As the digital landscape has evolved, so has the realm of social media privacy. Each major platform has taken steps to adapt its practices and policies in response to user concerns, regulatory changes, and evolving technologies. Here, we delve into the changing landscape of social media privacy and how leading platforms have managed their members’ private data.
- Facebook: In its early days, Facebook was marked by the relatively open sharing of user information. However, a series of privacy controversies, including the infamous Cambridge Analytica scandal, prompted a significant overhaul of its privacy practices. The platform introduced stricter privacy controls and simplified settings to empower users to have more control over their data. Today, Facebook provides users with comprehensive privacy settings, enabling them to dictate who can see their posts, send friend requests, and access their data. Moreover, it allows users to manage third-party app access, enhancing their data protection.
- Instagram: Owned by Meta (parent company of Facebook), Instagram adopted many of its parent company’s privacy features. Instagram has evolved to include options for users to set their profiles to private, restricting who can view their posts. Additionally, it offers control over who can send direct messages and comment on posts. These enhancements align with the broader industry trend towards greater user privacy control.
- X: Known for its real-time and public nature, X (formerly Twitter) traditionally embraced a more open content-sharing approach. Nevertheless, it has acknowledged users’ privacy concerns by offering features such as protected tweets. These tweets are visible only to approved followers, providing an extra layer of privacy for users who desire it. Twitter also grants users control over notifications and the ability to restrict access to their accounts, allowing them to manage their privacy effectively.
- LinkedIn: LinkedIn, designed for professional networking, has focused on safeguarding users’ professional data. Over the years, it has introduced various privacy controls. Users can determine who can see their connections, profile updates, and contact information. Furthermore, LinkedIn grants users the choice to appear or not appear in search engine results, allowing them to maintain a level of anonymity if desired.
- Snapchat: Snapchat has gained popularity for its ephemeral nature, where messages vanish after viewing. Privacy features like Snap Map enable users to control the sharing of their real-time location. Users can also dictate who can send them snaps and view their stories. These measures align with Snapchat’s commitment to user privacy and data protection.
- TikTok: As a relatively newer entrant to the social media landscape, TikTok faced privacy concerns, particularly regarding data collection and sharing with its Chinese parent company, ByteDance. In response, TikTok introduced privacy settings allowing users to manage who can view their content, send messages, and interact with their accounts. The platform established a transparency center to provide insights into its data practices, showcasing a commitment to transparency and user trust.
The evolution of social media privacy reflects an industry-wide effort to adapt to changing norms and regulations. Each major platform has taken strides to enhance user privacy controls and transparency about data practices. Users are encouraged to stay informed about these developments and regularly review and adjust their privacy settings to align with their comfort levels regarding data sharing on these platforms.
Responsibilities of the Platform Versus The Business
The division of responsibilities between the social media platform and the business using the platform can vary depending on several factors, including the platform’s policies, the nature of the business, and applicable legal and regulatory requirements. Here’s a general guideline to understand where the platform’s responsibility ends and the business’s responsibility begins:
- Platform Policies: Social media platforms have terms of service and community guidelines that users, including businesses, must adhere to. These policies typically outline acceptable behavior, content restrictions, and the platform’s enforcement mechanisms.
- Security: Social media platforms are responsible for the security of their infrastructure, including protecting user data from external threats. They implement security measures to prevent unauthorized access to user accounts.
- Privacy Settings: Platforms provide privacy settings allowing users to control who can see their content, send messages, and access their profiles. These settings are the responsibility of the platform to maintain and enforce.
- Content Reporting: Platforms offer reporting mechanisms for users to flag inappropriate or harmful content. They are responsible for reviewing reports and taking appropriate action, such as removing violating content or suspending accounts.
- Content Creation and Posting: Businesses are responsible for creating and posting content on their social media accounts. This includes ensuring that the content complies with platform policies and applicable laws.
- Data Protection: Businesses are responsible for protecting the personal data of their customers and followers. They should handle user data following privacy regulations and the platform’s terms of service.
- Community Management: Managing comments, interactions, and followers on social media is the responsibility of the business. This includes moderating comments, responding to inquiries, and enforcing community guidelines.
- Account Security: Businesses must secure their social media accounts, such as using strong passwords, enabling multi-factor authentication (MFA), and training employees on security best practices.
- Compliance with Regulations: Businesses are responsible for complying with relevant regulations, such as data protection laws (e.g., HIPAA, GDPR, or CCPA), advertising standards, and industry-specific regulations that apply to their social media activities.
- Brand Reputation: Maintaining a positive brand reputation on social media is crucial. Businesses should proactively manage their online image and respond professionally to customer feedback and concerns.
The social media platform is responsible for providing the infrastructure, policies, and tools to maintain a safe and compliant environment. The business using the platform is responsible for adhering to platform policies, creating and managing content, protecting user data, and ensuring compliance with relevant laws and regulations. The division of responsibilities should be clearly understood and followed to maintain a successful and responsible social media presence.
Business Processes and Controls
Companies should establish robust processes and controls to manage their social media pages effectively while mitigating privacy risks. Here’s a checklist of 25 actions a brand can take to safeguard its social media followers’ privacy:
Accessing Social Media Pages
- Limited Access: Restrict access to social media accounts to only essential personnel. Only grant access to individuals responsible for managing and posting content.
- Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Enforce MFA for all social media account logins to enhance security and prevent unauthorized access.
- Single Sign-On (SSO): Most companies manage access to resources through their corporate infrastructure, so integrating SSO for your employees to access these platforms is easier and often provides better security.
- Password Management: Implement a strong password policy, mandating regular password changes and using complex, unique passwords for each account.
Providing Logins to Others
- Third-Party Access: When sharing access with third parties, such as social media agencies, use secure methods for credential exchange and ensure they follow security best practices.
- Limited Privileges: Grant minimal necessary access to external parties. Consider read-only access or role-based permissions to avoid potential misuse.
- Content Review: Establish a clear routing and approval process for social media content. Content should be reviewed and approved by designated team members before posting.
- Escalation Protocol: Create a protocol for handling sensitive or potentially controversial content. Implement an escalation process for high-risk posts.
Data Retention Policies
- Data Retention: While social media platforms have their own data retention policies, businesses must also consider their legal obligations and internal requirements when determining their data retention practices. Businesses should strike a balance, ensuring compliance with all relevant regulations while meeting operational and analytical needs.
- Data Classification: Categorize social media data based on sensitivity. Determine how long different types of data (posts, comments, messages) should be retained.
- Regular Purging: Regularly review and purge outdated or unnecessary data. Ensure compliance with relevant data protection regulations.
External Records of Activity
- Logging and Monitoring: Implement logging and monitoring tools to track all activity on social media accounts. This can help detect unusual or unauthorized actions.
- Alerts: Set up alerts for specific actions or changes to the account, such as password changes or login attempts from unfamiliar locations.
Curating Followers and Comments
- Moderation: Employ content moderation tools or human moderators to review and filter comments. Remove spam, hate speech, and inappropriate content promptly.
- Community Guidelines: Establish clear community guidelines that outline acceptable behavior on your social media channels. Enforce these guidelines consistently.
- User Reporting: Encourage users to report inappropriate content. Respond to reports promptly and take appropriate action.
- Block and Ban: Be prepared to block or ban users who repeatedly violate community guidelines or engage in harassment.
- Transparent Communication: Communicate moderation policies to your audience. Transparency can help users understand the rules and expectations.
- Document Actions: Maintain records of actions taken, such as blocking users or deleting comments, to demonstrate your commitment to enforcing policies.
Migrating Communications to Secure Resources
- Encourage Private Communication Channels: Businesses should encourage customers and followers to use private and secure communication channels for sensitive or personal inquiries to protect their PII. This includes directing them to use chat platforms with end-to-end encryption and providing a phone number for direct contact.
- Limit Public Discussions: Discourage the exchange of sensitive or confidential information in public comments or posts on social media platforms. Instead, guide users to contact the business privately for such matters.
- Educate Your Audience: Provide information to your audience about the importance of privacy and security when discussing sensitive topics. Inform them about the availability of secure communication channels.
- Set Up Secure Chat and Phone Lines: Ensure your business has secure chat options with encryption, and set up secure phone lines for customer inquiries. These channels should be well-monitored and staffed appropriately.
Managing Privacy Processes and Controls
- Train Your Team: Educate your social media team on the importance of migrating sensitive discussions to secure channels and provide guidelines on communicating this to customers politely.
- Regularly Review and Update Policies: Include guidelines in your social media policies emphasizing protecting sensitive information and migrating discussions to secure channels. Periodically review and update these policies to stay current with best practices.
- Document and Monitor: Maintain records of instances where customers are directed to secure communication channels, and monitor the effectiveness of this practice in reducing the exchange of sensitive information on public social media.
By implementing these processes and controls, companies can effectively manage their social media presence while reducing the risk of privacy issues and maintaining a safe and respectful online environment for their audience. Regular training and awareness among social media teams are also essential to ensure that these practices are consistently followed.