Social Media: Checking the Privacy Issues

September 12, 2011

One thing that comes up a lot when discussing social media is the issue over privacy. Just how private is the information you post on your Facebook page, for example, or your Twitter page? One of the things that seems to be such a major selling point for Google + right now is that it has increased privacy settings and allows the users to customize their posts so that they can target people more effectively. You consistently, if you spend any time reading or researching social media, see people worrying, wondering and contemplating privacy issues when it comes to social networking.

Well, the concerns are, indeed, there and they are legitimate. One of the most prominent business-related social networks, LinkedIn, just learned a lesson the hard way. For a time, LinkedIn was using the images and photos posted by their users in social advertising. They invented ways to track which companies and groups were being followed and then using the images and information from their users when doing their social advertising, making it appear as if people were endorsing certain companies or products. The service was “opt-out” which meant members had to actively remove themselves from the list by updating their account information.

In August, LinkedIn responded to the negative publicity by removing it. You might have heard of similar problems with Facebook, for example. In nearly every case, the social network comes up with a way to use users information and people object, there is a major out-cry, and the social network removes the offending service. It doesn’t always work, but if the uproar is loud enough, they usually react.

At least part of this is due to the fact that this is all still new territory, even for the social networks themselves. Most of them started without any clear idea of how they were going to make money, but they wanted to get as many users as possible. Once they had their millions of users, and were satisfied that they were suitably hooked, then it was time to see how to make a little money. Many of the social networks have turned to advertising as their way of making that money. They have all quickly found out that charging users money just directs them to other forms of social media.

Where does that leave you? Well, it means you cannot rest on your laurels. Just because you sign up with a social networking site and create your profile that you can now sit back and relax and expect those phones to start lighting up. If you don’t want your company information, or your user information, used in a way that you did not authorize, you had better do your research.

Read everything when you first create your profile. Read the fine print. Does it say that anything you put into your profile is fair game for the social network to use as they please? If so, and this bothers you, you may want to consider a different option.

Study all of the privacy controls that you have. It may seem intimidating, at first, to read all of those pages when you first sign up, but the devil is in the details. There may be a box that the social network auto-fills that you might not want to be signed up for. If so, uncheck that box, but make sure you take the time to find it.

Keep your ear to the ground. Social media changes rapidly, but there are websites out there that cover nothing but. Mashable is a good one. Ragan Communications, out of Chicago, does an excellent job of monitoring the world of social media. Sometimes a simple Google search about privacy issues connected with the various social networks can yield large volumes of information. Using discussion groups about social media can also help.

Not every statement you hear about a social network is true. Facebook has had to fend off more than a few false accusations of devious things that they were reportedly up to. So, don’t freak out at the first inkling you hear about what a social networking might be doing with your information. Do your research, or ask a professional.

That’s right, there are communications firms out there that can keep track of these things for you. They know where to get the latest information about the social network you are concerned about. It’s what they do, day in and day out. Give them a call if you get lost, and they can help you find your way back home.

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