Russ Harvey Consulting - Computer and Internet Services

Social Media

Are you sharing too much?

Choose Carefully | Think Before Posting
The Dark Side | Tighten Security | Business Use

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Pinterest | Threads | TikTok | X (Twitter)

A post with arrows pointing different directions with “social media” on one and logos for various other programs on the others.

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.

Love it or hate it, there's no denying that social media is a huge part of our lives. At its best, it's how we connect with one another across space and time, discover new ideas, learn what's happening in the world, and get introduced to content that makes us feel. It provides critical services, like alerting us to catastrophic weather or that the train you're waiting for is delayed. It's helped chip away at traditional power dynamics, giving a public platform to voices that haven't had one before and offering a way for us to have influence over the powers and decision-markers that shape our lives.

 

But, look, at the risk of being both dramatic and cliched, social is broken. Most of those great things I just mentioned are…well none of them are working super well right now, are they?
Mozilla Blog

Connecting Families & Others

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.

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.

Worse, scammers seek information they can use to con you or your family out of significant financial funds.

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

Take Control of Your Internet

Take control of your Internet: Building a #SaferWeb together.

Every day, users on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram face harassment, threats, slurs, and intimidation. Despite teams of world-class engineers, designers, and more — Big Tech hasn't taken action.

Enough is enough. These giants have gone unchecked for too long. We're sick and tired of their endless excuses and mismanagement. Platforms need to do better at protecting us from online abuse and make these tools put power back in our hands accessible and readily available.

Platforms need to do better at protecting us from online abuse and make these tools put power back in our hands accessible and readily available.

Almost one quarter (24 per cent) of internet users have experienced or witnessed harassment online. These experiences are significantly higher among young people, with over a third (37 per cent) of 18 to 34-year old's reporting online encounters with harassment in 2022.
CIRA

Sign the petition! demanding that Big Tech give us control over our online experience!

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Choose Carefully

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

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

A War on Children's Minds

There is a war for your children's minds being played out on social media — an attack on traditional family values.

'The most important thing is to keep under 13-year-olds off these platforms,' Frances Haugen, a former product manager at Facebook, says during an appearance in Washington this week. — PCMag

Parents, you need to be the ones teaching your children and actively engaging with them. They need you to be their leader, not their friend.

Family Values Attacked

Social media has become the primary source for the “grooming” of children. Education, health care, entertainment and corporations are now engaged in promoting agendas contrary to traditional family values.

The stated justification for affirmative action by its proponents is to help compensate for past discrimination, persecution or exploitation by the ruling class of a culture, and to address existing discrimination.

 

More recently concepts have moved beyond discrimination to include diversity, equity and inclusion as motives for preferring historically underrepresented groups.
Wikipedia

Unfortunately, these goals have instead become a justification for exclusion rather than inclusion where race, minority status or other criteria have surplanted hard qualifications.

Diversity, equity inclusion to an ad agency means conformity, unfairness and exclusion — wokism for corporations.
Brett Craig, former Chief Creative Officer @ Duetcsh

The key to any revolution is to separate the children from their parents, beginning with school policies that prevent teachers from telling parents about their children's “choices.”

 

This is an excellent film. It opened my eyes to the social media dangers that are out there for my child. I learned many FACTS regarding this entire social contagion. I was shocked to learn how much pornography is pushed on young people when they are on their smartphones. This movie is really must-see. It is amazing how our kids are preyed upon and left to fend for themselves.
Review

Safer Social Media Alternatives

There are alternatives to the big name social media companies. PC Magazine has a look at some of these.

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

Deactivate or Delete Unused Accounts

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.

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Think Before Posting

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

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.
PCMag
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.

Verify Before Posting

Verify information using reliable sources before posting or posting.

“SIFT” Your Information Sources

Stop,
Investigate the source,
Find better coverage, and
Trace claims, quotes and media to the original context.
The SIFT methodology

Don't Repost Misinformation

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

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

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.

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The Dark Side of Social Media

Unfortunately, there is a dark side to social media.

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 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.

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?

Social media as a category is probably overdue for a serious rethink, both in the usability sense and the regulatory sense. The time-suck it has become for some people, its potential mental health harms, and its fire-to-gasoline spread of misinformation are all reasons enough to question it.
Wired

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

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.

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

“Personalized” Advertising

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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

Fake News, Cancel Culture & 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 posting 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 re tweeted than facts. Somehow, the information age became the misinformation age.
Mozilla [emphasis mine]

Cancel Culture

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

Post-truth

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

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.

Confirmation bias is a cognitive bias that always interacts with frequency illusion. This bias refers to the tendency of seeking evidence that confirms one's beliefs or hypotheses, while sometimes overlooking evidence to the contrary.
Wikipedia: Frequency Illusion

I've made a point of following people that sometimes challenge my point of view. That is healthy. Avoiding controversy or differences of opinion are not.

He who knows only his own side of the case knows little.
— John Stuart Mill

Algorithms Alter Viewers' Realities

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

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”).

“Danger, Will Robinson”

There are other dangers as well. Social media is the hunting ground for scammers and others wishing to exploit your trust in “friends” on social media.

The biggest danger is when your only relationship with someone is online.

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

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.

Romance Scams

Romance scams are becoming more common online and the practices of dating apps have added to this increase. There are some warnings to avoid falling for these scams:

The biggest factor is the amount of time and energy that these scammers and criminals are putting into grooming. Getting to know you, empathizing, really spending that time to build a connection before coming in and asking for a loan, or funding, or an investment. It's really causing smart, savvy, highly technical people to break down their guard and unfortunately get victimized.
Ashley Rose, CEO of Living Security

 

Dating Apps: Transparency is Lacking

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.

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Tighten Security

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

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

[R]asearch 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
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

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

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

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:

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.

Most People Don't Read 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.

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

Most people don't read the entire terms of service, simply glancing at it. The terminology, size and number of such agreements make it virtually impossible.

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

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:

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.

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, WhatsApp and Threads: 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.

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.

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

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).

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.

Facebook used phone numbers given to them for multifactor authentication purposes to target ads to those users in 2018.

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

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.

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

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

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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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Mastodon

Mastodon

 

Mastodon is a decentralized social network.

Mastodon puts decision making back in your hands. Each server creates their own rules and regulations, which are enforced locally and not top-down like corporate social media, making it the most flexible in responding to the needs of different groups of people.

 

Join a server with the rules you agree with, or host your own.
Mastadon
Mastodon might look like a Twitter clone at first glance, but the underlying system behind the microblogging platform is far more complex.

 

The service is decentralized (no, not in a blockchain way), describing itself as a "federated network which operates in a similar way to email."
TechCrunch

Mastodon Security & Privacy

Mastodon is the most privacy-friendly alternative to Twitter.

Mastodon does not broadcast private data like e-mail or IP address outside of the server your account is hosted on. Our software is built on the reasonable assumption that third party servers cannot be trusted.

 

Nobody on Mastodon can insert advertising into your user interface except the server you are signed up with and logged into. By default, Mastodon does not include any functionality to display ads.
Mastodon blog

Mastodon runs on many servers, but each follows the Mastodon server covenant.

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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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Threads

Threads

 

Threads allows users to post text, images and video in a format similar to Twitter. It is currently only available to mobile Instagram users.

Posts on Threads can be 500 characters long, compared with 280 for most Twitter users, and videos of up to five minutes in length can be posted while a post can be shared as a link on other platforms.
The Guardian

Threads is still too new to determine if it can or will reach the wide user base that Twitter services. While the initial five-day enrollment was record-breaking, it only represents a fraction of Instagram's member base and has not maintained momentum.

Despite attracting far broader attention than Twitter alternatives like the open source Mastodon or the still beta Bluesky, the Threads spin-off from Meta's Instagram business unit does not yet have customers coming back regularly.
SimilarWeb

Privacy Concerns

Threads is owned by Meta Platforms (the owner of Facebook), known for their widespread privacy abuses.

Mastodon is probably the safest option for those leaving Twitter (it doesn't collect private information for resale).

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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 is not just another video app. It harvests swaths of sensitive data that new reports show are being accessed in Beijing.
— FCC Commissioner Carr
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.
Twitter commenter Mormande

TikTok is Chinese propoganda aimed at our children and young people.

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X (formerly Twitter)

X (Twitter)

 

Twitter was rebranded as X when Elon Musk purchased the company. The widely recognized bird logo has been replaced with the stylized X shown above.

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

Security & Privacy

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

Some tools to manage your privacy settings:

Related Resources

On this site:

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RussHarvey.bc.ca/resources/socialmedia.html
Updated: April 16, 2024