Information Technology and Ethics/Social Media Data Collection

Online social networking has touched billions of people since the late 2000s, with the number growing every year.[1] In 2016, approximately 79% of all Internet users in the United States use Facebook.[2] Internet users often use more than one social networking website, adding up to hundreds of millions of users of people on social media. As Internet usage grows, this number is expected to grow.

Among the social networks to be discussed in this chapter, none require a user to pay in order to join.[3] This is a common model among many social networks, where a paywall would be a barrier towards expanding the network. Due to such massive user bases these social networking websites have accumulated, the potential for advertising to those users based on their connections and preferences on the sites is great. The user data is often viewed as a product that can be sold, towards advertisers and others who can use it for purposes that will be described.

The collection of data brings up ethical issues around privacy and what an online community really means, as data monetization is often central to the business model of the company building the social network. Privacy is often non-existent on social media, as even if the user’s particular content is protected from unauthorized outsiders, the company still has the ability to monitor and analyze a user’s activity on the site.[4] As a social media company gains more sophistication in breaking down segments of users, it may become possible to target users with very specific interests.

This chapter will discuss what data collection does take place, how data collected on social media is used, and the implications such data collection can have (privacy and others) on society.

Social networks’ data collection and internal usage edit

Just about every social network collects data on its users. This section discusses what each social network collects about its users, and how the social network uses the data for its own product.

Facebook edit

Facebook is among the most largest collectors of data, being the largest social network in the world. Since it was started in 2004, its capabilities at collecting data about users have gotten extremely sophisticated. Facebook collects lots of data from users interacting on the site. In cases where it does not have enough data from users, it also purchases other data, such as income and shopping preferences, from large companies.[5] All the information combined helps to build a comprehensive profile of the user. This profile helps to target ads in an extremely specific manner. ProPublica analyzed the “categories of interest” that Facebook users can have, and found over “52,000 unique attributes … used to classify users”.[6] For an average user, it can be difficult to unlink themselves from the third party data due to the huge number of providers used.

Facebook itself collects lots of data on a user as they interact with the site. This involves tracking what posts or pages a user has liked, what posts they have commented on, and other post interactions.[5] With photo tagging, Facebook can build up a facial recognition database as users are encouraged to tag their friends in photos. It uses this database to automatically highlight faces that should be tagged, with a recommendation of whose face it is. Facebook profiles have become quite complex, with many different data points a user can add themselves.[7] As sharing is incentivized on the site, users reveal lots of personal information. While on other websites, Facebook can still track browsing history via various embedded widgets that site providers can add. All this data can be sold to advertisers in the form of ad targeting.[5]

The private data for around 530 million Facebook users is leaked on an online forum in April 2021: A wealth of data related to over 530 million Facebook users was openly uploaded to an online hacker forum in April 2021. The stolen information appears to have been obtained from Facebook in 2019 when a group of hackers exploited a flaw in Facebook's contact importer. People could easily discover people on Facebook back then by entering phone numbers into a contact importer. Hackers used this program to scrape users' personal data in breach of Facebook's terms of service. The majority of the scraped data was associated with users' contact information, with only 2.5 million email addresses collected. Facebook resolved the flaw by September 2019. They chose not to notify the 530 million users whose personal information had been scraped. In an internal document, Facebook characterized the case as a data scraping issue that social media companies must deal with: "We expect more scraping incidents and believe it's important to both frame this as a broad industry issue and normalize the fact that this activity occurs on a regular basis." As a result of this event, Meta was fined €265 by Ireland's Data Protection Commission in November 2022 for breaking the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This came after Instagram was fined €405 million for privacy infringement in September 2022[8].

In the words of Alon Gal, CTO of cybercrime intelligence firm Hudson Rock, threat actors are suspected to have used a now-patched weakness in Facebook's "Add Friend" feature in 2019 to acquire access to members' contact information. It's unclear whether this purported flaw enabled an adverse performer to extract all of the details contained in the disclosed data or simply the phone quantity, which was then paired with information scraped from public profiles. Following the original sale of the data for $30,000, another threat actor developed a personal Telegram bot that allowed other hackers to pay to look through the Facebook data[9]..

Twitter edit

Similarly to Facebook, Twitter also collects lots of data on users, for advertising among other purposes. However, Twitter has a very simplistic profile so most of the data which Twitter collects comes from engagement with tweets. All links within a tweet go thru Twitter’s own URL shortener, which is also used to track how many times the link was clicked on, among other metrics.[10] Like Facebook, it also has a form of liking, sharing, and commenting, with favorites/hearts, retweets, and replies (respectively). All such interactions are tracked by Twitter and displayed. As Twitter is generally more public than other social networks, it is easy to discover what other users are discussing. Brands may take advantage of this to offer proactive customer support. Finally, similar to Facebook, Twitter has its own Tweet button that can be embedded on other sites. Visiting the site will inform Twitter of the user’s browsing history at that site.[11]

The database of almost 200 million Twitter users becomes public in January 2023: Hackers disclosed an unprecedented quantity of information about Twitter users, including over 200 million unique identities and email addresses. Worryingly, the database is open for download, putting millions of people's security in danger.[12] This openly available information contains 63GB of data about Twitter users. Unlike the previous Twitter leak, which was reported in late December, the freshly leaked information is completely open to the public and may be downloaded by anyone. According to forum listings analyzed by security researchers, the trove of hacked details also contains Twitter users' identities, account handles, follower numbers, and the dates the accounts were formed.[13] According to some reports, the number of compromised accounts might be as large as 400 million, but after deleting duplicates, the final figure looks to be about 210 million. It does contain information on a number of highly publicized accounts, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Donald Trump Jr., and Mark Cuban.[14] The material has been made available in a RAR bundle containing six text files totaling 59 GB in size. According to Cyber Security Hub, the hacker is said to have obtained the data in 2021 by using a "data scraping technique" and a now-patched weakness in Twitter's software.[15] The Twitter data was most likely obtained by threat actors exploiting system weaknesses to gather user information at scale, a method referred to as 'scraping.' The Twitter data could have been collected through an application programming interface (API) vulnerability, according to Alon Gal, Co-Founder and CTO of Hudson Rock."The data is becoming more probable to be valid, and it was most likely obtained through an API vulnerability that allowed the threat actor to query any email/phone number and retrieve a Twitter profile."[16]

Google Plus edit

Google Plus is Google’s own social network, which was launched in 2011 and is now integrated into many different Google products, providing additional information about Google users. It is not a very popular social network compared to Facebook, Twitter, and others, but it has similar features to Facebook. Data collected on Google Plus could be used to influence ads on other Google products.[17][18]

As of April 2nd, 2019, the consumer version of Google+ was shut down due to lack of usage and consumer engagement. It was created to be a competitor to Facebook and Twitter and offered integration to Google apps such as Gmail, Drive, Maps and Calendar. According to Google themselves, almost 90% of all Google+ user interactions took place in less than 5 seconds. Not only did Google+ not hold their users’ attention, security vulnerabilities were also discovered in their Google+ People APIs[19]. The bug exposed nearly 500,000 accounts, and information such as names, addresses and occupation were available. It was later discovered that Google hid this bug for months. Google patched the issue in March of 2018 but only disclosed it in October 2018, a total of seven months later.

Another issue pushed the planned shutdown of Google+ from August 2019 to April 2019. Yet another security flaw was found in Google’s API, and this time affected another 52.5 million users, and that includes Google+ enterprise users. After these two security breaches, it was clear that Google+ needed drastic changes. More power was granted to consumers regarding what information should be shared with apps, fewer apps will have access to Gmail data, and contact data would no longer be available through Android Contacts API.

Like many social networking platforms, Google+ offers the ability to download any data the service collected on you. Applications such as Google+ Exporter were created as well as Google Takeout[20]. Information that should be downloaded include Google+ +1s, Google+ Circles, Google+ Communities, Google+ Stream, Profile, Hangouts and Hangouts on Air. That leaves the enterprise version of Google+. Rebranded to Google Currents shortly after the collapse of Google+ for consumer users, Currents was designed to give employees a platform to share ideas and communicate on. However, even that service too will soon be shut down and replaced by a product named Google Spaces in 2023. Google Currents will begin its shut down process on July 5th, 2023, and should complete this process on August 8th, 2023[21]. Google Currents was designed as a competitor to Slack and Discord. However, Google Currents is not widely used by companies and that may be part of the reason why Google is planning on shutting it down and replacing it with Google Spaces.

Google lacks products that, once created, stay for a while or have widespread community support. Products such as YouTube, Gmail, and Drive are among the most popular Google products[22]. However, many more products created have entered the aptly-named Google Graveyard. Products such as Google Stadia, the Google Street View phone application, YouTube Originals, Google Hangouts, Google Surveys, Google Chrome Apps, Google Duo and Google Cardboard. Among the first products to be killed was Google Answers, an online knowledge sharing community. Among the most active years for Google product deactivation was in 2019 with 37 products axed[23]. Next was 2021 with 32 killed products. It appears that the most active years for Google product deactivation was in the past 5 years. Compared to 2006, Google only killed 4 products and kept it in the single digits for the next four years. The massive product killing of 2019 may be due to Google trying out new cost saving policies such as slowing down hiring and focusing on more machines and data centers[24].

YouTube edit

Another Google social network (though in a different sense) is YouTube, the premium platform for hosting videos online. YouTube collects data and displays what is trending and popular based off what the majority of the population is watching. The key draw of YouTube is that a user can find information on any topic. Topics range from news programs, cooking shows, how-to tutorials and much more. There are two main areas of focus that YouTube's analytics collects data on:[25]

First, YouTube automatically collects standard channel metrics which consists of collecting a number of channel pageviews, subscribers, friends, channel comments.[26] Along with that, a user's data is also collected from each video that the user uploads. The data collected consists of views, number of comments, video responses, a rating and the times the video was marked as a favorite.

LinkedIn edit

LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional networking platform. Unlike the focus of other social networks, its primary goal is to make professional connections between professionals around the world, while providing an efficient and informative tool at the user’s fingertips. LinkedIn gathers quite a lot of information to provide their service, and users are often rewarded when supplying information.

From the moment a user creates an account, all the personal information is collected from an individual’s profile, such as job title, education, skills, memberships, affiliations and much more. Consistently adding more and more information enables the user to benefit more from the services provided to showcase a user’s professional presence.[27] Other than continuously improving the user’s experience with other professional on the Linkedin. They also gather the user’s data to continuously improve service development and customize the user's experience. For example, one of LinkedIn's features welcomes the user with newly added members and companies that the user may be interested to follow.[27]

Scraped data from 500 million LinkedIn users have been sold online, and 2 million records have been leaked as evidence: A cache containing data supposedly scraped from 500 million LinkedIn accounts has been listed for sale on a famous hacker forum, with the leaking of an additional two million records as evidence of concept example. The four disclosed files include data on the LinkedIn users whose data the threat actor allegedly scraped, such as their full names, email addresses, phone numbers, workplace information, and more. Although members on the hacker site can access the leaked samples for around $2 in forum credits, the threat actor appears to be auctioning off the far bigger 500 million user database for at least a four-digit figure, most likely in bitcoin.[28]

TikTok edit

TikTok collects a lot of user information such as names, ages, phone numbers, emails, birthdays, location, device type, internet activity, videos watched and commented on, keyboard rhythms, and contact lists. TikTok uses this data to personalize content, target ads, and recommend videos. TikTok only shares user information with third parties if legally required to do so. TikTok does not collect any personal data from children under 13 years old. [29]

TikTok uses the data it collects to personalize content, target ads, and recommend videos. TikTok can gather information when you arrive on the site even if you aren’t signed up, via cookies and other trackers. Once you’ve created an account, the social network collects data about your activities and preferences based on the videos you watch. TikTok knows the device you are using, your location, IP address, search history, the content of your messages, what you’re viewing and for how long. It also collects device identifiers to track your interactions with advertisers. TikTok infers factors such as your age range, gender and interests based on the information it has about you.[30][31]

TikTok no longer allows users to opt out of personalized ads using data from the platform itself. However, there is still an option to limit data from advertising partners and other parties. If you opt out of third-party data collection, advertisers can only use data from TikTok. [32][33]

The United States is trying to ban TikTok because of national security concerns that the app could be used by the Chinese government to spy on American users, access their data, or spread propaganda. The Trump administration issued an executive order to ban TikTok and WeChat in September 2020, but it was blocked by a federal judge. TikTok filed a lawsuit against the president and the case is expected to go forward in 2023. The Biden administration has also threatened to ban TikTok if it doesn't sell its US operations to a US-based company. The US government has not provided any new evidence or arguments for banning TikTok, which is alleged to have ties to the Chinese Communist Party and pose a threat to national security. TikTok's US operations could be managed by Oracle and Walmart, but they would not take ownership of the company. TikTok has also faced bans or censorship in other countries like India, Indonesia, and Bangladesh over concerns about pornography or political content. [34][35][36][37][38][39]

Countries that have banned or partially banned TikTok:

  • Afghanistan - banned TikTok to protect youth from being misled
  • Australia - banned from government devices
  • Belgium - Temporarily banned from government devices for six months based on warnings from their cybersecurity center
  • Canada - banned from government devices
  • Denmark - banned from military devices
  • EU - banned from staff devices
  • France - Some social media apps like tiktok, instagram and twitter banned
  • India - banned TikTok and Chinese-made WeChat
  • Latvia - banned for foreign ministry devices
  • Netherlands - banned from employee phones
  • New Zealand - banned from lawmakers’ devices
  • Norway - banned from government devices
  • Pakistan - Temporarily banned more than four times
  • Taiwan - Public sector ban, government devices not allowed to use any Chinese-made software
  • United Kingdom - banned from government devices as a precautionary move, personal device use is permitted.
  • United States - Banned from government devices, recent controversy in the courts may make a nationwide ban imminent.

[40]

Instagram edit

Instagram allows you to create and share your images, tales, reels, and videos with the friends and followers you value using the application (from Meta). Connect with friends, tell them what you're doing, or check what's new around the globe. Discover our community and feel free to be yourself here, sharing everything from your daily experiences to the high points of your life. Users can publish content on Instagram, such as photos, videos, comments, and other types of data. Instagram allows users to communicate socially by leaving comments, likes, or other messages on another user's content. Direct communications and "disappearing" texts are two examples of these exchanges. According to Instagram's conditions, the company gathers a wide range of personal data from users as well as their friends and connections. According to Instagram's rules, they apply "commercially reasonable safeguards" to assist protect the customer data they gather via the service. Additionally, the terms specify that Instagram will remove user information as soon as practicable if they discover they have gathered personal data from a kid under the age of 13 without parental consent. In addition to being accessible via its website, Instagram may be downloaded from the iOS App Store, Google Play Store, and Amazon Appstore. The websites of Instagram, the iOS App Store, the Google Play Store, and the Amazon Appstore all contain the Privacy Policy and Terms of Use that were consulted for this study. Platform Polict is another policy that was employed for this review. Prior to a user using the application or service, only policies that have been made publicly available are considered in this evaluation. [41]

  • What does Instagram Collect? [42]
  • What is the privacy policy of Instagram? [43]
  • How To Prevent Instagram from Tracking Every Action You Take? [44]
  • How to Disable Annoying Instagram Ads? [45]

Recent Data Breach of Instagram - As in the year May 2019 Instagram, a photo-sharing service owned by Facebook. According to TechCrunch, millions of Instagram influencers, celebrities, and brand accounts' personal information was discovered online on an unencrypted server. Anurag Sen, a security researcher, claimed that the database included over 49 million records that were accessible to everyone online when the leak was first found and reported to TechCrunch. The exposed information includes user bios, profile pictures, follower counts, city and country of residence, and contact details like the phone number and email address of Instagram account owners. Anurag claimed the compromised database belonged to the Mumbai-based social media marketing company Chtrbox. Chtrbox reported that the database was taken offline and that the event warranted further investigation. Facebook commented on the security breach by saying, "We're investigating the situation to understand if the data described—including email and phone numbers—was from Instagram or from other sources. Additionally, we're asking Chtrbox questions to learn how the data was made public and where it came from. [46]

Online, a sizable database run by a third-party business was founded in May 2019. This information was made public as a result of an inadequately guarded Amazon Web Services server managed by Chtrbox, a business that compensated influencers for sponsored postings. Without a password, it was able to access the data because it wasn't encrypted. Personal contact information, such as email addresses and phone numbers linked to accounts, as well as account information like follower counts, locations, and more were contained in the records. The data also included information on the accounts' projected value. Since the company dealt with sponsored posts, it used statistics on reach, follower counts, engagement rates, and other factors to estimate how much each account would be worth, effectively giving the profiles a monetary value. It's vital to remember that the initial data leak claims indicated that a startling 49 million records were exposed. Chtrbox refuted the claim, claiming that the incident only had the potential to affect 350,000 influencers. It's not entirely clear how many people were impacted. [47]

79% of your personal data on Instagram is shared with outside parties as claimed by pCloud. [48]

Instagram, a social networking platform owned by Meta, was fined €405 million by the Irish Data Protection Commission for breaking the General Data Protection Regulation. The charge, which is the third that the Irish regulator has imposed on a Meta-owned firm, is the second-highest fine imposed under the GDPR after a €746 million penalty against Amazon.[49]

Other social media edit

There are many social networks today that help people interact with each other in the web. Many of these sites allow users to post, stream, and share their daily lives. Many of this information is collected and stored within sites' databases and may not be deleted. One of the more recent social networks is Snapchat, which has become very popular over the past few years. Snapchat is a free mobile app that allows users to instantly share photos and video with their friends online. Snapchat is known for letting users post short video updates as well as giving the users the security that their information posted will be deleted, therefore granting users more privacy. However, recently there has been many changes within the company and much of the information that the users share within this app are being used for commercial purposes. Snapchat can know a great deal about users — name, current location, their friends, and when they message them.[50] This is a lot of information that is being stored about each one of its users. In today’s society some find it hard not to be a part of an online community even though that means providing information about oneself to social media sites and third parties.

The Cost of Social Media edit

Most social media platforms are advertised as free services. This is true in the sense that there is no monetary requirement to access and use the platform. However, the consumer is still paying a price in the form of their data and privacy. They are leveraging their information as a commodity for payment to gain access to the system or goods.[51] Privacy is included here since social media is considered a part of the public sphere. With regards to privacy in a legal manner, an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy is diminished when information, even of a personal nature, is provided in a public setting or becomes inherently public.[52] How much the user is actually paying is difficult to determine, since it will change from person to person based on how much they value the data that is being collected and their privacy.

Cost of Information (Data) edit

The value of the data itself is established relatively clearly as it is more tied to monetary values. A user will not knowingly give up their data unless they feel they are receiving proper compensation. Most of the time if they believe it has monetary value, they will consider it intellectual property and take legal actions to copyright or patent it. What pictures they liked or news articles they shared do not fall into this category as the user sees no inherent value in it for themselves. These small pieces of data are combined into big data pools, which then becomes a lucrative business for the companies that collect, process, and/or sell it. This can be seen with Facebook's 2018 revenue of $16.9 billion, with profits listed at $6.9 billion.[53]

When it comes to the digital world, there's a phrase that goes, "If you're not paying for a product, then you are a product." The implication is that a lot of the services we use on a daily basis, including Facebook, Google, Twitter, Twitch, etc., profit on selling our personal information to marketers. There is a lot of truth in that statement, though there is arguably one important qualification: personal data is useful to subscription service providers as well as businesses that offer free services. For a variety of reasons, businesses, platforms, and criminals all place a high value on your personal data. Data is fundamentally a resource. Our three groups—platforms, companies, and criminals—use that resource in this instance in distinctly different ways. [54]

  • Platforms - Companies that allow users to create their own content, like Twitter, LinkedIn, or YouTube, use data as a negotiating tool to back their ad sales. Due to the daily support of millions of people, these platforms are able to limit the audience that a business can reach depending on the advertising budget. And the economy is flourishing. As a result of giving marketers access to their 700 million+ members in 2020 [55], LinkedIn Marketing Solutions generated more than $3 billion in revenue. In the same period, YouTube earned $6.9 billion in advertising income.[56]
  • Companies - Companies are willing to spend billions on advertising because compiled data sets help to clarify where to spend those funds. For the correct message to reach the right audience at the right time, the appropriate data can determine personal preferences, affiliations, sexual orientations, family dynamics, politics, and more. Data offers businesses the chance to gain a deeper understanding of audience needs, wants, and pain points and, more precisely, how they can modify their products, services, and messaging to better address those demands.
  • Criminals - Blackmail, identity theft, and extortion are just a few of the reasons criminals steal personal information, but the most popular is to sell that information to anyone willing to pay. Other criminals, criminal gangs, data brokers, and even foreign governments are frequently among these buyers. Thieves frequently sell data points like home addresses for a lot less money than a platform or other data broker because theft has no control, no accountability, and low overhead.

As of May 2021, you can pay $65 (or its cryptocurrency equivalent) to access a compromised Facebook account[57], $100 to view the whole US voter database, or $610 to access a compromised Coinbase verified account. In contrast, a brand might place an $89 value on your personal email address if they're protecting it with more reputable methods.[58]

It's important to note that healthcare records have proven to be particularly valuable for data thieves since they frequently contain a more thorough collection of the patient's name, background, and personal identifying information (PII). A comprehensive healthcare record often sells for $250, compared to $0.53 for a single social security number.[59] For criminals, a dataset's potential worth increases with its completeness. Healthcare breaches grew by 55% in 2020 as a result.[60]

Cost of Privacy edit

It is generally agreed that some personal information is of high importance and needs to be safeguarded from the public sphere. This type of information is labeled as nonpublic personal information (NPI) and refers to confidential and sensitive information, such as financial or medical records.[61] There are numerous regulations in place to protect this type of information, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).[62] Information that is neither confidential or sensitive, such as what type of car you drive or where you work, is considered public personal information (PPI).[61] This refers to information that is publically available and does not receive the same type of regulatory oversight. When PPI is not protected it could lead to privacy failures for the users. As early as “2000 the combination of ZIP code, date of birth, and gender was enough to identify 87% of the US population.”[63] Even if the companies remove a person's immediate personal information from the information, it is still possible for third parties to identify who the data came from. There were 53,308 cyber security incidents with 2,216 data breaches in 2018 alone.[64] As recently as 2018 saw Facebook get breached exposing 50 million users.[65] It is safe to assume that it is not a matter of if, but when another breach will occur. Without regulations ensuring that information is properly protected, it is logical to conclude that you are also paying with your information privacy when you use social media.

Data usage and exploitation edit

Every day, companies collect data from individuals. This data is stored within many of these companies’ databases. The data collected helps many of these companies to make a profile of each and one of its consumers. These practices are also known as data mining. Data mining involves the indirect gathering of personal information through an analysis of implicit patterns discoverable in data.[66] Collecting data from consumers may not be always negative, however. Some of the information collected ensures companies can provide better customer service as well as keep customer preferences for future purchases. Despite the use of data may help create a better service, it also hurts the users’ privacy. Consumers data is important and therefore worth a lot of money. Such data is now a $300 billion per year industry and employs 3 million people in the United States alone, according to the McKinsey Global Institute.[67] The collection of this data through social media helps target an audience for people to sell their products.

Personal edit

Social networks constitute an immense measure of customer "big data." The average global internet user burns through over two hours day by day via web-based social/networking media, and their movement uncovers an extraordinary arrangement about what makes them tick.

Some insight on how data collected by various social networks can be used to find out information about individuals:

  • Facebook gathers 63 unique bits of information for its API, more than any other social media. So much substance is shared on Facebook, Facebook can give an insight into what individuals think about. Facebook's "like" catch is squeezed 2.7 billion times each day over the web.[68]
  • Twenty-two percent of LinkedIn clients have between 500-999 first-degree connections on the social media, and 19% have between 301-499. The information is making another method for understanding recruitment and retention. Recruiters would judge on an individual’s profile and reaches out to them if impressed by the profile.[68]
  • Twitter is handling 143,199 tweets for every second globally. These tweets give a real-time insight into the news and data that individuals think about. Fifty-two percent of Twitter users in the U.S. consume news on the site (more than the percent who do as such on Facebook), as indicated by Pew Research information.[68]
  • Pinterest: Several thousands pictures are stuck to individual pages (called pinboards) on Pinterest consistently. They speak to a unique insight into a large number of retailers/shoppers aspiration. Over 17% of all pinboards are arranged under "Home," while about 12% fall under "Style/Fashion." What's more, 80% of pins on Pinterest are repins, so pictures of items have a long time frame of realistic usability, long after the underlying pin.[68]

Currently, social media make noteworthy interests in giving this information a use. On the off chance that they accomplish a firmer grasp on clients' connections, interests, and ways of managing money, organizations will have the capacity to give their clients customized products, and advertisers will have the capacity to hyper-target users.

Academic edit

Students in this generation are heavily exposed to digital technologies and the Internet. The extensive use of the Internet and social media has the potential to offer new types of educational settings. The use of social media in higher education is essential as the use of these tools and technologies have been part and parcel of student’s lifestyles. LinkedIn has a feature or a product within itself called LinkedIn Learning, where an individual can learn the most in demand business and technical skills.[69]

The web is filled with intellectual journals and databases that help students maneuver through the information that is needed. Many of this information are also obtained through search engines such as Google and Bing. Social media gives a vast expanse of information to its users and as a result there are students that can learn from the information that is shared. There are some teachers that use social media in order for students to communicate with one another and learn from the articles from the web. In different countries where there is a lack of education due to poverty, many of the students use social media in order to supplement for their education.

Commercial edit

The biggest sources of information these days are Google and large social networks, especially Facebook. In such mediums there are, at times, direct contact to customers. “We’re living in a world where businesses and important life opportunities are being decided based on this amalgamated data,” according to Pam Dixon of the World Privacy Forum.[70] This data can be utilized to customize promotions as indicated by the attributes, conditions and inclinations of every person, particularly when the advertisements are conveyed specifically on the web. Presently, with the advancement of portable applications that track a client's area continuously, the promotions can even be adjusted to the beneficiary's present area. Therefore they are also with this information they are able to execute digital marketing successfully based on geography.

Another ideal example with the current scenario is the sensitive data or the private data being used as a marketing icon or an element. They tend to use such data to make predictions on consumer’s buying behaviors. To land at the prediction, the data required is numerous and eventually the marketing strategy would involve taking not just the basic information (name, email) of a customer but also the more private data such as their family status, type of car or the card they own, and type of shopping/shopping habits. This various information is traded by the automobile industries, credit agencies and so on.

Governmental edit

Somewhat untimely and idealistic, however government pioneers and organizations are progressively saddling the forces of web-based social networking to both interface with people in general and extract information.

Instances where social media were used to connect with government for example:

  • The U.K. police set up a devoted online networking team to guarantee the security of the 2012 London Olympic Games.[71]
  • Amid the 2012 U.S. presidential race, Twitter built up a fresh out of the new political examination device called the Twindex, which gaged online discussions and conclusion around Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.[72]

These days social media is used as a real time two way communication between the government and the public, almost making sure everyone gets the chance to voice their opinions.

Effects On Behavior / Privacy edit

While data collection has many positive uses and effects, there are also many negative effects, such as those described here.

Chilling effect edit

This phenomenon called the ‘chilling effect’ has a strong connection to the American First Amendment. A connection, in the sense that this effect holds back the user from free speech. A common theme found across social networking services has been that a user presents their digital persona based off their audience’s expectations.[73] Most of the time a user’s audience consists of a diverse group of individuals.

One of the results a user finds themselves in is a ‘context collapse’. This scenario consists of a SNS user categorizing their audiences into a single group and thus aim all their postings and activity aimed at the standards of the single group.

Another result a user finds themselves can be explained through the concept impression management. A study done in 2015 by Lang and Barton, “found that 84% of users have experience been tagged in an undesirable photograph and subsequently taken defensive actions such as untagging”.[73] This result tends to lean more towards the negative aspect since it projects the user’s actions when discovering an undesired image or self presentation. The immediate action of untagging oneself is a negative aspect since the user is adjusting their behavior due to audience’s standards or expectations.

Leaving social media edit

Once a posting has been made on a social networking, it’s a very hard task to delete a message or a post. Knowing that a post or message can be easily reshared and reposted to others makes the possibility of erasing a post very difficult. The rule of thumb on the Internet is that once something is posted to the Internet, it can no longer be deleted for sure.[74] The story of this lesson is to think before someone posts anything on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. in the first place.

The entire concept of leaving a social media platform is slightly tricky to begin with. Taking Facebook for example, while a user can easily delete individual posts and message pretty easily, that however does not apply to an individual account. When it comes to deactivating an account, it simply takes a user’s data, centralizes it and makes it invisible to the public. This data can be public and viewed whenever a user decides to reactivate their account. Completely deleting a profile on Facebook is a different approach, the user has to visit the delete page. At first, the account will only be deactivated for the following two weeks and as long as the user has not been detected with being active. The frustrating aspect is that users typically have Facebook or other media platforms active on multiple devices.[74] So if a user automatically syncs in on one of those devices or via browser cache, that deleting process of an account will be unsuccessful.

Addiction edit

Social media can be very addicting for some people. Social media addiction is a behavioral addiction that is characterized by being overly concerned about social media, driven by an uncontrollable urge to log on to or use social media, and devoting so much time and effort to social media that it impairs other important life areas. Social media addiction can affect someone’s mental health and result in physical problems, such as sleep problems. One of the reasons why social media is so addicting is that it triggers the release of dopamine in the brain, which is a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. Whenever we engage in a rewarding experience on social media, such as getting likes, comments, or followers, our brain tells us to repeat that behavior to get more dopamine. However, this also creates a tolerance and a dependence on social media, making us less able to experience pleasure from other sources.  Another reason why social media is addicting is that it satisfies our need for social connection. We are wired to connect with others and feel a sense of belonging. Social media allows us to interact with people from all over the world and share our thoughts and feelings. However, social media can also create a false sense of intimacy and validation, making us crave more attention and approval from others. Social media can also expose us to negative or harmful content, such as cyberbullying, misinformation, or unrealistic comparisons.

Psychological Manipulation and Behavioral Tracking edit

Social media platforms employ manipulative psychology and behavioral tracking strategies to affect users' actions, choices, and activities. These methods are frequently used to boost user interaction, lengthen the time spent on a platform, and promote particular actions like liking, sharing, and buying. However, they may also be detrimental to users' independence, judgment, and well-being.

Psychological manipulation is the use of psychological tactics to affect people's feelings, beliefs, and behaviors without the subject's knowledge or agreement. To keep users hooked and interested, social media sites may use a variety of psychological manipulation strategies. For example:

1. Social media platforms frequently employ emotional triggers, such as notifications, likes, and remarks, to produce positive feedback loops that pique users' feelings and keep them coming back for more. Users may become addicted to these emotional responses and develop addictive behaviors as a result. They may also feel validated or connected to other users, which may keep them active on the site.

2. Using persuading design elements, where social media networks employ design elements like limitless scrolling, auto playing videos, and gamification strategies to persuade users to keep scrolling, clicking, and interacting with content. These design features are intended to be captivating and addictive, making it challenging for consumers to stop using the site.

3. To deliver tailored information and recommendations, social media sites employ sophisticated algorithms that monitor users' actions, interests, and preferences. These algorithms produce "filter bubbles," where users are only exposed to information that confirms their own opinions and preferences. This reinforces biases and prevents users from being exposed to a range of viewpoints.

4. Social networking sites encourage social comparison by displaying the seemingly flawless lives, successes, and experiences of others. Users may feel inadequate and experience fear of missing out (FOMO), which may cause them to compare themselves to others and seek social approval through likes, comments, and shares.

Contrarily, behavioral monitoring entails gathering and analyzing users' online activities and interactions in order to learn more about their preferences, interests, and routines. Social media networks gather a lot of information on users to create thorough profiles of them for targeted advertising and content personalization, including browsing history, search queries, likes, shares, and comments. Users' behavior can be affected in a variety of ways by using this data, which is frequently acquired without their express agreement.

1. The delivery of targeted adverts on social media platforms is based on the browsing histories, interests, and digital activities of individuals. These advertisements frequently aim to be extremely pertinent and customized, which increases their ability to affect users' purchase choices and behavior.

2. Utilizing behavioral monitoring, social media sites filter information and suggestions based on the behaviors and interactions of users in the past. By exposing people to content that supports their preexisting interests and opinions, can lead to filter bubbles, which reinforce the echo chambers and restrict exposure to different viewpoints.

3. Social networking sites might utilize behavioral tracking to skew users' perceptions of the site. For instance, they might give preference to particular material or messages in order to affect consumers' actions and keep them interested in extended periods of time.

4. On the basis of users' online actions, interests, and preferences, social networking platforms may use behavioral monitoring to create psychological profiles of those users. In order to target messaging and manipulate users, these profiles can be utilized to understand users' personality traits, emotional states, and vulnerabilities.

Utilizing behavioral tracking in conjunction with psychological manipulation can produce a potent feedback loop that keeps users active on social media platforms, encouraging addictive behaviors, influencing choices, and possibly having an adverse effect on users' mental health and well-being. [75] [76] [77]

Impact On Real-Life Relationships edit

Social media's deleterious effects on real-world connections can take many different forms and have an adverse impact on both individuals and communities. Following are some comprehensive explanations of how social media's detrimental impacts have an impact on actual relationships:

1. Reduced Interaction Quality: Social media sites frequently promote brief and superficial communication, such as through emojis, likes, and short messages. As people grow accustomed to rapid and impersonal contact, this may result in a decline in the quality of communication in real-life relationships. As a result, meaningful dialogues and emotional ties may be replaced by impersonal interactions, which may have an impact on the depth and closeness of relationships.

2. Decreased Face-to-Face Interactions: People who spend a lot of time on social media may be more likely to interact online than in person, which can result in a reduction in direct contact. This can result in a deterioration in social abilities as well as in the capacity to recognize and understand nonverbal signs, all of which are crucial for establishing and sustaining positive relationships.

3. Comparison and Envy: Social networking platforms can promote a culture of comparison, in which people assess their own lives against the carefully crafted and frequently erroneous representations of others on these platforms. This can cause feelings of inferiority, envy, and low confidence, which can harm relationships in the actual world. Comparisons can damage relationships because they can cause jealousy, competitiveness, and a sense of discontent with one's own life or relationships.

4. Privacy Concerns: Social media sites frequently gather and distribute personal data, which can cause privacy issues and weaken trust in relationships. Due to worries about privacy violations or potentially harmful effects, people may feel uneasy posting personal information or participating in open conversations on social media. The need to self-censor or suppress personal information, can cause relationships to lack authenticity and closeness.

It's critical to remember that, despite the potential for social media to have detrimental effects on real-life relationships, there are other effective ways to connect, communicate, and improve connections. It all comes down to how people use and manage their social media habits, and keeping positive and healthy relationships with others requires being aware of the potential harm that it may cause to actual relationships. [78] [79] [80]

Surveillance and Government Monitoring edit

Privacy rights can be violated by government surveillance and social media platform monitoring. The gathering and analysis of user data, such as browsing histories, social media content, and personal information, can result in privacy invasions and the tracking of people's online activities. This may make people feel as though their privacy has been violated, which may inhibit their ability to express themselves freely and their online activity.

Concerns regarding the possibility of government abuse of power may arise from the government's monitoring of social media sites. This includes the potential for government organizations to utilize user data improperly for political or discriminatory ends, to target certain people or groups, or to conduct surveillance without the necessary monitoring or accountability. The rights of individuals and civil liberties may be violated as a result of such abuses.

Individuals' freedom of expression may be hampered by knowledge or perception of government monitoring and surveillance on social media sites. For fear of being watched or singled out by governmental agencies, users may refrain from expressing their ideas, carrying out specific actions, or taking part in online discussions. This may restrict the range of opinions and viewpoints on social media and impede the unrestricted flow of information.

Users' confidence in social media platforms and their capacity to protect their privacy may decline as a result of awareness of government monitoring and spying on those networks. User engagement and participation on social media platforms may suffer as a result of a fall in user confidence and trust. Additionally, it may cause users to self-censor their online behavior or stop using social media sites altogether.[81] [82] [83]

Editors edit

Illinois Institute of Technology ITMM 485 Spring 2017

Eric Tendian, Consuelo Huerta, Preethi Thesinghraja, Shefali Varma

Illinois Institute of Technology - ITMM 485 and ITMM 585 Spring 2023

Pranav Panat, Tirupati Paik, Kshiragna Challagundla, Jacob Holtz, Lucien Talavera

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