**Updated July 24, 2019**
If you’re not on social media you’re in the minority. According to the Pew Research Center, 69 percent of U.S. adults have at least one social media account – and the most popular network, Facebook, is used by 68 percent of the adult population. We aren’t just using social media to connect with others and entertain ourselves; in fact, more than two-thirds of Americans rely on it as a news source.
Speaking of the news, you’re probably aware of the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica data scandal. In March 2018, it was revealed that the information of 87 million Facebook users was harvested through third-party apps and exploited to influence political elections. Less than a month later, the company acknowledged that “malicious actors” took advantage of search tools to collect information on most of its 2 billion users around the world. Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, testified before congress shortly thereafter to answer for their data privacy problems.
Security Breakdown on Social Sites = High-Risk of Exposing Personal Information
Unfortunately, the problems haven’t stopped there. On May 14, 2018, news broke of another major Facebook data breach after it was discovered that data from more than 3 million users was left exposed online and unsecured for four years. People who took the myPersonality quiz app had their data captured and put on a website for academic researchers and commercial companies to access.
However, there were insufficient security measures in place and anyone who wanted to could download what typically would be a protected dataset. Essentially anyone could view the psychological profile of each user who took the quiz. They could also see 22 million status updates from over 150,000 users, and details such as age, gender, and relationship status. According to the study’s creators, Facebook was aware of the myPersonality project as early as 2011.
Facebook isn’t the only social media giant to have experienced a recent data breach or blunder. Also in May, Twitter announced a bug that allowed users’ passwords to be stored unmasked. The company urged users to change their passwords and enable two-factor authentication. We don’t know how many Twitter users may have been impacted, or the duration of the bug, but the urgency with which they broke the news gives the impression it was significant. Approximately one in four U.S. adults use Twitter.
** On July 24, 2019, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) imposed a record-breaking $5 billion penalty on Facebook to settle charges that the company deceived users about their ability to control the privacy of their personal information. The settlement also institutes new restrictions on Facebook’s business operations and a modified corporate structure to warrant executives accountable for decisions made on user privacy. Also on July 24, the FTC announced it had filed suit against Cambridge Analytica and reached a settlement with related parties that places conditions on how they conduct business in the future. Cambridge Analytica filed for bankruptcy on May 17, 2018.
The More Engaged We Are, The Greater Our Exposure
Social media is so well established now, that its growth has slowed in terms of percentages – but that doesn’t mean the numbers are any less staggering. And, the amount of data that we share across these networks is enormous. According to the We Are Social Global Digital Report 2018, Brandwatch, VPN Geeks, and Statista:
- The average internet user spends one-third of their waking lives using internet-powered devices Tweet This!
- There are approximately 3.2 billion social media users in 2018, out of 4.2 billion internet users worldwide Tweet This!
- 57 percent of social content sharing takes place on Facebook Tweet This!
- Facebook adds 500,000 new users a day, or 6 new profiles every second Tweet This!
- Snapchat stories are viewed 10 billion times a day Tweet This!
- 500 million Tweets are sent each day Tweet This!
These weren’t the first, and certainly won’t be the last, headlines breaking around social media data breaches – but there is a lesson to be learned.
Staying Safe from Social Threats
It’s undeniable that we, as a society, share too much about ourselves online without thinking of the potential consequences. Entrusting sites like Facebook to protect Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is a risk, yet many of us share enough about ourselves for hackers, cybercriminals, and identity thieves to do us harm. And, once your information is out there, it no longer belongs to you.
IdentityForce recognized the growing risk of identity theft from social media over the past several years, as studies have shown that nearly two in three U.S. adults have been victims of social hacking. Furthermore, our members reinforced the need for protection with an overwhelming number of requests for a tool to monitor their accounts. In November 2017, we launched our Social Media Identity Monitoring (SMIM) Suite to help safeguard our members’ Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram accounts.
Our social media accounts, if not protected, can serve as a gateway for cybercriminals to steal personal information, leading to identity theft and financial loss. At home, at work, and on-the-go, we are transmitting data and PII via social media. Protect yourself, your family, and your employees today by getting started with a Free Trial.