Are smartphones and social media dangerous?

Written by Elliot Puddle -

Social media and smartphones. It’s hard to imagine a life without these tools. For most of us, they have become an integral part of our everyday lives. It’s how we stay connected with one another and share our thoughts with the world. Names, phone numbers, photos and private messages. These are the kinds of information we store in our devices and in our online accounts. But is that information as secure as we think?

Terms of service

Truth be told, some of the information we believe to be private is actually not private at all. Social media and phone apps often have lengthy terms of service that you have to agree to in order to use their product, and let’s be honest, we don’t read them.

Facebook for example has terms of service agreement with over 14,000 words. That’s a lot. It’s full of legal terms and vague statements that outline some of the things Facebook can do with your information.

For the most part any information you share on Facebook, be it photos, videos, comments, the things you like and talk about such as movies, games, websites - Facebook has claim to those details and will sell it to their business partners. That’s why you get little ads in the side column for that camera you were just looking at on Amazon. Under Facebook’s terms of service, you’ve allowed them access to monitor your internet habits. Simply put, when you open up a new webpage while still logged into Facebook, they now have knowledge of that website you just visited and can now target ads towards you based on the content of that website.

It’s scary stuff and many other social networks and phone apps ask for the same permissions. Corporations have legitimised spyware to the point where even if we know about it, we don’t have much choice in the matter. Or do we?

Staying secure

In the case of phone apps, it’s a bit easier to determine what they are require of you. Before you can install an app, it will tell you the key things that I wants access to, and much like full length terms of service we just gloss over it because we want to play that game or have access to that tool.

A simple solution is to take your time to read the key points of access they require. If you’re fine with that then by all means proceed. But not everyone feels the same way, as such many people choose to avoid these kinds of apps. Apps are designed for enjoyment and easier means of communication, the same goes for social media, but there is always a cost.

Facebook is a little bit more complicated in terms of how much you have control over. In your profile settings you have access to a myriad of tools that will allow you to limit what people can and can’t see on YOUR page. However, there are a few things that you can’t hide such as your name, profile picture, cover photo and anything you comment or post on a page that doesn’t belong to you, unless you choose to delete those posts. The reason for this is that everyone on Facebook determines their own privacy settings.

According to Facebook’s terms of service, even if you delete your account and all information associated, remnants of your social identity may remain on pages you have posted on because control of those pages belong to someone else.

Moving forward

In reality, there are many things on social platforms like Facebook and Twitter that we have no control over. However the point of difference is that we have a choice on how we use these platforms. We can limit what information people have access to. Reading terms of service can difficult but there are many websites that detail the ins and outs of major social networks. Making informed decisions on how we use social media and mobile applications returns the power of information back in our own hands.

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