While there has been much coverage on traditional media platforms about the seriousness, or lack of, of social media sites regarding the data security and privacy of millions of users, a lot of people are still committing the same old mistakes that have either compromised their privacy or placed their personal information at great risk.
Yesterday, it was revealed how Facebook handed over phone numbers of millions of users to advertisers without obtaining clear consent and also enabled a feature on its web platform that allowed anyone to look up people's profiles using phone numbers.
Such misuse of people's confidential information by social media firms either to earn money through targeted advertisements or to improve the ease of usage of their apps and websites have often been red-flagged and widely reported by newspapers, news websites, and other traditional media outlets. This has certainly improved people's understanding of how social media firms work, how they shape their business models, and why the onus of protecting one's privacy rests squarely on the individual and not on social media firms for whom data is the biggest currency.
Awareness about data privacy has improved, but more remains to be done...
New research by Malwarebytes revealed that as many as 87% of social media users across the globe are no longer confident sharing personal data online and just 12% of all users trust social media to protect their data, signifying that people are now much more cautious about what they share and where they do so.
A survey carried out by the firm found that while 94% of people refrain from sharing personal data on social media, 93% use security software, 90% run software updates on their devices regularly, and 86% verify the websites they visit before making purchases.
Despite such progress, Malwarebytes found that there are still a large number of social media users across the globe (26%) who are still not sure about what permissions they have granted to the apps they use. As many as 29% of people are also re-using the same password across multiple social media sites, thereby rendering themselves vulnerable to credential-stuffing attacks.
At the same time, the survey found that over 66% of social media users do not read End User License Agreements or other consent forms before signing up to social media platforms or other online services.
What this reveals is that while people are now better educated about how their privacy could be at risk, there are still a lot of people on social media who need to be educated about how to protect their data online and how to decide what permissions they should give to certain apps and websites.
"The astounding number of breaches that have been taking place since 2017 and the billions of data stolen, leaked, and bartered in the digital underground market—not to mention the seemingly endless number of opportunities governments, institutions, and individuals can spy and harvest data on people—can either (1) make any internet user with a modicum of interest in preserving one’s privacy to completely live off the internet grid or (2) completely change the way one sees privacy, their data, the companies on how they treat , and act on this new perception. The former wouldn’t happen. At least not for most of us any time soon. The latter is more doable, and the change of behaviour, in some cases, is almost instant," noted Malwarebytes.
"With this current privacy climate, it is not enough for internet users to do the heavy lifting. Regulators play a part, and businesses would have to act quickly if not fully revolve to the pressure of guaranteeing that the data they collect from users are what is reasonably needed to keep services going, securing the data they handle and store, and ensuring that users are informed of changes to what data they collect and how they are used.
"At this point in time, there is no real way to have complete privacy and anonymity when online. It’s a pipe dream anyway. Perhaps the best we can hope for is a society where businesses of all sizes have reverted to the original way they view people. They’re no longer a collection of entries with names, addresses, and contact numbers in a huge database. Customers are customers once again, who are always on the lookout for products and services to meet their needs.
"The privacy advocate mantle would then be taken upon by Centennials and “Alphas” (or iGeneration), the first age group entirely born within the 21stcentury and considered the most technologically infused of us lot. For those who wish to conduct future studies on privacy like this, it would be really, really interesting to see how Alphas Centennials would react to a free box of pizza in exchange for their mother’s maiden name," it added.