internet privacy Tag

Secrecy, Privacy, and Ephemerality in Social Media

Picture 9-11-2014In a world where millions of people post every thought, photograph, or video to our social media profiles, we have effectively given up our privacy. And yet we still cling to the idea of privacy, even if that just means setting some sort of limit to the people who see all the things we’re posting for everyone else to see. Social media security has been a hot-button issue for this reason and over the course of the past couple of years, there have been a large number of breaches and hacks where social media users’ information has been compromised. I’ve talked before about hacks that affected Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat, but these are not the only social media networks and apps that have had breaches in their security.

Back in June, the simplistic social media app Yo was hacked by three college students, who were able to get the phone numbers and contacts of every Yo user as well as being able to send them false messages that appeared to be from other users. Considering Yo was developed in merely eight hours, it wasn’t a huge surprise that there were security issues, but what’s disturbing is how quickly users latched on to the new hot social media app without considering that their personal information might be at stake. The social network Secret was marketed as the ‘anonymous social network’ but hackers last month were able to find an easy way to make it a lot less anonymous.

Though Yo and Secret have issued fixes to these security breaches, as have the larger, more popular social networks, it would not be crazy to say that our faith in social network security is waning. Facebook is making efforts to change things; they acquired a cybersecurity start-up company called PrivateCore last month in an effort to help protect the data of Facebook users. However, with the state of social media privacy and security still unsure, there are other things people and social networks are turning to (including Facebook).

Ephemerality is the nature of apps like Snapchat, Bolt, Slingshot, and plenty of similar social media applications. The idea here is to ensure some manner of privacy by making messages, photos, and videos only appear temporarily before being deleted forever. Recently, Facebook began testing their own new ephemeral feature, which will allow users to use a ‘Choose Expiration’ function. This feature will give posts a life expectancy from anywhere between an hour and a week. Thus far, this feature has only been available to a small set of users operating Facebook for iOS and it is unclear what the future of the feature may be.

The Evolution of Social Network Security

Picture 3-20-2014There’s an odd conflict in the world of social networks regarding privacy. Although social networks tend to be an arena for users to share information with everyone that they know, no matter if these are truly friends or mere acquaintances, the overall privacy of these social network profiles is constantly a hot-button issue. People want to be able to share private information with other Facebook users that they befriended after meeting them once in a bar, but are up in arms if that same information is accessible by strangers or the government. Though this split is a little bit silly in some ways, there are some genuine concerns to be had here and it is generally believed that Facebook and other social networks are doing what they can to protect what their users might consider private information.

The fact of the matter is that social networks are ripe for security breaches. Considering many social network users do not think about if the information or pictures they are posting might be made public, it has not been difficult for hackers (or even government agents) to access potentially damning information about social network users. The NSA has been confirmed to use fake Facebook servers to install malware on computers so that they have an easier time monitoring unsuspecting social network users.

It’s not just Facebook that’s been ripe for privacy breaches. Twitter and Snapchat have had issues with leaked usernames and passwords, which Snapchat responded to at the beginning of the year with privacy updates to its iOS and Android apps. It has been stated that Snapchat has added internal restrictions that make it more difficult for hackers to access private information such as usernames and passwords and Snapchat has also added security features allowing Snapchat users to opt out of the ‘Find Friends’ feature that uses their cell phone number.

Facebook has recently made their work on security a little bit more public so that Facebook users can see exactly what is being done in order to keep their own information private from hackers, government agents, and anyone else that might try to breach security. Some, however, do not trust Facebook regarding its relationship with privacy, and believe that Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp will lead to a lack of privacy in the popular messaging application as well.

One social networking and messaging application, Wickr, is already well-known for its impressive security and encryption features. The company has found a way to monetize their ‘Security Suite’ by offering it for sale to other social networks that wish to implement the level of privacy that is currently offered by Wickr, which has never sold user data or allowed any user data to be accessed by others. Wickr’s ‘Security Suite’ could be the wave of the future when it comes to social networking privacy.

New Businesses, Legislation Look to Address Online Privacy Concerns

The rampant use of social media sites and online networks has made personal information more readily available than ever. And with sites like Facebook constantly having their privacy settings and policies called into question, people are becoming increasingly concerned with monitoring and managing their online image. The issue of online privacy has helped spawn a completely new industry with startups offering a plethora of services centering on targeted marketing and persona information.

There are always two sides to any story, of course. Some of these companies are seeking to help businesses capitalize on this new and readily available personal information, while others take the opposite approach by helping individuals maintain online privacy and monitor how their information is being utilized. According to Forrester Research, online identity protection is now a $2.5 billion industry, and it continues to grow by 12 to 15 percent each year.

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Facebook Expounds Privacy Policy Changes

It took all of two days for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to make good on his promise of simplifying Facebook’s privacy settings. Unlike many companies who have come under public scrutiny as of late—BP, Goldman Sachs and Toyota, just to name a few—Facebook moved quickly and decisively to address the concerns of their constituency. The new settings were unveiled at a presentation held today at the company’s headquarters and will provide users with what the company had originally intended: a straightforward, user-friendly means for Facebook members to control the dissemination of their personal information. The changes will take a couple of weeks to be implemented, but here is a brief overview of what you can expect:

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Changes to Privacy Policy Bring Scrutiny to Facebook

For time immemorial, privacy has been a cornerstone of democracy and free societies. Although people now post personal photographs, messages and other information haphazardly on the internet, there is still the notion that social media sites, e-mail and other web-based communiqué come with a certain level of privacy. Websites like Facebook and MySpace have extensive privacy policies that outline how your personal information is used and who will have access to it—although few, if any, people ever take the time to read these documents thoroughly.

In recent months, Facebook has come under scrutiny for several changes the company has implemented in its privacy policy. Instead of receiving protection from stringent privacy settings, which used to be the case, users now have to alter the settings themselves if they wish to keep particular information private. The company has even announced that it will be sharing user information with third-party sites.

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