Since we’ve reached the “Golden Age” of online social media, we as consumers, tend to neglect how important it is to stay safe online. Many of us share private information on public platforms without realizing the implications of what we’re doing. We tend to post our internet history and whereabouts on a platform that we assume will put our best interests forward.
But usually, social media networks are strongly incentivized to cater to the advertising model, utilizing refined data scraping tactics and monitoring tools which are largely unseen by the user. And these tactics are almost impossible to regulate with the continuous involvement of online media.
Still, we continue to trudge on without any real evidence of who or what to believe when it comes to privacy issues and our online safety. But we can finally put some of that noise to rest as we sort through the top 5 myths about internet privacy.
Myth 1: Users Have Privacy Rights against Social Media Sites
As social media consumers, we tend to take things for granted. We may expect to be protected online by certain rights as it pertains to our personal information. But the fact is that there are no regulations nor constitutional rights that prevent social media companies like Facebook and Twitter from tracking our every movement.
In the context of social media, online privacy issues are usually trumped by free speech. Media companies are generally afforded robust protections through broad liability exemptions when it comes to our privacy expectations. In fact, privacy disclosure requirements are less restrictive on social media sites than they are on other accessible websites because you choose to register and log-in.
Consequently, the personal information you provide to the networks like Facebook and Twitter are not made exclusive to your private groups, but are rather fed to advertisers. And sometimes, your personal data becomes public without you knowing.
Myth 2: Your Personal Data is Yours and Yours Alone
This one is just as untrue. The data that you supply to social media sites is largely factual information, which is excluded from any intellectual property laws that you may think you have. Those internet privacy laws only protect against creative expression, which social media sites don’t usually touch.
What may be worse is the fact that social media companies have more protection than you think against these liability issues. According to U.S. law, databases with your personal information and content are the ones protected, not you.
Myth 3: Social Media Aggregators Get Away Scott Free
Social media companies aren’t always social media savvy. The fact is that it takes a lot of effort to stay up-to-date with the latest consent requirements. Many companies who lack the resources for a proper legal department fail to provide sufficient notices when prompting users of a change to their website.
Consequently, many social media companies have to settle privacy related lawsuits and pay charges due to a few legal missteps. These are normally seen as growing pains, which usually happen to most new businesses. But through these growing pains, the user is the one who suffers.
Myth 4: You Have the Right to Take Back All Your Information
This is a two way street. When someone posts information about the world, which includes you, you generally don’t have the right to that information, meaning you can’t demand that person delete the information. But if you post about others, that information is yours.
These rules are heavily enforced by the right to free speech. The information you produce is protected against the U.S. government and most other constitutions around the world.
But be cautious about what you post. If you publish other people’s public information, it will show up for the rest of your life. That can be a bit strange to have so much power over another person, even downright scary.
Myth 5: You Have the Right to Be Anonymous Online
If you opt in to online social networks, operators of these sites have the right to require you truthfully identity yourself and your public information. And it’s been vastly beneficial to the webhosts.
According to Facebook’s Marketing Director Randi Zuckerberg, “people behave a lot better when they have their real names down.” If you supply your fake name, then you breach contract terms and potentially violate computer interference laws, including the U.S. Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
So How Should We Practice Internet Sharing?
Less is more when it comes to your online life. If you contribute more information to a site than necessary, chances are you’re more at risk for online predators. If you post your whereabouts or post information about friends, be cautious of whether you’re making your information private to certain groups.
Also, sites like Facebook have come under scrutiny for scraping people’s private data and sharing it with advertisers. But there’s a happy medium. Sites like Sgrouples take privacy seriously. They offer all the functionality of the top social media sites while sharing your data privately with the people you love in order to trump those internet privacy issues.