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Three Ways Social Media Is Secretly Taking Away Our Privacy Rights

We Value Privacy Yet Have A Penchant For Sharing; This Is The Consequence

Increasingly, people are exercising greater caution on social media platforms as we become more aware of how our online data might be used against us. It might seem trivial at first, but the consequences can be huge with effects like losing out on a job merely because of an indiscreet comment made on any social media platform. In fact, a three-year German study ending in 2012, discovered the strange paradox that the more people disclosed about themselves on social media, the more privacy they desired. Yet despite this growing desire for privacy in an ever-interconnected world, very few of us actually know what is being done to the troves of personal data social media platforms collect and store every day.

With that in mind, we uncover three stupefying ways that social media is leaking our private information and unconsciously taking our rights to privacy, making us question if we can you truly disconnect and go off grid in this day and age. 

Account Hacks Are More Common Than You Think

All social media accounts are more susceptible to security breaches than you might think. In 2011, the largest social network in the world, Facebook, conceded for the first time that its website is bombarded with approximately 600,000 hacking attempts everyday, of which many successfully breach their cyber security to gain access to users’ messages, photos and other personal information. In one fell swoop, hackers who breach Facebook users’ account are able to control a persons’ entire web identity. 

Even international companies with their highly paid cybersecurity teams have seen an inordinate number of corporate breaches crippling their businesses. In June, a global massive ransomware attack infected computers across the world, including the critical systems and networks of the major pharmaceutical firm Merck & Co. and the Danish shipping giant Maersk. For weeks, stock prices of these companies plummeted and the company network was completely shut down as the ransomware programs held critical data hostage by encrypting it, and making it unusable, until a payment was made in the form of the crypotcurrency -- Bitcoin.

All Major Social Networks Are Leaking Your Location And Browser History 

Gone are the days when clearing your browser history periodically securely covers your Internet usage tracks. In 2010, a study done by Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Massachusetts revealed that all major 20 mobile social networks studied leaked some private information to third-party tracking sites. The networks included consisted of the leading social media platforms Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. The researchers found that in most cases the data given out contained the user's unique social networking identifier, which allowed third-party sites to connect the records they keep of users' browsing behaviour with their social media profiles.

How does this work? The mobile social networks track users' geographic location by tapping into the data on the mobile devices. In the most obvious cases, these social networking sites directly gave location information to the third-party tracking sites, and used a third-party map service to show the user's location on a map. A more insidious method some sites employed involved transmiting a unique identifier to the user's mobile phone, enabling third-party sites to continue tracking a user's location even as the phone is used for other applications. With this discovery coming to light, we might want to rethink readily sharing our physical locations online.

Facebook Collects Information Of Even Non-Users 

Presented with the myriad of vulnerabilities and nefarious privacy violations that social media exposes us to, our knee-jerk reaction may be to recoil and exercise greater caution. However, even the most cautious social media user that limits the number of accounts they have and information shared can have their privacy stolen from them unknowingly. In 2013, security researchers, Packet Storm Security, discovered how Facebook was unknowingly collecting troves of personal data that people may not have willingly disclosed as well as creating ‘shadow profiles’ even for people without accounts on Facebook.

For the common Facebook user, while you may not have listed your phone number, as long as one of your connections used the “Find My Friends” feature and gave Facebook access to scan their contacts, the network will store all other information associated with that contact, thereby supplying them indirectly with your personal contact information. Using complex algorithms and facial recognition, Facebook determines a person’s identity in a picture, based on a scan of your features. Even if you are not a user, based on picture your friend might have posted on Facebook of which you were included, Facebook will attach your scanned digital biometric ‘face template’ to the same ghost profile with your other contact information they previously gathered from your friend’s contacts list.