Social media has limited personal security


Hope Newell

What if one day, just one day, no one went on Facebook or Twitter, Snapchat or Instagram? Not only would we be safer on the roadways and in the hallways, the risks of online security threats would be eliminated. Being online means being unsafe each time we post a status and leave our location attached, or ‘check-in’ on Facebook. In the past several months, more and more people have become victims of social media security breaches, and many are starting to learn just how dangerous they can be. People are putting themselves at risk each time they open up a social media app. However, there are ways to maintain our privacy and protect ourselves from the dangers of social networking.

According to a survey on, over 25% of people with Facebook accounts don’t bother to put up privacy settings. That means as many as 125 million people have no protection for their Facebook account, where all their information is visible. In 2014, nothing is secret anymore. People share information about themselves, their families, and their personal information. People even go as far as posting pictures of their credit cards.

In a recent Forbes article, the author talks about how unreliable social media protection is. The author told about how police officers dressed as robbers had ‘robbed’ a bank after getting all the information from a bank teller’s unprotected Facebook account, to prove just how easy it was to get information from a Facebook page that someone didn’t protect. They left a note for her telling her that they had her husband as well, because they were able to access his account, which wasn’t protected either, from her own.

Most people are not aware of how much they are sharing. To raise awareness of social media security, Jackvalefilms made up a social media prank that showed how easy it is to obtain your personal information just from your social media account. He searched for posts on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook near his location. Then he would find the person and start telling them information about themselves, like pet names, workplaces, birthdays, foods they ate, family members names, and even places they’ve been. Of course the people were unnerved, and one person even threatened to call the police. In the end, he revealed just how easy it is to find your location and information.

Turning on privacy settings can reduce the risks but even those who protect themselves can still be in danger. How many people check off the Terms and Conditions for social media sites without even reading them?  They are long and boring contracts, so people just accept and move on. They are made this way on purpose. By clicking agree, people are agreeing to a number of conditions they are not aware of and often times agreeing to letting Facebook take and use their information.

In February, Time reported that, “Facebook keeps a running log of your movements across a vast number of websites for 90 days, whether you are logged into the service or not. The company uses cookies to log data such as the date, time, URL, and your IP address whenever you visit a site that has a Facebook plug-in, such as a “Like” button.” When people are on Facebook and one of the random advertisements that pop up match up to the last search they did on their phone, it’s because Facebook software peeked into their phone’s internet history and took data to help make Facebook better for them.

Basically, by downloading the messenger app, and signing off on the Terms of Use by pushing the “I agreed” button, Facebook reserves the right to take phone numbers from someone’s phone and make calls to promote new changes to their app and website. Another fine print in the Facebook Terms of Use, in the app, users will soon have the option to make payments to friends, coworkers, or family. If the app is just that, an app, to communicate to friends, Facebook should not need to have the option to write payments to only one other person at a time. People put their credit card information, as well as their trust, in an app that may or may not be taking that information for themselves.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and many other social media websites are also targets for the hackers, and many wonder which site will be next. Without protection to our accounts, no one’s information will be safe. Facebook messenger poses security issues that many are unaware of. Each time someone opens the app to talk with their friends, a screenshot of the person holding the device gets taken, and uploaded to the server where anyone can reach it. According to a recent article by E News, in the Terms Of Use, Facebook reserves the right to do several things through your cell phone. They reported that the Facebook Terms of Use, “allows the app to call phone numbers without your intervention. This may result in unexpected charges or calls. Malicious apps may cost you money by making calls without your confirmation.”

Along with the privacy issues on Facebook Messenger, social media apps have been hacked posing even more threats to users. Snapchat recently released a statement saying that as many as 200,000 sensitive photos may have been leaked. Back in January, over five million Snapchat accounts were leaked by a third party hacking service. But are the owners of Snapchat to blame? In a recent press interview, Snapchat said, “We can confirm that Snapchat’s servers were never breached and were not the source of these leaks.”

They also go on to state that, ”Snapchatters were victimized by their use of third party apps to send and receive snaps, a practice that we expressly prohibit in our Terms of Use precisely because they compromise our users security.” Could both the users and the owners of Snapchat be to blame? Surely, the owners would have the money and power to disable any third party apps that could harm the app itself, but the users of Snapchat could also follow the Terms of Use.

Celebrities all over are getting their social media accounts hacked as well. Stars such as Jennifer Lawrence, Rihanna, and Gabrielle Union have had their personal accounts hacked and personal photos of themselves leaked. It’s not just the social media accounts of celebrities that are being hacked, either. iCloud of several celebrities have been hacked, and images, text messages, and even contacts have been leaked.  No one seems to be safe enough to be out of reach of hackers, and everyone is in danger of having their electronic devices tapped into, and images, or any other personal items leaked.

People wonder if social media will ever be truly safe to use without the fear of hackers, and only time will tell. Facebook now offers ‘anonymous’ chat rooms as well. With a large portion of the accounts on Facebook kids in middle and high school, the anonymous chat would make it easier for people to get away with cyberbullying. The anonymous chat rooms are supposed to be available to only those 18 or older, but most of the kids on Facebook put false ages.

Though the app doesn’t ask for any personal information, you have to scan a specific code with your phone’s camera, but the code is interchangeable, and any user can use the code. If something happened during the chat, perhaps a case of stalking, law enforcement or Facebook won’t be able to find out who it was if the code can be shared with just about anyone. But the codes made chat rooms “safe.”

Facebook has a lot of thinking to do before it chooses to put any more features in. We must consider the consequences if something should go wrong. If a sixth grader, not even 12, puts their age as 18 when creating an account, and logs on to the chat. It’s not like Facebook will have people scan an ID to see what their age is, or ask them provide a birth certificate. No one will be safe with the ‘anonymous’ chat room. People will still stalk others, and still harass others online.

People need to finally realize that the world will always be the way it is, and start to protect themselves. People are worried about having their personal information known by the world, so why personally let it be known by forgetting to put up privacy settings? If the hacker is good enough, people’s phone information as well as their location is known. Protect yourself, set up privacy settings and limit the amount of information you share.