Upon signing up for social media sites such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc., one would need to agree to a ‘User Privacy’ agreement. It’s usually multiple pages long and we as users tend to skip and tick on the ‘I agree’ box to continue on with our agenda in signing up for the account. The additional minutes needed to read through the agreement is not worth knowing, compared to how quickly we’re able to upload our photos or witty quotes.
Are we ignorant or simply naivë to think that our data won’t be misused? Our understanding is that the agreement gives us a sense of protection against cyber-crimes, as they are created to not only protect the creators but also the users of such websites.
However, this is a misconception as there is a growth of online crimes, due to the growth in cyber criminals/hackers that preys on our innocence in the world wide web.
The motives of accessing and ‘stealing’ your data may vary for each hacker — starting from identity thefts, real theft (by using your current whereabouts after you’ve ‘signed in’ to various locations’ and knowing exactly when and where you are), selling your data for profit and the list goes on. How are they getting these? From us. Generally speaking, most of the social media platforms will require at least your first and last names, email address and possibly your date of birth — although some have removed perhaps due to this very issue. The use of the platform you’ve chosen may also cause others in harm’s way, as when you ‘tag’ whomever you are with, hackers are then able to know the list of friends you have, their data and expose them to the cyber horror we’ve now heard often of.
One of the many ways that hackers use the information they’ve gathered is to masquerade as you to your friends and colleagues and gain benefits from them. Again, this may vary from financial to romantic benefits from the cyber-criminal themselves. Have you ever seen a post from a colleague on your social media, stating that someone’s been using their name or their account to request for money? Or even approach people that you are not familiar with to get to know them? This is a form of masquerading or ‘catfishing’ that hackers use in order to fulfill their motives. If you believe a colleague is not behaving as they usually do through their online profile, then this is a big red flag to confirm with them face-to-face if it was indeed the actions they’ve taken themselves and not another party misusing their online identity.
We’ve all heard of the name Edward Snowden and what he’s exposed regarding online user privacy. This was a global phenomenon, as we know as users know that our data is stored safely yes, however it is also being used by governments around the world to monitor our every move. Through social media, our emails, even our gadgets can be used to monitor our daily activities. From the government’s perspective, they may be doing something ‘right’ as the growth of technology in general has made it both easier and harder for them to track highly sought after international criminals. They see this as a way to ‘protect’ their people and don’t see how much of an intrusion it is to everyone’s privacy.
Edward Snowden on the other hand, was not only working for them but sees himself as a user. He felt that his trust in the online user privacy agreement has been breached, intruded upon and taken advantage by the higher-ups. This resulted in the actions he took in releasing private documents from the governments that has sparked his worldwide chase. Up until today, he is still warning users about what we should and should put up through the online platforms we use.
How To Protect Ourselves?
It’s a tricky thing once you’ve exposed yourself online to ‘protect’ the things that you post. However, steps can be taken to make sure that you have at least gone the extra mile to make sure that your social media identity is not being misused or being taken advantage of.
Passwords: make sure to create a strong password that does not include any family member/relative’s private details i.e. their birthdays, surnames, etc. Also, incorporate the use of upper and lower-case letters and numbers.
Review Privacy Settings: some, if not all social media platforms have updates every so often — especially regarding the privacy settings. Take advantage of this once you’ve updated the platform and make sure to enable/disable any settings you agree with.
Anti-Virus/Spyware: this is usually a necessity upon purchasing your computer/laptop, so make sure to invest in a good program to keep your gadgets safe.