Russ Harvey Consulting - Computer and Internet Services

Social Media

Are You Sharing Too Much?

About | Choose Carefully | Security | Business Use
Facebook | Google | Instagram | LinkedIn | Pinterest | Twitter

Are You Sharing Too Much?

Stop dangerous Bill C10. Follow to take action.

By removing the user generated content exclusion, Bill C-10 represents an unconscionable attack on the free expression rights of Canadians. It must be defeated. — Michael Geist

Stop C-10: NO CRTC regulation of user speech. Sign the petition.

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 allow people to remain connected to family, friends and others with similar interests.
  • Families can use Google Calendar or similar products to keep their schedules organized.

The Dark Side of Social Media

Unfortunately, there is a dark side to social media.

Social media companies use your trust in your friends (transfer of trust) to make you relax and not worry about the other uses this data is being put to — the profiling of you, your family and friends. This is called transfer of trust — the same technique is used in phishing and tech support scams.

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

These companies use algorithms to determine the content shown to an account based upon their 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.

Dating Apps

Mozilla's review of 24 dating apps shows all but three have privacy warnings. When signing in with Facebook, both the apps and Facebook can share a lot of information with each other. Immediately deleting Tinder and Grindr is recommended.

Transparency is Lacking

Mozilla's Internet Health Report 2020 looks at the poor job that these companies have done is 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 on Netflix is a controversial look at social media.

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 and we watch as two of the children are drawn into a situation that gets them arrested at a protest.

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. — ZoneAlarm Blog

The longer they 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 to you. Also called personalized advertising, the goal is “targeted” ads.

If the service is free, then you are the product. — Steve Wood

Return to top

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 its arrogant attitude towards its users' privacy.

Any social media service can exploit their users and not all are as 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

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.

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 only one example.

See CheckThenShare.ca for details.

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

Who's Looking?

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. 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 fact that everyone sees a different “truth” and is sheltered from alternative points of view should concern everyone.

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

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.

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

Return to top

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

Too Big to Fail?

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

Revoke Access to 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 access.

Makes it Easier to Profile You

Signing into a website using your Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter account may be convenient but reveals a great deal about you. It also provides a single point of failure for all your passwords.

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

What they call “personalized interactions” really means you've provided the information to more effectively target advertising.

Consider that Facebook and Google now control nearly all advertising on the Web.

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.

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.

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 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

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 or other places where electronic agreements are used.

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 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. — ZoneAlarm Security 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 other account to login.

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 used when you've forgotten your password such as where you were born, your favourite sports teams, family names and relationships, pets, etc.

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).

Return to top

Social Media for Business

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

View it as an opportunity to get to know your customers and clients and let them learn more about you more than your products or services.

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

Are you talking at people or are you engaging in the community — 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, 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 or 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 endure.

Google+ is only the latest social media giant to close its doors (like its predecessor, Google Buzz).

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.

Return to top

Facebook

Facebook

 

Facebook is currently the largest of the social media networks on the planet and one of the most troublesome in terms of poor privacy and is careless with your personal information.

Facebook also owns 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, it greatly limits the potential for a realistic competitor to its business to emerge.

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.

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

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 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.

Careless Policies Exploit People

Facebook is careless with the personal information shared by its users.

Multiple revelations about user data (including passwords for email accounts they had no business requesting) which was posted insecurely or freely available to third-party apps without oversight is troubling.

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 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

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
  • Facecrooks is a leading social media watchdog for Facebook scams.

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 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.

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 Facebook or Mark Zuckerberg.

Two-Factor Phone Numbers Exploited

Facebook used phone numbers given to them for two-factor security 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

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

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

Return to top

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:

Return to top

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.

Return to top

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.

Return to top

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.


If these pages helped you,
buy me a coffee!


 

Return to top
RussHarvey.bc.ca/resources/socialmedia.html
Updated: April 29, 2021