Prior to the ironically privacy-focused F8, Facebook admitted that it “unintentionally uploaded” 1.5 million people’s email contacts without their consent. And earlier this spring, yet another Facebook data breach occurred: More than half a billion Facebook records were left exposed on Amazon’s cloud computer servers, open and available for public perusing – and for theft.
This probably doesn’t shock you – in fact, recent data indicates that it doesn’t. ID Experts® conducted a survey on consumer sentiments toward social media and privacy and found an interesting paradox. Although more than three-quarters of adults believe that their security is at risk on social media, that doesn’t prevent 63% from logging on to Facebook every day, 42% from browsing YouTube and 29% from checking Instagram.
At first glance, this certainly seems like strange behavior. We wouldn’t continue paying rent in a building that experienced constant break-in and theft; why do we continue using services that repeatedly fail to prevent data breach and data theft? And why does news that the service has experienced yet another breach leave us completely unfazed?
After considering the data at length, an obvious conclusion emerged – but one with radical implications: Social media users simply don’t know how to protect themselves. At an apartment complex, you’d know how to protect your space and would install stronger locks and a home security system to keep thieves from entering. But, for the most part, social media users aren’t acquainted with all the processes that allow thieves to access, share and abuse their data.
So – what can you do? Although the federal government certainly has a key role to play in protecting user privacy, and social media platforms must step up their game, consumers can’t continue to let their data be exploited while they wait for leaders to hammer out a legislative solution. They need a tool that will allow them to know when their data has been leaked and to protect them from the negative consequences of that leak.
We spent several months thinking about this, searching for ways to empower consumers to manage any threats to their online identity – everything from your profile and the content you upload to the content that is sent to you by others. After extensive conversations with consumers and a good deal of time in development, here’s what we think you should look for when hunting for a program to protect yourself:
Look for software that identifies impersonators. Celebrities aren’t the only ones whose social media profiles are duplicated; Facebook had to delete over half a billion fake accounts in the first three months of 2018. Find a product that scans through social media networks, hunting for any accounts that use the same name, nickname or profile picture that your account does and prompting you to report them to the social media network.
Look for software that stops doxxing. Doxxing – the leak of personal information online – can compromise not only your online identity but, in more extreme cases, your physical safety. The ideal product will notify you if you, yourself, or someone else shares personal information online and then allow you to remove the information so it doesn’t get into the hands of marketers, spammers or someone with more sinister intentions.
Look for software that cuts objectionable content. Most of us have had the experience of receiving information that we’d rather not know – inappropriate images, disturbing language or unwanted solicitations. To prevent this, seek out software that watches incoming and outgoing posts, looking for illicit activity, drugs- and violence-related content and screening your accounts so you don’t have to.
Look for software that fights phishing and malware. Although malware has historically been considered the main threat to our online safety, recent data from Microsoft reveals that phishing attacks have caught up. But some of these attacks as so cleverly disguised that its difficult to avoid clicking on it. If you’re considering some sort of social monitoring software, ask whether it will notify you about phishing and malware attempts.
It’s easy to be discouraged and even indifferent in a world where data breaches have become normal and identity theft a common problem. But innovative software designers are working to change this paradigm, empowering users to enjoy the benefits of these platforms, free from the fear of exploitation. Before the next breach hits the headlines, take the time to do some research on social safety products. You deserve to have just as much peace of mind online as you do in your home or office. The key thing is to look for the products and people that can provide it.