Is Social Media Bad For My Privacy and Security?March 11, 2022 / My Data Removal Staff
Social media and privacy have been at odds almost since the creation of social media. Because privacy and the rights of users to control their data diminishes the platform’s ability to monetize your data, privacy has always been something social media platforms hate. Is using social media worth the trade-offs in decreased privacy and security? Most people don’t seriously consider what it is they are giving away or sacrificing when they use social media.
Is social media bad for your privacy and security?
You probably already know the answer to this: Yes. However, this is a simplistic answer. Like most things, the real answer is, it depends.
It can be helpful to think through the business model of social media companies. A social media company, like Facebook, makes money by selling you to advertisers. Advertisers pay money to Facebook, and Facebook shows you their ads when you are on their platform. Facebook makes more money the more you engage with their platform, so they make staying on their site as enticing as possible. This is the same for LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and all other major players in the social media space. You are the product for these social media companies.
Social media can be bad for privacy since it is built around sharing. These companies exploit people’s natural desire to share intimate details of their lives and capitalize on that sharing. Not only is your data shared with your friends and other users, but with partner companies as well. Social media can be bad for security because someone can use all the information you put out there against you. They can use what you post to understand who you are and target you with a specific scam. They can use what you post to determine where you are at and what you are doing and take action against you. There are countless ways an adversary can use what you do on social media against you.
Your experience on social media is what you make it. If you ratchet down your privacy and security settings, you can essentially limit what of your information is shared and companies’ ability to monetize you and your data. If they can’t share your data, or much of your data, you are better off from a security and privacy standpoint. But if you aren’t on social media at all, they won’t have any data about you.
To delete or not delete
When considering the best approach for your online privacy and security in regards to social media, some people decide that deleting their accounts completely is the best option. Deletion is certainly the easiest option. However, for most people, deleting accounts is not an easy choice to come to. Consider your answers to the following questions to help you weigh the pros and cons of having accounts with social media companies:
How much do you get from your social media accounts? What do they give you? Do you get more utility or satisfaction than the money the platform gets from advertisers whose ads you see?
Is there a better way to stay in touch with your connections? Do you really need to stay in touch with all of your connections?
Are you okay throwing away all of the effort that went into building the network you have online?
There are a lot of legitimately useful things you can do well or best on social media: Facebook marketplace, reach all of your contacts at once, see what others are up to, run a page for your business, or look and apply for jobs on LinkedIn.
Ultimately, you need to think through the pros and cons of your social media accounts and make this choice for yourself.
If you choose to delete, go for it. It makes the process of keeping your online privacy and security in check much easier. Otherwise, the rest of this article will give you suggestions that will help you be intentional with your social media use so that it serves you, not the other way around.
Update your security settings to the extreme
If you haven’t, you should lock down your privacy and security settings in each account. In general, this will limit what of your data is shared by the platform, what others can see (for example, connections versus anyone), and what types of ads you will be shown.
You can also consider changing your email, phone number, login information, and who can view your profile, to help your accounts be more secure. You can also add multi-factor authentication to add an additional level of security.
Review social media usage to be in-line with privacy goals
Social media platforms push you to engage more and share more. The more you share and the more time you spend on their platform, the more money they make. Their incentives are opposite a privacy-conscientious person. It would be helpful to have a plan that will help you resist the algorithms that social media companies use to push you to increase engagement on their platform.
Make a plan – What types of things will you post? What types of things will you not post? Will you post or consume only on certain devices, or at certain times, or in certain places?
What new services or activities can replace what you used to do on social media?
- Use Signal or another secure messaging platform instead of messenger
- Use Craigslist, Freecycle, or other buy/sell pages instead of FB marketplace
- Network instead of LinkedIn for job search
- Read books instead of scrolling for entertainment
- Meet up with friends instead of spending time online
- What else?
Try migrating some of your time spent on social media to other more privacy-friendly platforms.
Deleting your social media accounts is a big step, and isn’t right for everyone. Even if you think you want to, it might make sense to lock down your accounts and sit on it for a while before making a final decision.
Finally, consider who benefits the most from your social media usage. Is it you? Is it your friends? Or is it the platform? Take the time to consider the pros and cons of what social media can offer you. Be intentional with how you use it and always keep in mind your privacy and security. This way, you are in control of its influence and effect on your life, and not vice versa.