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Privacy in the Age of Social Media

Privacy in the Age of Social Media

Have you ever heard of the term “Web 2.0”?

If you haven’t, don’t be alarmed - it’s a relatively uncommon term to use, just because it’s everywhere. Web 2.0 refers to websites that put a lot of focus on user-generated content, rather than just the host or the author of the site uploading their content for an audience without space for feedback or conversation with their fellow audience members.

This is the structure that the biggest websites today operate on: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram thrive on user generated content. But here’s the thing about user-generated sites: not all users are alike, and the interconnectedness of these sites mean that a lot of bad issues can come with it. Social media has become the face of Web 2.0, and that raises a lot of questions.

One of these is the question of privacy - is anything ever really private online?

Is your life public?

One of the biggest issues about social media is that privacy is only as good as the intention of the person using it. Given the very nature of social media as something that’s highly visible to your friends and the public, it may be rather silly to think that there’s any privacy at all.

This part of social media is left completely up to the discretion of the user to control - and there are plenty of privacy controls that can help them limit who gains access to their content. In effect, this moves a large part of the responsibility of privacy to the user - what can you do in order to make sure that what you want to put out there is what you want out there?

But there is an even deeper level of privacy to this entire process: the information that you put in the hands of the platform’s controllers. This has been the continual issue with social media - that despite the users having control over the information that they put on these websites, the nature of their interactions with the site can have far-reaching effects that they themselves may not be aware about.

User’s browsing habits and preferences are often recorded while on social media sites, with the most information sold to the highest bidder. This process is largely what makes targeted advertising so effective once you’re using social media - by just using it, you’re already giving away information.

Here’s the thing: most of the time, you aren’t asked for your permission before this information is given. And most users aren’t aware of this fact until it becomes too apparent, and the platform that they use has their entire life - both online and offline, stored within its servers. And with other users there with less-than-good intentions, it makes for a scary landscape when it comes to internet privacy.

What can you do?

In one word: awareness. There will always be threats, and there will always be a small measure of anonymity we must give up when using social media - it’s part of the deal. But taking steps to prevent other users, outside corporations, and even the administrators of the social media site itself can give you some peace of mind about your privacy.

Make sure the sites are safe and reliable. Brush up on your typical knowledge of terms and conditions. Being careful about what you post also goes a long way into securing your data and information.

Your life may be public, but you can always choose who gets the most out of it.

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