An increasingly popular way of sharing information with family and friends, social networking sites like Facebook , Twitter, and Tumblr provide users with a way to keep in touch with people close to them. Users can share photographs and stories about their daily lives with just a mouse click. This highly convenient method of sharing information naturally attracts the eye of companies looking to advertise their products to potential customers. Furthermore, the information is also of interest to our governments, police, and criminals. Social networking sites contain vast amounts of personal information that, if extracted, can compromise the security and privacy of people who use these sites.
Social networking sites revolve around users posting information. Every post, every “tweet”, and every comment are all part of a system of information. “Data mining” is the process of gathering that information, so it can be manipulated in order to discover behavioral traits; for example, “people who buy product A usually buy product B” (Films On Demand). The user-generated content on social networking sites is a form of data.
When a user interacts on a social networking site by following a page, or by clicking on a link, it gives valuable insight into the interests of that user. For example, a user might follow the page of their favorite candy, drink, or music artist. Therefore, by comparing the data of one user’s interests to users with similar interests, advertisers can pitch you products that others like you frequently exhibit interest in (Films On Demand). The value of this data is seemingly incredible. According to Marichal, “Facebook took in roughly four billion dollars in advertising revenue in 2011” (153)...
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... the government? The answer to this question is not clear, and that fact in it of itself could be a cause of concern.
We have explored the value of data to corporations, governments, and criminals. And we have examined how the personal data of social network users all across the globe is potentially at a risk. Social networking sites still have potential privacy and security pitfalls that perhaps could be addressed with the concern they deserve. And if the public were better informed on how to use social networking sites with more care, it’s possible that sensitive data wouldn’t fall into the hands of people that data simply doesn’t belong to. But despite these concerns, social networking is a revolutionary step toward an age that may very well end up being defined by it. This is the age of social media, and when it comes down to it, that’s probably not a bad thing.
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