Privacy is becoming one of our main concern when we are using Social Media, but are we truly aware of the privacy we have when we use them?

The different Levels of PrivacySM_keyhole_flat

In social media we have to differentiate the clients and the users, and most of the users ignore the client side of the social media they are using. They are focusing on the privacy settings that they are offered, but these settings don’t include anything concerning the Clients and are only focusing on the settings between users. So what about the privacy “settings” that we don’t see as a user of Social Media?

Privacy between users
When we write on social media we are aware of the privacy settings that we have between Users. Let’s take Facebook as an example: The default setting of Facebook is now “friends” which mean that the information we put on Facebook under this setting will only be visible by our friends. The two other major options will be “Public” and “me only”. As a social media most of the people on Facebook are writing under the default setting “friends” to keep more or less security and control of their information as they know the receivers.

But people have more and more friends on Facebook and they can’t control if their information are republished publicly by their friends. The only secure setting then is “me only” ,but the social media loose all its interest if people don’t share anything.


Privacy of Users from the clients.
On the client side, things gets more interesting and more complicated. As I said in the introduction, users are usually not aware of the information they give to the clients of social media as they don’t have any contact with them. As the social media themselves don’t give any possibility to change privacy settings engaging clients, users tend to forget about it.

   – Facebook 

Facebook states that it will share personally identifiable information about its users with partners, advertisers, and developers. What does that mean? Basically, anyone who wishes to advertise, develop an app, or partner with Facebook will have access to all of Facebook’s users’ information.
Information Facebook give to companies are not just overall data as most people would think they are, but they are identifiable to the user which means that users have no privacy at all concerning the third parties.

   – Twitter

Twitter states that it reserves the right to sell all of its users’ information or to transfer all of the data during a bankruptcy, sale, merger, or acquisition of the company. During such an event all the information of the users will then be public to anyone willing to acquire it.


Lack of privacy in Social Media and internet as a tool for Businesses.

With the privacy settings of Facebook for example, companies can see precisely their target with all the personal information that we share and the likes and comment we make.
Advertisers on these sites have become so sophisticated that they’re able to target your interests more accurately, not only on what you post and “Like,” but also on the websites that you visit when you’re not even connected to the social network.

We can agree that their is different levels and meaning to the word “privacy”. What people consider being their privacy differs from one to an other, for example :

Data collected by advertisement companies through the cookies left by the user computer can be considered as a privacy issue for some of us, others will think it is not an issue as long as it is not associated to their name.
But we can see that most of the social media are actually sharing data that are associated with the name of the user.

This is considered as a privacy issue for most of the user, so how can it be that social medias that apply these rules are successful?

How does Social Media hide this Privacy aspect?
These information are usually unclear and difficult to find on the social media’s interface, well hidden in the huge terms and conditions that the user have to agree to before registering. The social medias are trying to make the users forget about this privacy aspect by concentrating on the privacy between users.
Also social media are trying to blur the line between advertisement-purposed features and user-purposed features. For example now we read way too often this statement from social media and software in general: “help us improving your user experience”. software and social media websites ask the user to give more and more information about themselves and they justify it by hiding behind this statement, and make people forget that they actually need it for advertisement or to resell directly this information to companies.

Beyond all the privacy policies that the social media have we also have to consider the threats of cyber attacks on the users profile and media in general that nobody can be protected from. This lead me to the conclusion that nothing can be guaranteed private on the internet and social media users should constantly have this in mind when they are writing under their name.


Pierre Bérot-Inard – NEW MEDIA VIVES – University College Kortrijk – 2014-2015