Is Privacy in Social Media possible?


One of the ethical challenges posed by social media is to protect how users personal information is acquired, used, and stored. There are benefits to a organization collecting your information to ensure you receive offers particularly suited to you. But there are more issues which abound concerning profiling, spying and intrusion. Studies by MSNBC, Harris Interactive, American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research, Anonymizer and The Ponemon Institute concluded that giving users simple and comprehensible privacy controls may drive up social media usage.


 The infographic below from MDG Advertising @MDGadvertising) indicates that:
1. 2/3 of the population distrusts Facebook though they use the application.
2. 50% report a privacy violation through their social media use
3. Almost 70% don’t understand Facebook’s privacy settings. (Which would explain why so many people are embarrassed after a potential employer sees photographic evidence of their Friday night after work party conduct.)
4. Almost 70% of people feel their privacy protection is out of their control. People who use social media a lot care less about privacy than occasional or non-users.

Social Media Infographic

Social Media Infographic from MDG Advertising

Over 70% of the users wanted to:
1. Know what information is being collected
2. Opt into location and online tracking
3. Have the chance to create a portable privacy profile
4. Share more if they could control who could see what they share

There are many other ways privacy can be compromised via social media:
1. Providers spying via social media – Yes, it happens before job interviews but what about a therapist, a doctor, or a school, who get information about someone from their social media which may determine their approach to dealing with the person?

2. Location based services – where we are or not is more serious than worrying if the boss knows we’ve skipped out early. Do we really want the public knowing where we live, when we are and aren’t home, and where our kids go to school? Or if we’re going to that drug rehab group meeting?



3. Cyber-bullying – we comment on blogs, follow certain people. Can we avoid attracting extreme negative attention and personal attacks because of what we “Like” or “Tweet, the forums in which we participate and the blogs we post?”

4. Applications’ policies – Facebook’s acquisition of What’sApp concern users in the know as these two companies are not strict adherents to privacy guidelines. Canadian and Dutch regulators have called out WhatsApp for numerous international privacy violations. WhatsApp can collect and keep your contacts phone numbers. Facebook has tried to do the same in the past ad one might wonder what they intend to do with this newly acquired capability.




The WOMMA (Word of Mouth Marketing Association) guidelines stated that persons collecting PII (Personal Identifiable Information) must disclose in a clear conspicuous and understandable manner:
1 That the information is being collected
2. What the information will be used for
3. If the information will be shared.

Information collected should be:
1. Limited to the use indicated
2. Of relevance and necessity to the indicated use
3. Not kept longer than needed
4. Available for customers to review and edit
5. Should meet data and integrity standards
6. Should be protected to maintain confidentiality
7. Should be monitored and accountable (e.g. customers should be able to complain and receive a response)

With cameras in smart phones and mobile devices the quickest way to have privacy ignored is with a point and click. Here are some easy guidelines to manage what pictures posted to social media, including:
1. Discuss photography policies beforehand with friends and family before an event to avoid cringe-worthy uploads.

2. If you’re the one with the camera at a private party, ask permission to place the photos on social media and respect the wishes of people who decline.


1. Take active charge of your virtual identity – Google yourself and see what comes up. I was shocked to see my name, address and a picture of my house come up in a search. All through a friend who wanted to purchase property in the area and used an online service to price houses, and used my address for value comparison.

2. Avoid sending/placing anything via/on the Internet that would cause you or others major distress if revealed to the public.

3.Find out about your social network’s data collection and usage policies.Get familiar with privacy and opt out settings. And use them.

4. Assume any information you fill into a form in hard copy or online will be collected, compiled and used. Better organizations have client confidentiality policies which you are invited to read.

5, Beware the friend request. You wouldn’t invite a complete stranger into your house. Do likewise with your online base.

6. Learn your user rights!


One thought on “Is Privacy in Social Media possible?

  1. That’s really interesting that whatsapp has been cited for potential privacy issues. Everything I read indicated that whatsapp users were concerned about the acquisition because whatsapp is ad free and people are afraid that facebook will begin collecting user data to sell advertising. I have a tendency to believe there is very little privacy in social media, no matter the platform or how many privacy settings you use.

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