Social media has become embedded in our daily communications with friends, co-workers and personal and professional networks. Since social media has become such a boon to marketing strategies, our data traces (which includes basically every action we take when interacting on a social media platform) has the potential to be analyzed so that marketing efforts can be targeted to fulfill our every desire. And, since most of us have powerful computers at our fingertips (in the shape of a smartphone), being online is as convenient as our data plans will allow. But this convenience comes at a cost to our privacy.
Increasingly, our online behavior is shaped by the apps we use to connect with others. When’s the last time you were asked for permission for an app to access your camera or your photo library, etc. Before you gave your permission, did you give it a second thought? If you are like most of us, probably not – which is why (according to a 2016 article in Time magazine) your favorite apps know more about you than you realize. This is because of a little thing called a “third-party library” of code, which makes it easy for apps to share your information between them – which can include your contact list, location, posts, name and birthdate and GPS location. And if that seems creepy to you, these apps aren’t violating our privacy – we are giving it away – every time we click OK on a permissions notice.
How has your online activity transformed over the years? How and why we use the internet is constantly shifting according to our needs, values, priorities and (to a large extent) where our friends are.
If you are concerned about having more control of your data and your privacy, there are a few things you can do – as recommended by Rik Ferguson of Trend Micro (on YouTube):
- Think about the apps you choose to use. Set up the app when you can spend some time learning how the app works. Limit the information you give to just what it needs to operate – usually just an email, username and password. Your birthdate is tied to many important pieces of identifying information, so you may want to choose a different date if your birthdate is required.
- You can adjust your privacy settings (on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for example) to not allow search engines to index your posts or limit access to only your followers or friends.
- Consider the trade-off before you link apps – is it necessary or will it save you a bit of time? And is that worth a privacy risk?
- If you’re sharing photos through social media, remember that your GPS coordinates might be embedded within the images metadata, and take steps to protect yourself.
- What’s new on reddit? | Reddit.blog
- On Facebook, Deciding Who Knows You’re a Dog | NYTimes.com (2014)
- Teen sexter convicted for child porn | BBC News (2014)
- Think Before You Share – A Guide for Teens | MediaSmart.ca (2013)
- 10 Million Canadians Use Facebook on Mobile Daily | The Globe and Mail (2014)
- Why You Should Think Twice Before Shaming Anyone on Social Media | Wired.com (2013)
- Attention, Shoppers: Store Is Tracking Your Cell | NYTimes.com (2013)
- Social Media Etiquette for Students | SociableBlog.com (2010)
- Will Social Media Monitoring Help Keep Kids Safe? | CBC News (2016)
The Digital Tattoo Project encourages critical discussion on topics surrounding digital citizenship and online identity. There are no correct answers and every person will view these topics from a different perspective. Be sure to complete the previous sections before answering the questions.
- Does participating online make you a more well-rounded digital citizen?
- Should digital skills be taught in schools in addition to the traditional subjects? Why or why not?