Facebook has been in the news in the last few months for what some are feeling is a huge violation of their privacy to be used for political gain. So, I asked social media marketing expert Catherine Tidd, owner of Social Seed Marketing, her thoughts on this latest development in digital technology.

 

Q. When you first heard the news that users’ information on Facebook had been breached, were you alarmed?

 

A. Unfortunately, no. Breaches in data systems are so common now, it’s almost like it’s the second story on the news, behind The Real Housewives of Wherever. When I log into almost anything these days, I know that there is a chance that something could be hacked or used in a way that it’s not intended. That’s just the world we live in these days. If it’s on the internet…it’s there to stay and has a certain vulnerability.

 

Q. You’ve been in the world of social media for a long time. Are there any warnings that you give people about sharing too much information?

 

A. First of all, you have to know that any time you click on an ad, search for a subject, or engage with pages on social media platforms…that information is stored. Yes, you can go in and change or delete your ad preferences in some cases, but these companies use this information to send targeted information, hoping you’ll buy something. As a user I can understand how that’s annoying and sometimes makes you feel uneasy. As a person who helps small businesses advertise through social media, those analytics are important for them to find people who might be looking for their services.

I realize that targeting people for advertising is much different than using information to influence a presidential election, but idea is still the same. Someone is trying to sell something – from a home waxing kit to a United States President.

Keep in mind that any time you take one of those fun quizzes to find out which Golden Girl you are, that data is being accessed by a 3rd party. And I don’t care if a Facebook group says that it’s “closed” or “private” …anything you put in writing stays there. It’s a risk.

 

Q. What advice do you give people who would like to stay active on social media, but are nervous about these types of breaches?

 

A. Again, it’s important to remember that this is not just about Facebook. Any time you use your credit card, order on Amazon, use a shopper’s card to get an extra discount, Google something…those things are tracked. It’s just part of living in the world we’re in now. It would be very difficult to operate without technology these days, but there is a downside to that convenience.

Congress is looking into regulating Facebook, but we’ve seen how breaches can happen anywhere. It’s important to stay vigilant and watch any accounts you have, be aware that some people could be “friending” you to take advantage of you, and just be a savvy user in any platform.

 

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