Social Media and Data Privacy

By Khalid Mustafa

IN recent days, we have all suddenly become worried about data and privacy issues, even as we’d compromised much of it in previous years. Even as we’d been compromising data and privacy on Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram and other social media sites, we’ve now paid more attention because of the recent fallout in whatsapp’s new privacy policy.

In every scenario of real life or virtual life (Cyber World), we have many possibilities of someone committing cyber crimes.

Hackers are always ready to steal our data and keep track on our activities, we are always afraid of being victims. In that very time, we should always take various precautionary measures to avoid being victims of such things. The OEM of applications, software developers, websites at first share all the terms and conditions of the applications and guidelines for its usage towards personal or commercial use but how many of us are reading those terms and conditions matters a lot.

Whenever we access any website we all get a message of acceptance of cookies on the website and we simply click on agree to visit the website before reading what those cookies are talking about. Cookies are useful to websites but can be vulnerable for the users who access the website as they can store your logins, search history and more and someone can spy your data and activities without your consent. Infact, by the acceptance of cookies you get personalised advertisements over social media and other websites.

Now, if we talk about the applications, there are many applications other than WhatsApp which are storing and tracking our personal information and for which we have already provided them the permission during installation of applications. For instance, even your photo editor application wants your permission to access your personalized photo gallery and locations. We cannot abandon these things or stop using the applications as we are in need for those in day to day life but we can protect ourselves from being victims of any hacking or data privacy accidents.

For the same, we need to follow some protocols and read privacy policies of every website and application very well. As per the Global Web Index March 2020,  there are about 19% of the social media users who have not taken action regarding protecting privacy. 38% have reduced the personal sharing of information on social media just 31% read the terms and conditions and 11% have deleted the social media applications.

We should be very much careful while sharing any of our personal information over chats, social media video calls, photographs, passwords, bank information, allowing 3rd party apps to access your social media accounts etc as you may come under the attack of hackers and be victims to them and they can easily broadcast and morph our information.

The application/website OEMs are well aware about the security and take much more precautions and have security system, encryption, OTP accessing to avoid such misfortunes to the users but they can’t eradicate it completely as every hour they get new challenging hacker attacks and new virus formations in digital form and work 24×7 for the users.

So, there are responsibilities in the hands of the users as well.

Some of the key points you should take into consideration when using social media is to check your privacy protection, know who is in your friendslist, what you are sharing is for private or visible to the public, what sort of videos / personal photos you are sharing.

We should take a review of everything and then use the application. Deleting the application is never a solution as we may need it and our businesses are running over it, but using the same in a precautionary manner is worth a lot.

We are now addicted to social media and have left conventional means. The sharing of information in a digital form is more vulnerable to theft. On our personal laptops and computers, we have various Internet security antivirus softwares available for PDAs, iPads, tablets and mobile phones which can act as a 3rd party to guide and protect you from accessing vulnerable websites and applications and provide information about securing your personal data.

Not only WhatsApp which is currently in news headlines, even Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, and many more all have access to highly sensitive private data, which is stored on their servers and could be stolen anytime now.

Choice is always ours as when information gets posted online, it is no longer private, and may end up falling into wrong hands and can end up leaking your personal information. Your online data is as important as your passport, ID card and your confidential medical record. So, basic education about the usage of the internet, social media platforms is a must as even hackers have trespassed the privacy of various celebrities on which there is more tracking.

In the end, you can’t blame the company as you have already given them permission to store your data on their servers and have given permission to access several of the modules of your phone information like accessing location, gallery, files and even camera during the first installation of applications and softwares. Read “Terms and Conditions” very well to have your personal conditions healthy over the cyber world.

Government of India has already issued various advisories to public for using social media and being on the internet about reporting cybercrimes, child abuse etc. If you are victim to it, do not feel any stress. We should immediately report to the country cybercrime portal and they will take necessary actions.

  • The author is an IT & Management Expert. Presently IT-Ops Manager At HK Nissan. For feedback: [email protected]

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