Privacy Intrusion by our social media

Posted 7 days ago

by amblessed

Have you noticed how some of the ads on the sites you visit seem to be a perfect match to your interests? Think that’s a coincidence? On the web it certainly isn’t, as advertisers would do just about anything the online environment allows them to do – even if it means breaking your online privacy – to develop new ways to promote products. And the easiest way for them to find out your likes and habits is keeping a close eye on your social media behavior.

There are several ways advertisers can invade your social media privacy, take advantage of your data and make you a target for their ads. Here are the most common ones:

Data Scraping.

It involves tracking people’s activities online and harvesting personal data and conversations from social media, job websites and online forums. Usually, research companies are the harvesters, and sell the compiled data to other companies. These, in turn, use these details to design targeted ad campaigns for their products. While one might argue that people are knowingly sharing personal details on social media and thus, it’s free for everyone’s use, data harvesters don’t ask for the owner’s consent. And this raises an ethics as well as an online privacy problem 

One strong case for serious online privacy violation took place in May 2011. Nielsen Co., a media-research company, was caught scraping every message off PatientsLikeMe's online forums, where people talk about their emotional problems – in what they think is a safe, private environment. As you can imagine a lot of people felt their web privacy was violated.

Facebook apps leaking personal data.

It has been reported several times that certain Facebook apps are leaking identifying information about those who are using them, to advertising and Internet tracking companies. And without the users having a clue!

Here’s how the “leakage” works: during the app’s installation process, you are prompted to accept certain terms, and once you click “Allow”, the application receives an “access token”. Some of the Facebook apps are leaking these access tokens to advertisers, granting them access to personal-profile data such as chat logs and photos. However, no disclaimer is showed announcing you your data is being transferred to third parties. Thus your online privacy and safety are put at risk

Online social tracking.

We all use the “Like”, “Tweet”, “+1”, and other buttons to share content with our friends. But these social widgets are also valuable tracking tools for social media websites. They work with cookies – small files stored on a computer that allow tracking the user across different sites – that social websites place in browsers when you create an account or log in, and together they allow the social websites to recognize you on any site that uses these widgets. Thus, your interests and online shopping behavior can be easily tracked, and your internet privacy rudely invaded.

And things get worse. Other social websites allow companies to place within ads cookies and beacons – pieces of software that can track you and gather information about what you are doing on a page. Note: these tracking tools are broadly used online but mostly on websites dedicated to children and teens, which raises a huge children’s online privacy concern.

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