Love it or hate it, Social Media applications are here to stay and they just keep getting the coolest features! The pandemic pushed people indoors and even though we were fighting to take that deep breath of fresh air and see the outside world, people started to realise how fun it is start a challenge, sing a duet or even snap some pics while stuck at home. As South Africans hunkered down in lockdown level 5, we trawled the internet for ideas to keep ourselves and our families busy. We baked, (ran out of yeast in the local market) made pineapple beer (REALLY ran out of yeast after figuring this one out) and read up on Zoom etiquette (and FAILED – dismally, but it brought some laughs!) Anything to bring some light in the darkness that was lockdown.
If you’re a social media wiz like me then you probably use the biggest and baddest Social Media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat and LinkedIn. The messaging platforms have had a whirlwind year thanks to the new WhatsApp privacy update but more than likely you’ve also heard of Signal and Telegram. Lastly a new “old” one that has popped up in the news is Discord thanks to the supposed buy out by Microsoft.
It comes as no surprise that technology has changed the way that we live our lives. It hasn’t only made communication easier, but it has also influenced how we meet people and date, where we find our news, how we share content, streaming services, (no more waiting through adverts on TV – wow kids of today have it easy) education and much more.
But shock and horror – what if I told you that technology has the ability to predict our personalities and essentially know more about you than your friends and family do. Data is collected through these apps, with and without your knowledge… So here’s a quick update on what information you are sharing when you use that Social Media platform (any of them)
When you set up your profile it is generally a prerequisite for most social medias to gather as much information on you as they possibly can. But you get to choose what you add in – the fewer things you fill in obviously makes you a little bit more private thus a tad more secure. They generally ask for your gender, age (if you put your age, choose the correct one especially if you are a minor – the law can protect you if you don’t lie), familial information (these are your home slices – your family and friends), interests, education background and employment. Remember that social media sites are sneaky and will always try influence you to share more – click this, like that, follow these people, etc etc.
Social networks, including WhatsApp (yes yes – it’s still a social media!) allow users to post status updates in order to communicate with other users quickly. Even though there seem to be privacy settings to restrict access to status updates, social media networks are actually designed to broadcast information quickly and publicly. So sometimes you think it’s private and it’s not. Also – watch out, your boss may just look at your status, so if you called in “sick” (cough cough) and you update your status to a “Lekker time with the boys today”, well you may just get into a heap of trouble.
Applications are designed to broadcast your real-time location (look at me – I’m at Times Square), this is shown either as public information or as an update viewable to authorized contacts – like people you trust and know. Your devices can track you via your IP address information, any and all “check in” declarations to a local event or business. Remember they even gave you the ability to share your location with your contacts too… ie: they always know where you are – even if you don’t (Thanks Google maps for dying on me in the middle of no-where)
The whole purpose to social media is to share, exchange, distribute and receive content. It could be through audio (you know, like those annoying voice notes), video (send on the funny cat videos!), images (no nudes please) and text (ole school – like SMS or MMS).
This content can reveal a lot about you as a person, sometimes it can even include information that you may not be aware of. The more you give the more info the hackers can use to take advantage of you and your online identity, either in a current attack or even a later one (they got time). Advertisers can also use what you post to track you and try sell you more. Law enforcement agents can use the content you share or you might not get that new job because of wheat your employers found out about you online. You need to be aware of the information that you are providing and to be conscious of the choices you can make to protect your privacy.
So who has access to your data? We will have a look at that in our next article called: Big Brother is watching…