In so many ways, social media has revolutionised how we interact with each other; from communicating with friends to connecting with new employers. Many would argue this new world of interacting is beneficial to society, but there are ever-increasing dangers that come with technological advances. The rate at which such advances are developing is unprecedented in human history, bringing with it gaps in security of personal information and online safety.
The amount of risks to individuals from improper use of social media is vast, but here are 5 dangers that should not be overlooked:
Disclosure of personal information
For years, social media and network sites have asked us to publicly display our personal data, such as date of birth, home address etc. For many, the realisation this practice is detrimental to the user has come too late; with social media sites making billions of dollars trading their personal data. This practice has made the job of identity thieves far easier, with the number of identity thefts due to online activity increasing year on year.
Included under this heading, yet often overlooked, is geotagging. Having location services enabled on a smartphone and taking a photograph digitally stamps that image with your GPS location. So, if you are taking pictures of your children in your home and posting it on social media, not only are you showing the world the face of your child, but you are telling everybody where you live.
Phishing emails and malware
These emails are designed to get a reaction out of you, encouraging you to click or reply to the sender. The result could be a number of things, but common outcomes are loss of earnings, downloading malware onto your device or identity theft.
Short for malicious software, clicking or following unknown or untrusted links may result in you inadvertently downloading malware on your device. Recent cases include Ransomware and Wannacry. Malware can have very costly and damaging repercussions on both standalone devices or all devices linked to an infected network.
For years, extremists have looked to recruit new followers by utilising the power of the internet. This allows direct access from one side of the world straight into someone’s bedroom, without drawing attention to the activity.
Social media is being used as a research platform, gifting extremist groups the tools to identify and properly target vulnerable people and radicalising them, often leaving friends and loved ones unaware. In recent years, exposure to extremist propaganda has resulted in devastating consequences in the UK.
Loss of employment or prosecution from comments
Once something has been posted on to social media, it is then accessible to the world, so care should be taken when posting or sharing comments. Comments posted on to social media platforms, which go against the interests of an employer, could result in termination of a contract as an employer will, understandably, wish to distance themselves from negative public attention.
For those who are currently in between jobs, or have no care for their employer, bear in mind, your comments will remain online, regardless of your efforts to delete them. This may, therefore, affect any future job applications.
In recent years, many of these cases have made their way into national media. Have a look at some examples from ‘The Guardian’:
Trolling and going viral
Written words and photographs can easily be taken out of context and the original meaning, even if one of humour, may be misinterpreted. Glancing at any major media outlet will soon reveal a story regarding an apparently harmless image or comment causing offence to people halfway across the world (see ‘The Guardian’ link above).
Not everything about having an online presence is doom and gloom; there are ways to protect yourself against the dangers of social media and social networking.