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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.

Yo: The Simplest Social Network

Picture 6-19-2014Since social networks began to expand outside of their initial target audience, simplicity has been something that many companies have focused on. Twitter only allows users to have 140 characters to communicate messages to their friends; Snapchat only allows users to look at their pictures for a few seconds; even Facebook and other major social networks have gone through major changes in order to make themselves more accessible to new users. Yet none have been quite as simple as the new hot social messaging application known as Yo.

Yo is about as simple as it comes — it simply allows users to send a single greeting to their friends: “Yo.” The application says that this greeting is all-encompassing and can be sent to friends if you want to say ‘good morning’ or ‘thinking about you’ or ‘are you awake’ or anything in between. Though the basic premise of the app seems pretty silly, Yo has already garnered $1 million and its creator has relocated from Tel Aviv to San Francisco, where the social media industry is booming.

The creator, Or Arbel, believes that there are many potential uses for his admittedly simplistic app. Companies like Starbucks could send a “Yo” when your drink is ready or airlines could send a “Yo” when it’s time board one’s flight. The app was launched on April Fool’s Day this year and is only recently beginning to surge in popularity, already with over 50,000 users who have sent out nearly 4 million Yos. Arbel believes the efficiency of Yo is its true selling point (it takes 11 taps to send “Yo” in WhatsApp, while it takes only 2 taps to send “Yo” in Yo). Still, some people are highly critical of the app’s simplicity and it remains to be seen whether the application will take off.