Why social media privacy setting are a waste of time

Social media sites: they are private, right? There are lots of privacy settings; so whatever I post is safe and secure and can only be seen by people I choose. Right?


Social media sites are not private. So if you wouldn’t want your mum (or your boss) to see something, then don’t post it on a social media site.

First of all, are you sure you have your privacy settings set in a way you want them? Or are you just trusting the default settings?

While the majority of people do alter their security settings, around 40% of people have either public or only partially private settings.  And while Facebook is making efforts to increase the ability of users to tweak their privacy settings the very fact that they are having to do this shows that there is a problem. And if you don’t have your privacy settings the way you want them, the chances are you are sharing information you don’t want to.

But difficulty choosing the right privacy setting is not the only problem. Another problem involves who you choose to share with.

The average Facebook user has 338 Facebook “friends”.  And yet, according to researchers at Oxford University, the average person has fewer than 10 close friends. So that’s about 330 people on Facebook most people can’t be sure they can trust. (Even if you are sure you can trust your real friends…) Sharing only with Facebook friends doesn’t guarantee that those Facebook “friends” won’t share your embarrassing posts with the wider community.

And using ephemeral sites like Snapchat doesn’t necessarily lessen the risk.  Those ephemeral photos may well be stored deep in the recipient’s phone, and in any case it is a simple matter to take a screenshot of them or even just tap them to store them for future use.

The potential lack of privacy doesn’t end there. The risk of a social media account being hacked is considerable, especially when poor passwords are used. And if that happens then who knows where those embarrassing posts will end up! And finally of course you are trusting that the platform itself won’t get hacked or share information by mistake.

The wrong privacy settings. Friends you can’t trust. Ephemeral content that really exists for ever. Accounts getting hacked. Websites releasing your information by mistake. All in all, social media platforms are not guaranteed to preserve your privacy.

And as that is the case, then you should make sure that you could never be ashamed of anything you post.


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