Big Brother and What You Didn’t Know About Social Media Activities

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The clock strikes 5 pm; you shove your belongings into your bag, snatch your jacket off your chair and book it for the door. On the elevator ride down, you decide to “snapchat” your off-work smiley face, tweet how excited you are about happy hour tonight and check-in to your location to let your Facebook friends know you’re on your way. The elevator doors open and you make a mad rush for the Metro. Phew, what a day!

Except what you didn’t know is that big brother and advertisers took note of all your social networking activities on your ride down to the lobby. Sure using social media is fun but do we really know what’s going on behind the scenes when we engage with a social media platform? Let’s delve deeper into this new-age mystery.

Snapchat

Recently the subject of a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) complaint, Snapchat has undergone some serious government scrutiny lately. Filed back in May 2014, the complaint consisted of the following main issues:

  • Legally claiming that “snaps,” are “ephemeral,” disappear forever and aren’t saved. This claim was determined false as third-party apps and devices using iOS7 and below fail to make snaps unsaved and vanished.
  • Misrepresentation of data collection practices. Android users’ geolocation information is actually submitted to snapchat despite privacy information on its site stating otherwise.
  • Video snaps are unencrypted allowing for download when the device is connected to a computer through the device’s file directory.

On December 31, 2014, the FTC posted an update on their site stating the final order for Snapchat had been approved after completing a public comment period. The pressure is on now for Snapchat to comply with the FTC settlement by implementing a comprehensive privacy program that will be monitored by an independent privacy professional for the next 20 years. So if the cute little Snapchat ghost icon doesn’t already spook you away, maybe this FTC ruling will.

 Twitter

 Considered by the Library the Congress as a source to provide insight into society and individuals, the government entity has been receiving and archiving tweets since April 2010. That’s right, your tweets about what you ate for breakfast or that rant you went on about vaccinating children will be stored in the Library of Congress…forever. Well, sort of.

According to the Washington Journal, the Library of Congress is only archiving public tweets and will honor deleted tweets by indexing them to not be included in their library. The institution is still sorting out archiving methods as they are in the midst of indexing the 2006-2010 batch of tweets provided by Twitter. About 500 million tweets are received per a day with an approximate current total of 320 billion tweets.

However, be aware that a personal record of a user’s tweets will be available for public viewing. Tweets also contain a slew of metadata such as geolocation, time stamps and other behavioral information about the tweeter. You’ve been warned.

Facebook

Announced in late November 2014, Facebook’s newest privacy policy took effect January 31, 2015. The new policy outlines in addition to current data collection practices, the social network is now sharing that information with advertising firms and other partnering websites. This is a concerted effort by Facebook to allegedly, “help advertisers reach people with relevant advertisements without telling them who you are.” Sounds like a bit of an oxy-moron but Facebook is attempting to alleviate any discomfort about this through it’s Privacy Basics page which allows users to modify the way their information is shared.

Users are automatically opted-in to this new policy but the best option to completely avoid this change if you’re deathly afraid of your information being shared is…to delete your account entirely. But I’m guessing the 1.23 billion Facebook users already so addicted to the digital platform like some sort of illegal substance makes this highly unlikely.

As social media is still such a relatively new technology concept, it will be interesting to see how the government interacts with these various platforms. Please share your thoughts about this emerging trend by leaving a comment below.

Ryan Rosado is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Profile Photo SM Baynard

The days of privacy left when the Internet became a public domain. I’m sure George Orwell is shaking his finger at us and saying, “I told you so.” from the grave!

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Profile Photo Earl Rice

I thought everyone knew about this for years. Every electronic message in what ever form, is recorded some where by somebody in the Government (and not always our own also). This is not to mention the private sector. There is no delete. It’s all someplace in “big data”. What worries me is what it will be used for. There is huge potential for abuse with that much data on each and every person. So think twice before you send anything anywhere. Oh, and you can’t go more than a couple blocks in DC without your presence being tracked and recorded by the Government. How there is so much crime in DC, I just don’t know. It’s all there to and being tracked.

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Profile Photo Ryan Rosado

Thanks for the comment Earl; just wanted to share some updates on recent developments in social media monitoring/privacy (or lack thereof). Appreciate you sharing your insight.

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Profile Photo Ryan Rosado

Wow, didn’t know about this article. Very crazy and intense stuff. Also interesitng how self-incriminating some young folks truly are hah!

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