Social networking sites can be defined as an online platform where people create their own profiles, share them with the public, and communicate with other users on the Internet. The increasing popularity of these sites affects our lives in many aspects and the most important one is the privacy issue. It can easily be observed that social networking sites are a real threat for the user’s personal privacy.
First of all, there are some threats arising from security vulnerability on social networking sites. Generally, users give a lot of personal information to become a member of these sites and it is easy to access this information for hackers and identity thieves. For example identity thieves who could gain very private information such as birth name and date, addresses, phone numbers and relationship status on social networking sites can verify themselves as being the profile owner. Therefore, they can access the users’ credit card number and steal their money easily. Moreover, identity thieves cause not only loss of money but also loss of personal respect and good name.
They can use the information to communicate with users’ other friends in order to obtain their information too. Rebecca Sweeny (2011) summarizes that users’ lack of awareness of sharing information helps hackers and identity thieves to steal their money and damage good names. (as cited in Acquisti& Gross, 2006) The second threat arising from security vulnerabilities is marketing companies’ accessibility to users’ information without permission. For instance, spamming the users with unsolicited advertising contents can be annoying in most cases. Furthermore, the companies sometimes obtain personal information and spread them with other companies and individuals in order to make advertisements more effective.
Secondly, people share very private information on social networking sites, as Nico Reiher(2009) mentions, “ If the receiver of the information is not trustworthy, the user does not have a chance to track or remove this information back into trustworthy hands.” causes some serious troubles. Firstly, people tend to announce where they are at that moment and what they are doing, therefore, they share real-time location based information on social networking sites. To illustrate, people who share their locations and especially notify others that they are not at home on social networking sites such as Foursquare, provide an opportunity to thieves to rob their houses. In addition, Facebook which is the most popular and preferred social networking sites, also enables people to share that much private information with the “check-in” application.
Secondly, sharing awkward and embarrassing information or political views on social networking sites lead to trouble in people’s social and professional lives. For example, some companies prefer to look to social networking sites in order to get information about prospective employees. According to SNAPR project team, “Even future employers,…, may be able to view your posted information and draw specific conclusion about you as an individual, which could have the negative effects. “ Moreover, disgraceful posts on users’ profile which can be seen also by instructors or bosses will cause loss of reputation in educational or business lives.
Those who are not in favor of this opinion seem to believe that social networking sites are safe and information is inaccessible for the public. They think that there are some restrictive privacy settings which allow users to specify who can see their information and profiles. Moreover, there are firewalls which help to prevent users’ information from hackers and identity thieves. Although it may be true to a certain extent, this claim is not strong enough, because these settings are not default without users’ knowledge. Generally, users are not fully informed about privacy issues and share all information without any restriction.
In addition, they are unaware of how much information they share to the public. There is not any explanation about the amount of the disseminative information. To sum up, the users’ unawareness of the privacy settings on social networking sites and their insensibility on this issue cause a lot of troubles. In addition, digital information’s easy accessibility and fast spreading also pose a danger for users’ privacy. In order to prevent people from these threats, improving the privacy settings and informing them completely should be the major precautions.
References Reiher, N.(2009). Privacy on social networking sites and its impact on computer-mediated communication. Retrieved April 9,2012, from
http://www.grin.com/en/e-book/154916/privacy- on-social-network-sites-and-its-impact-on-computer-mediated-communication SNAPR Methodology project team. Dear social networking user: Are you at risk? Retrieved April 9,2012, from socialrisk.weebly.com/index.html
Sweeny,R.(2011). Social networking sites; More harm than good? Retrieved April 9,2012, from http://networkconference.netstudies.org/2011/04/social-networking-sites-more-harm-than- good/