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 Security And Privacy Issues Related To Social Media

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Question:

Discuss about the Security and Privacy Issues Related to Social Media.
 
 

Answer:

Overview of Social Media

Social media refers to technologies that enable the creation and distribution of ideas, information, interests etc. via networks and virtual forums (Obar & Wildman, 2015). Popular and modern social media platforms include Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, WhatsApp, Tumblr, Skype, Pinterest and more. Facebook has over 2 billion active users worldwide, followed by YouTube with 1.5 billion users, WhatsApp follows with 1.2 billion, Twitter has over 328 million and Skype over 300 million users (Statista, 2018). Users normally access social media services through web technologies on laptops, desktop, tablets and smartphones computers.  With social networking sites, users have the ability to create and upload personal profiles. Additionally, modern business have social media accounts where they market products and services and engage with existing and potential customers.  Social media platforms typically center on individuals and connecting with other people and developing one on one virtual relationships with friends, family and business stakeholders.  When engaging with social media, users create highly interactive platforms where individual members, online forums, organizations, communities can create, share, discuss posted content.

Technologies and Applications used with Social Media 

Technological innovations and applications play an integral roles in social media platforms and applications require technology to be executed (Berthon, Pitt, Plangger, & Shapiro, 2012). Technologies used with social media include the following:

  1. The Internet: Social media cannot exist without the Internet as it is the main enabler for social media sites.  Users only access social networking sites only when they have an Internet connection. As a result, the major technology for social media then becomes the Internet.   
  2. Access Devices: social media access requires that users have the right devices including cellular phones, desktops, laptops and tablets. Without the right device and an Internet connectivity, there would be no access to social media.
  • Web and Mobile Applications:  in the past social media platforms were accessed through web applications such as facebook.comor www.twitter.com.  Such web applications are still in use to help users access their profiles. However, today users can access social media using mobile apps. Social media platforms have therefore created mobile apps for users to access social media services on the go.

Challenges of Social Media Technology Security and Privacy 

The advent of social has totally disrupted interactions and communication with friends, family and business partners. It has fostered instant and dynamic communication channels.  However, there are issues with security and privacy when it comes to social media including the following:

Data Privacy and Anonymity Issues

Many social media platforms models that do not provide users with enough protection and privacy.  . The models require users to allow access to their profile information and associate that with the user identity.  For example, Facebook in general requires  that a user  agrees  to give its  application access to his/her profile through  API’s which is essentially a way of tying a user until they give access to their account   identity (Hekkala, Vayrynen, & Wiander, 2012).  Others like ‘WhozThat’ allow Bluetooth pairing when devices are in close proximity and user data and information can be snooped or eavesdropped over a wireless channel although there are relatively weak provisions of encryption.  Just this month, April 2018, Facebook was dealing with user data privacy scandal. Over 30 million   Facebook user’s data was collected and sold to Analytica, a political consulting firm (Banerjea, 2018).  Facebook has since claimed that the company were not aware of the issue.  This just shows that user data may not be secure out there on social media sites which is a great challenge for users across the globe. 

 

Unauthorized/ Illegal Access

Another challenge with social media is unauthorized access by hackers or any other attackers. There have been many reports of user accounts hacked into and used to perpetrate criminal attacks. Hackers also intrude social accounts to post content that account users would otherwise not post. Even when users secure their accounts with passwords, hackers can still access them. These security issues mainly have a tremendous negative impact on individuals and entire virtual societies.

Eavesdropping, Replay, Spoofing and Wormhole Attacks

It is possible to intercept a user’s social account in peer to peer networks to replay and spoof an attack.  In such an attack, an intruder can pretend to be the original user by forwarding (replaying) the diverted ID to devices that will request the ID from the user.   Another replay attack is the wormhole attack where wireless packets are apprehended on one end of a network and replayed on another (Aaron, Mike, & Richard, 2007).

Discussion 

Social has brought a lot of benefits for users around the world. Users are now able to make instant connections with their families, friends and family. Social has thus enabled quick and reliable communications channels. With regard to businesses, social media has enabled businesses to increase their web presence on the web and perform targeted social media marketing. But, social media has also played negative role for the society. It has been by criminals to attack innocent users including luring them to send money or involve them in dangerous relationships. Hackers have illegally accessed people’s user’s accounts for malicious activities.  Although social media is an emerging technology, it would be important to study and examine its usage in order to ensure user privacy and security.  In regard to data security, users can

  1. Incorporate and use strong passwords containing more than 8 letters, numbers and special characters which makes it very difficult for users to guess even with the help of password guesser’s applications.  
  2. Additionally, users can also implement two factor authentication to ensure strong security measures for their accounts.  The deeper problem lies on the issue of data privacy with questions on whether social media platform providers are implementing the right mechanisms and procedures to secure user data.

Research Gap 

Social media is still a new and developing technology. As a result, its usage, applications, warnings, and other features are still very new to many users (Robert, 2011). However, it is progressively expanding as there’s so much interest by people across the globe because of its facilitation to reach many people instantly, snare and connect with just anyone.  Not much has been done regarding social media user data privacy otherwise Facebook should not have released people’s data without their permission. Additionally, it is not easy to distinguish credible and fake information that comes through social media (National Academy of Sciences, 2013). Research is not yet carried out to users can send credible information on the channel.  As such, there are no applications or practical ways to evaluate information credibility and reliability since anyone can post anything they want.   It is also not clear yet, the effective strategies that people should take when unreliable information proliferates social media

Future Research Directions 

The report identifies some research gaps with social media security and privacy including implementing user privacy. It is therefore to carry out research on how user data is protected and made confidential on social platforms. How does a user know whether his or her information is used by the social media company or not? Further research should be done on how   users can apply applications and strategies to help them distinguish between real and fake information that runs through social media.   

 

References 

Aaron, B., Mike, G., & Richard, H. (2007). Solutions to Security and Privacy Issues in Mobile Social Networking. Retrieved from https://www.cs.colorado.edu/~rhan/Papers/smw09_solutions_security_privacy.pdf

Banerjea, S. (2018, April 11). Facebook Roundup: The Privacy Issue. Retrieved from https://www.zacks.com: https://www.zacks.com/stock/news/298853/facebook-roundup-the-privacy-issue

Berthon, P. R., Pitt, L. F., Plangger, K., & Shapiro, D. (2012). Marketing meets Web 2.0, social media and creative cosnsumers: Implivations for International marketeing strategies. 

Hekkala, R., Vayrynen, K., & Wiander, T. (2012). INFORMATION SECURITY CHALLENGES OF SOCIAL MEDIA FOR COMPANIES. ECIS 2012 Proceedings paper 56, (pp. 3-5).

National Academy of Sciences. (2013). PUBLIC RESPONSE TO ALERTS AND WARNINGS USING SOCIAL MEDIA: REPORT OF A WORKSHOP ON CURRENT. Retrieved from https://www.nap.edu/read/15853/chapter/1#ii

Obar, J., & Wildman, S. (2015). Social media definition and the governance challenge: An introduction to the special issue. 

Robert, S. (2011, May 25). Social Media Privacy and Personal Security Issues. Retrieved from www.huffingtonpost.com: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-siciliano/social-media-privacy-and_b_245857.html

Statista. (2018). Global social media ranking 2017 - Statistics . Retrieved from Most popular social networks worldwide as of April 2018, ranked by number of active users (in millions): https://www.statista.com/statistics/272014/global-social-networks-ranked-by-number-of-users/

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