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/networking sites provide a convenient way to stay connected with friends and family:

  • Posting photos on social media sites or on photo sites like Flickr provides access to everyone without sending out photos by e-mail.
  • Facebook is the largest social media network and most people claim to log on only to share with family and friends.
  • Families can use Google Calendar or similar products to keep their schedules organized.

However, social media uses transfer of trust in your friends to make you relax and not worry about the other uses this data is being put to — mostly profiling you, your family and friends for targeted ads.

If the service is free, then you are the product. — The Day We Lost Everything

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

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Choose Carefully

I strongly recommend that you consider carefully the 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. Facebook also owns Instagram and WhatsApp.

While any social media service can exploit their users, not all are as responsive as Google which shut down their Google+ service due to a privacy bug that could release information to third-party apps without permission (something that doesn't seem to bother Facebook).

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

The Circle is a movie portraying a fictitious social network with the mantra, Knowing is good but knowing everything is better.

Deactivate or Delete Your Account

If you are no longer using a social media site (i.e. 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.

There are specific instructions for closing or deleting accounts within each section on this page dealing with specific social media sites.

Think Before Posting

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

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 your trust and privacy has been violated.

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.

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? —

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.

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

After much discussion, debate, and research, the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2016 is post-truth — an 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

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]

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.

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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

The question has to be asked: are social media giants like Google and Facebook “too big to secure?” Perhaps they are a monopoly which needs to be broken up.

Don't Log into Sites with Your Social Media Accounts

Signing into a website using your Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter account may be convenient but you're giving that website unlimited access to your social media profile (your interests, friends, occupation, religion, political views hobbies, etc.) which can allow for much more “personalized interactions” with you (i.e. targeted ads).

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.”
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

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

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 a loan application.

  • 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. This is understandable, given that 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

Most people balk when seeing large blocks of legal speak. Hence, the term tldr (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.

Don't Post Password Recovery Information

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

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).

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Social Media for Business

Building New Relationships

Social media provides a way for businesses to build a relationship with their customers 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.

However, this relationship is one-dimensional and missing the voice intonations and body language clues offered by face-to-face relationships.

Don't Talk AT People

Are you talking at people like TV ads or do you engage in the community, listening as much as telling?

Corporations and brands have made a practice of telling folks what to think. They moved TV ads to the Internet (where they are just as distasteful).

As a result, click-throughs are getting more expensive yet less effective.

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

It can lead to viral growth in attendance at real or "virtual" events or can create widespread brand awareness:

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

However, consider the limitations of 'Like' when assessing your popularity. Sudden drops in your followers can affect your profile and visibility even if it has nothing to do with you.

Participate in the Community

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

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

Socializing at Work

Much of that activity may not look work-related, but is necessary to create the atmosphere of socialization that these sites are based upon.

Think of it in the same manner as you would a traditional “social” for your clients where you provide food and drinks in a relaxed atmosphere. One article compared it to business lunches or meetings on the golf course.

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) in 2009.

With a decline in popularity, your investment in any social media 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 is currently the largest of the social media networks on the planet and one of the most troublesome in terms of privacy and data breaches.

When you ask people about their activity on Facebook most of them will say, “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.

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 is not a social media company; it is the largest data mining operation in existence. — Illinois' Cook County's lawsuit against Facebook

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.

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

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

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
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 (now, Blur)

Sniper Advertising

Facebook uses the data it collects from what people post and who their friends are to create a profile that advertisers (or others that may not have your best interests at heart) to make ads appealing to your personal fears and desires, 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 is where an ad targets a single individual. Even though Facebook claimed to have fixed the “bug” that allowed this on March 6, 2019, The Tyee was able to create such an ad on April 2nd.

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
…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

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.

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

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

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
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 — 1,287 words longer than the United States Constitution in 2010 — and is constantly subject to change.

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.
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

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.

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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+ (Google's official social media site) is gone, but Google's influence on social media remains strong.

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

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.


Google+ was Google's social media service. It was shut down on April 2, 2019. The service has been plagued with problems including a bug that made private information available to third-party apps.

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Instagram Security & Privacy

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

Controlling Your Instagram Privacy

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

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LinkedIn Security & Privacy

LinkedIn is a little different in that it is designed for building professional networks rather than friendships. Microsoft owns LinkedIn.

You can close your LinkedIn account after which your account information is deleted and logs or backups are de-identified within 30 days.

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Pinterest Security & Privacy

Pinterest describes itself as an online pinboard where you can organize and share the things you love. There are some issues around the legality of copying images that aren't yours.

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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:

Controlling Your Twitter Privacy

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

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Related Resources

Related resources on this site:

or check the resources index.

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Updated: May 4, 2019