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Protecting Data Privacy in a Public Social Media World

As the world increases its reliance on digital technology, Americans have significant concerns over how private companies collect and use their data. According to Pew Research, 81% of Americans feel the risks of private companies collecting their data outweigh the benefits.

An estimated 16 billion records have been exposed since 2019. Personal data is more vulnerable than ever.

At Echo Analytics Group, a Quiet Professionals company, our team provides vital education on these issues along with solutions that mitigate potential risks and vulnerabilities.

Web Scraping and Data Breaches

On January 6, 2021, following the rallies, demonstrations, and riots on Capitol Hill, @donk_enby, an activist on Twitter, scraped 50 terabytes of Publicly Available Information (PAI) off Parler, an alternative social media platform. The activist provided the information, including location metadata, to law enforcement agencies.  The action, while invasive of others’ privacy, was not illegal, as the information was publicly available. Parler, then a brand-new social media platform, did not have the proper security protocols in place to prevent the scraping of its site, and the data of all its users was put at risk.

Even Facebook, the world’s biggest social media platform, is not immune from breeches of privacy.  In April 2021, 533 million Facebook users had their private information leaked on a hacking forum. The information included dates of birth, Facebook IDs, phone numbers, and locations. The data was from 2019; the breech only became known to the public when posted to an amateur hacking forum and made public by several news sites. Data breaches on social media sites remain a common occurrence.

Data Brokers

Further, most Americans are likely unaware of just how much of their private information is available online. Data broker websites scour social media sites and public records to build profiles with peoples’ Personally Identifiable Information (PII). PII information on data broker websites generally includes a person’s first and last name, current address, phone numbers, emails, and possible relatives/associates. An individual or group with malicious intent could use the information on a data broker website to target them further.

Location Services 

Protecting privacy online requires continued awareness and education. A report from the NSA, “Limiting Location Data Exposure,” warns about the way many phone apps ask for your location when they do not need it. As the article says, “Apps, even when installed using the approved app store, may collect, aggregate, and transmit information that exposes a user’s location. Many apps request permission for location and other resources required for the function of the app. Users with location concerns should be cautious about sharing information on social media.”

According to Statista, in 2021, 233 million Americans access their social media accounts from their mobile device, which means that their locations and other private information may be tracked every time they use those platforms. Moreover, two-thirds of people are comfortable allowing apps to auto-their location.

Major tech companies are beginning to release features to prevent breaches of privacy from phone apps. In June 2021, Apple announced iOS 15, which will be available this fall. iOS 15 will include a dashboard that allows users to see which apps access their location, contacts, photos/videos, and microphone. The new feature would tell Apple users how often the apps are accessing that information.

At Echo Analytics Group, we empower our clients with critical information to mitigate digital risk. Our training and consultation illuminate their vulnerabilities and techniques to leave them less exposed in the online space.

Targeting Predators and Teachings Parents About Online Safety 

In 2020 alone, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children saw a 97% increase in online enticement of children. Many online predators use apps that children frequent. However, many law enforcement departments in Utah and Florida say that the following apps can pose risks to children:

  • MeetMe
  • WhatsApp
  • Bumble
  • Live.Me
  • Grindr
  • TikTok
  • SnapChat
  • Holla
  • Calculator+
  • Skout
  • Badoo
  • Kik
  • Whisper
  • Hot or Not

All of this is terrifying information, but it is possible to fight back.

While PAI can be misused by malicious actors, it can also be used to find them and hold them accountable.

EAG works with our partners to help target internet predators/human traffickers. Additionally, to better equip parents with the right tools to alleviate risk online, EAG offers a Protecting Kids Online Safety Course.

For interested parents, EAG is giving out 50 free passes to the Protecting Kids Online Safety Course. This course teaches parents about the exposure their children face and how to protect them from online predators. To sign up, follow the hyperlink and enter coupon code “protectourkids.” (This course is an excellent value even if you miss the free deal.)

For any other inquiries regarding your digital safety or privacy, please see our website at https://www.echoanalyticsgroup.com.

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