Many people believe the Internet is private. If they only know how wrong they are.
Since the creation of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Myspace, the concern with privacy has been on the rise. Many users are beginning to realize that the information they put online is perhaps not as secure as they first thought.
The majority of Americans do not read the privacy policies of all websites they utilize, despiting checking the “Agree to Terms and Data Policy” box because the task of reading the Terms is tedious. Yet, people do not realize the impact these policies would later have on their online privacy when they click the ‘Agree’ button and find themselves tunnelling down the rabbit hole called social media.
Users of Facebook, for example, do not realize the site uses their names, profile pictures, and information to sell advertisements on their pages without giving users any compensation. According to Kashmir Hill of Forbes, the platform can gather more information on a user even when the user is offline by accessing data from applications and websites the user frequents.
Hill wrote, “On smartphones, any apps that… have Facebook likes in their apps will send information back to Facebook for advertising purposes. If the Open Table app…has a Facebook log-in, and you are looking at Mexican restaurants all the time, you’ll start seeing ads for chips and salsa on Facebook….In exchange for giving advertisers a dubious measurement of how effective their Facebook ads are, Facebook gets to invisibly track users around the Web.” Even after advertisers stop using Facebook, the social giant continues to track its users by using the “code” provided by advertisers.
This shows how little privacy you have on the Internet despite being able to “private” your account on multiple platforms. Every time you like a page, “instant message” a friend, or upload a new profile picture, you expose more of yourself.
Another privacy concern has emerged with the growth of Internet users in the last ten years: the issue of catfishes. In short, the term describes people online who pretend to be someone they are not, usually to get someone to fall in love with them.
According to DailyMail.com, 25 year old Ruth Palmer had 1,000 photos of herself and personal information stolen by an anonymous user who used the photos to set up fake social media accounts. Anonymous used Palmer’s information for roughly three years under the name of Leah Palmer and fooled several men.
After finding out about her catfish, Palmer quickly contacted the men involved. Two men were shocked to hear that the person they were texting, exchanging emails with, and talking to on the phone for years was not real. However, it was hard not to be fooled because the catfish set up fake accounts pretending to be Leah’s mother and friends, even using their real information, to make ‘Leah’ appear more realistic.
According to local British paper, the Brighton Argus, Palmer commented that she felt “ violated and completely invaded” by the revelation that someone was stealing her life on the Internet.
She had always believed that she was careful with her social media accounts. However, she later admitted that for a period of time on Instagram, her profile was briefly public.
When Palmer managed to get Leah’s profiles removed from Twitter and Instagram, the anonymous user created more ‘Leah Palmer’ profiles to replace them.
Sadly, Palmer’s story is not an isolated case. All over the world people are having their identities stolen, privacy invaded and used by strangers with screens for faces. This is not only damaging to the victims of identity theft but also to people who are being tricked.
People believe they have privacy behind closed doors of their homes but the moment they turn on their electronic devices and enter their social media platforms, it is quite a different story.
You never know who is watching.