

Success in these areas requires that you (or a dedicated employee) spend significant time interacting in these environments.

Much of that activity may not look work-related, but consider how this medium works. Social media is about relationship.

Being a social business doesn't just mean pumping out content and hoping your customers find it. It means contributing to the conversation and getting information to the right people at the right time.
The State of Social Customer Service

Working the Room

One article compared it to the relaxed atmosphere of business lunches or meetings on the golf course:

Social media platforms aren't just websites anymore, they're venues, and it's all about working the room. If you think about social media platforms this way, then you can think about the nature of each venue and what makes them unique. Anyone who knows how to work a room just needs to think about social media platforms as venues and they will be successful in working these rooms as well.
LinkedIn

Are You Committed to Success?

If you are not prepared to spend the time, you will not likely enjoy much success and should probably look elsewhere.

Things Change

Not all social media programs endure.

Google+ has now closed its doors, like its predecessor, Google Buzz). While Google controls a lot of what people search for and how they see it, their forays into social media failed to gain traction.

Friendster (2002–2015) was overtaken by MySpace in 2004 (2005–2009) which was in turn overtaken by Facebook (2004–present).

With any decline in your popularity or the platform's your investment in that community quickly loses its value.

Your reputation might be tarnished if scandals break out on any social media site you promote, particularly in regards to loss of privacy and trust.

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Facebook

Facebook

 

Facebook is currently the largest of the social media networks on the planet and one of the most troublesome in terms of privacy failures (they arecareless with your personal information).

Now Meta Platforms Inc.

Facebook has rebranded itself as Meta Platforms Inc.

Meta owns Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp, four of the most frequently used platforms.

Besides giving it massive control over what people are seeing in social media, this concentration of social media into one corporation greatly limits the potential for a realistic competitor to its business to emerge.

Facebook's New Privacy Policy

As of July 26, 2022 Meta has a new privacy policy. I strongly recommend reading the Legal Brief article in the August 8 Ask Woody newsletter for a detailed examination of Meta's privacy policy and the sorts of information they collect and from where.

Meta Collects a Lot of Information

Meta collects a lot of information about you, even if you don't have an account with one or more of their products. Any page containing a Facebook “Like” button collects information.

  • An account is created for everyone that accesses these pages.
  • Meta then tries to tie in with existing regular Facebook accounts but then maintains the “unattached” accounts to attempt to identify the user.

Information obtained from Meta's other services is combined with a number of other sources including your camera roll settings, voice enabled features, messages as well as how you interact with content, apps and features you use.

This helps us match your activities with your account, if you have one.

 

We receive this information whether or not you're logged in or have an account on our Products.

All this is used to create a detailed profile on you and your activities. The more Meta knows about you, the more that profile is worth to them (and potentially, to advertisers).

If you're logged into Facebook (or any of the Meta products), it is much easier to identify you. It is even easier if you use their app on your mobile device.

iOS Apps Vulnerable

iOS Instagram and Facebook apps work around Apple's iOS security by using an in-app browser which monitors all user interactions:

The iOS Instagram and Facebook app render all third party links and ads within their app using a custom in-app browser.

 

This causes various risks for the user, with the host app being able to track every single interaction with external websites, from all form inputs like passwords and addresses, to every single tap.
Felix Krause

iOS is noted because Apple more closely protects your privacy than either the Google or Microsoft Store.

Instead of clicking links in Facebook, Instagram or Messenger apps, click on the dots in the corner of those links to open them with Safari (which protects your privacy).

Only Family and Friends?

When you ask people about their activity on Facebook most of them will tell you:

I only use it to keep in contact with family and friends.

If that were true, privacy leaks, fake news and political manipulations would have no meaningful impact on most users.

Facebook has always been slightly worse than all the other tech companies with dodgy privacy records, but now, it's in its own league. Getting off isn't just necessary to protect yourself, it's necessary to protect your friends and family too.Salim Virani

One of the Largest Advertising Companies on Earth

People forget that Facebook is one of the largest advertising companies on the planet (only Google has a larger share of the advertising market).

Facebook's Product is You

Facebook uses the information you post to generate a very accurate profile that they then sell to advertisers.

If I told you that you had to start paying $50/year to use Facebook, would you give it up?

 

Many people probably would, or they never would have joined in the first place. Yet, that's how much Facebook earns from your account.
Taylor Pearson

The Facebook advantage to advertisers is that they can be extremely specific in their targeting of who sees their ads. The process is far from random.

Careless Policies Exploit People

Facebook is careless with the personal information shared by its users including a phone number requested for multi-factor authentication purposes.

A data leak has exposed the phone numbers of an estimated 500 million Facebook users. The data comes from a breach in 2019, but has just been made public [in 2021].

 

In around 500 million cases, the leaked information includes a phone number. The company strongly encourages users to add cellphone details to their account, ironically as a security measure.
Infopackets
On its own, the [Cambridge Analytica] scandal is more than a little troubling, and it provides a startling look into how little the world's biggest social media platform is concerned about personal data. Let's be clear. This doesn't involve an actual data breach. It's merely a policy no one at Facebook cared about.
Luke Larsen
The [Facebook] platform has been used to disrupt elections, disseminate propaganda and promote hate. Regular users should ask if they are implicated in these failings.
The New York Times

It is troubling that so much user data was posted insecurely or freely available to third-party apps without oversight.

However, Facebook takes a dim view of those that seek similar information about its advertisers.

Facebook reportedly disabled the accounts of New York University researchers affiliated with the NYU Ad Observatory, which collected and revealed information related to political advertisements on the social network, for violating its terms of service.
PC Mag

Facebook Scams

It is an unfortunate fact that Facebook scams abound and Facebook is resisting any attempts to rectify that situation. It is up to you to avoid the scummy areas on Facebook, which is hard to do without help.

Facebook has promoted fake news and manipulated their user base and greatly influencing elections in the U.S. and the UK (possibly elsewhere).

Facebook allows a wide mass of its users the freedom to spread fake news (which they won't regulate), while simultaneously working to prevent another group from sharing actual news.
Damon Beres

You're Being Manipulated

Facebook leverages trust to manipulate us into sharing information with advertisers. This should give us pause. Because Facebook uses trust-based design, users may be confused about the privacy effects of their behavior.
Privacy, sharing, and trust: The Facebook study

Your Posts Used for Tracking Purposes

Anything you voluntarily post [on Facebook], including photos, comments, interests, and your location, is used for tracking purposes. Our best advice is to set strict privacy settings, limit what you share, and avoid games & apps (they are marketing companies in disguise). Facebook isn't truly a free service; it is paid for by its users' information.
— DoNotTrackMe

Past Actions Dictate Future Content

…Facebook was feeding me news and content based on something I might like because of previous searches or likes or dislikes or comments. My feed was predictable; it was determined by predictive algorithms. And I was consuming aimlessly. I wasn't being challenged, my critical thinking filters went to sleep, and I felt empty after scrolling.
Rabiah Damji

Personal Profiling

Facebook uses the data it collects from what people post and who their friends are to create a profile that they make available to advertisers and others.

Facebook makes money from advertising, so they make it complicated for you to use their site in a way that interrupts their ability to collect your personal information for advertisers.
Facebook is not a social media company; it is the largest data mining operation in existence.
Cook County, Illinois

“Personalized” Ads Incredibly Precise

This is used to make ads appealing to your personal fears and desires (personalized ads), but also to manipulate you into voting a certain way. Such ads can be incredibly precise in their targeting because people share everything on Facebook.

Sniper Advertising

Sniper advertising is where an ad targets a single individual.

Sniper-targeting threatens your personal privacy, your ability to gauge what is real and fake online, and even the health of democracy. And in Canada, it may be illegal.
The Tyee

Facebook is NOT Your "Friend."

Your 2000 “friends” on Facebook are not really your friends — they are potential leaks.

The stream of Facebook privacy scandals may have you questioning how much the social network and other tech giants actually know about you.

 

Here's a hint: practically everything.
PCMag
Whatever Mark Zuckerberg says about human community or his legacy, his company is acting in its own interests — and against the public good.
The Atlantic

The New York Times published Facebook turns 15: A friendship no one asked for. This anniversary video is far from flattering of either Facebook or Mark Zuckerberg.

Two-Factor Phone Numbers Exploited

Facebook used phone numbers given to them for multi-factor authentication purposes to target ads to those users. Sign Mozilla's petition.

If Wikipedia's rules were applied to Facebook? Oh my God! They'd lose 99 percent of their content.
Victor Grigas

Privacy? What Privacy?

If only Mark Zuckerberg cared about the privacy of the rest of the world as much as he did his own.
Joe Veix

Facebook's privacy policy was 5,830 words in 2010 — 1,287 words longer than the United States Constitution — and is constantly subject to change.

Why would they need something that complicated? Maybe they don't want you to understand what you're giving away for free.

When Facebook sends you an email notifying you about new activity on your account, "it opens an app in background, and now Facebook knows where you are, the device you're using, the last picture you've taken — they get everything." — Wired
Facebook just made the stunning admission that 100 percent of its 2 billion users have likely had their personal data stolen by “malicious actors.” — The Washington Post

Controlling Your Facebook Security

The following sites will give you some tools to manage your Facebook security settings:

Controlling Your Facebook Privacy

The following sites will give you some tools to manage your Facebook privacy settings:

Deactivate or Delete Your Account

I recommend that you delete your Facebook account (which removes your personal data) rather than simply deactivating your account.

When you delete your account, we delete things you have posted, such as your photos and status updates, and you won't be able to recover that information later. Information that others have shared about you isn't part of your account and won't be deleted.
Facebook

 

Google

Google

 

Google is much more than a search engine. Any discussion of social media must include Google due to its huge influence on the Internet.

While Google+ is gone, Google's influence on social media remains strong.

Google controls about 62% of mobile browsers, 69% of desktop browsers, and the operating systems on 71% of mobile devices in the world. 92% of internet searches go through Google and 73% of American adults use YouTube.

 

Google runs code on approximately 85% of sites on the Web and inside as many as 94% of apps in the Play store. It collects data about users' every click, tap, query, and movement from all of those sources and more.
EFF
Whether you want to search the internet or send an email, stream a video or listen to music, use social media or shop online, it's almost impossible to bypass Google and Facebook.
— Opinary
This year will be the first time that digital advertising overtakes traditional media such as TV, radio and print in the US, eMarketer said.
The Telegraph, 2019

Google owns a huge range of products that each dominate or are very competitive, including Google Search, Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar, Google Maps, Google Drive, Blogger and YouTube.

Leaving Google

Want to leave Google? Here's some suggestions.

Google+

Google+ was shut down April 2, 2019.

The most recent bug affected 52.5 million users and made private profile information available to third-party apps.
CNBC

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Instagram

Instagram

 

Instagram is a photo- and video-sharing social networking service.

Instagram was purchased by Facebook (along with WhatsApp).

Quite simply, people who are unaware of the corporate parent ownership of Instagram and YouTube cannot make informed privacy decisions about using them.

 

Facebook and Google amass huge data profiles about people, and can each combine Instagram or YouTube data into these profiles, respectively, further enabling hyper-targeting on their ad platforms.
DuckDuckGo

Instagram Security & Privacy

Instagram security and privacy concerns used to be less concerning.

Facebook ownership will have its imprint on the service (they now have access to Instagram user data).

Controlling Your Instagram Privacy

The following sites will give you some tools to manage your Instagram privacy settings:

Using Instagram

Learn to use Instagram effectively:

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LinkedIn

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is an online networking and resumé service aimed at professionals.

LinkedIn Security & Privacy

Microsoft now owns LinkedIn.

If you close your LinkedIn account your account information is deleted and logs or backups are de-identified within 30 days.

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Pinterest

Pinterest

 

Pinterest is an online pinboard where you can organize and share the things you love.

Pinterest Security & Privacy

There are some issues around the legality of copying images that aren't yours.

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TikTok

TikTok

 

TikTok is a short-video app owned by China's ByteDance corporation.

Don't Use TikTok

I strongly recommend that you do NOT use TikTok. If installed, uninstall it to prevent further security breaches.

TikTok appears to be acting as an espionage agent on behalf of the Chinese government, one of those entities labelled as “malicious actors” in serious security breaches around the world.

TikTok has been accused of repeatedly accessing user data and breaching the agreements of both the Apple and Google stores by FCC Commissioner Carr.

What's the risk to you? As Twitter commenter Mormande describes it (in a tweet that has since been removed), “The moment you open TikTok, it harvests the entire data on your phone, including pictures, search history, etc. It's not just what's inside the app, it's so much more.”
Brian Livingston

The sort of data that TikTok is accused of collecting would make it very easy to generate disinformation (used in modern warfare, including Ukraine) as well as spoofing such accounts.

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Twitter

Twitter

 

Twitter uses short tweets (up to 280 characters) that may contain hash tags, external links or images.

Twitter Security & Privacy

Twitter security and privacy concerns are not as numerous as those with Facebook, but you still need to keep a closer watch.

Because of the character restrictions for tweets, users often use Short URLs which can mask the true destination.

Controlling Your Privacy

The following sites will give you some tools to manage your Twitter privacy settings:

Related Resources

Related resources on this site:

or check the resources index.

Buy Me A Coffee

 

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RussHarvey.bc.ca/resources/socialmedia.html
Updated: October 22, 2022