During an age in which we voluntarily broadcast even the most intimate parts of our lives on the Internet, the question arises: how much is too much? Because social media is used to gather information about users that is prone to exploitation, people should be cautious about what they post online.
Social media is used for more than sharing mundane activities. According to the European Network and Information Security Agency, “Personal data is nowadays traded among service providers like other commodities,” meaning hundreds of corporations buy and sell users’ online data to collect consumer information. It is even used to analyze growing trends, as with a recent Boston Children’s Hospital study about obesity in America. By analyzing Facebook ‘likes,’ they concluded that users who had liked pages pertaining to a healthy lifestyle were more likely to have lower obesity rates than those who had unhealthier interests.
“I think it’s a pretty clever way of advertising to your demographic,” says Ryan Reagan, a junior at Valencia High. “because people of all demographics use facebook, so all you have to do as a company is find out which of your consumers like what, and social media is probably the best way of doing that.”
Though these examples may seem innocent or even useful, this practice opens the door for less scrupulous situations. The information broadcasted by these users is extremely vulnerable to exploitation by companies looking to profit. While some companies can benefit people in want of their products, others may sell unsafe products that do not meet government requirements. Because consumers are not always able to tell the difference, this can lead to scams, health hazards and more.
Yet exploiting this information is not illegal; it is the user’s choice to upload it and corporations are merely using it to their advantage. So, people should be more careful in what they choose to share with the world.