Social Networking Privacy Concerns Impacting Businesses and Consumers | #socialmedia

As businesses and their customers turn more to social media networks for the sharing of information, both are becoming increasingly aware of the price of privacy. In other words, simply participating in social media can lead to privacy issues. There are countless cases of data being harvested without an individual’s knowledge, profiles being created based upon social media activity, accounts being hijacked and so forth. The situation has gotten so dire that many people are deleting their profiles and businesses are reducing their social media actions.

However, those concerns do not necessarily spell doom for the top social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. People and businesses will continue to use those sites until something better comes along. But there are other concerns on the horizon that could tip the privacy argument further into the purview of businesses and consumers alike.

Take, for example, privacy laws such as the European Union’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and the CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act), both of which impact the data businesses can store about their customers. General interpretations of those laws are directly related to the systems owned by businesses that are accessed by customers, but not all of the potential litmus tests of those laws have been done. 

As an example, let’s look at how social media platforms have become hosts to digital advertising, where a user could initiate a transaction with a business with a simple click. How does that impact privacy concerns and how much control does both the consumer and the business have over data that is shared via social media? It is a worthwhile question to ask as CCPA goes into effect early in 2020. What’s more, how will businesses that harvest data on social media networks—ones that use bots or measure likes to garner consumer sentiment—be impacted?

While there may be no simple answer to those questions, it does become apparent that social media networks may have to change their business models and businesses may have to shift to other forms of digital advertising. It is also a situation giving rise to new social media networks that are more focused on privacy. Neone Inc., for one, is a recently launched social media platform that eschews advertising and promises no data tracking of its users. The company is using a paid subscription model to prevent the need for advertising or other forms of income related to user data. The company claims its privacy policy is compliant with CCPA and promises it will be compliant with other privacy laws as they are instituted.

The need for more privacy is becoming evident, especially considering that a 2019 study by Edison Research revealed that some 80% of Americans post, tweet or snap on social platforms. However, that same research also claimed that Facebook has lost an estimated 15 million users over the last two years, with the largest exodus occurring among 12- to 34-year-olds.

Neone may be onto something by stressing privacy over profits. That said, one has to wonder whether a subscription model may be in the future for the likes of Facebook and Twitter, where a promise of privacy can be offered by eliminating the mining of user data. 

“Social media was supposed to be fun, safe and private, a place where users could share their interests and news with friends, family and followers,” said Neone founder and privacy advocate Dave Glassco. “Instead, social media has become a minefield of advertising, data tracking and mining, and media manipulation. Today’s social media is increasingly anti-social and privacy invasive.”

It’s too early to tell whether businesses would adopt a private model of social networking to keep employees and customers aware of news. Or, whether those same businesses look to the data mining capabilities offered by some social media sites, despite shrinking audiences. With users fleeing Facebook over privacy concerns, one has to wonder what could replace the top social networking platform in the near term, or even if CCPA, GDPR and other rules may result in class action suits against social media behemoths.  

— Frank Ohlhorst

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