Wise up on social networks - expert

2012-02-17 14:30

Cape Town - Social network users should be more "street smart" on online networks to protect themselves, an expert has said.

"I think that social media users need to wise up a little; they need to become a little bit more sensible as digital citizens," social media consultant for Afrosocialmedia Samantha Fleming told News24.

She said that individuals should be cautious about putting personal content that could be damaging online.

"They need to realise that actually, you shouldn't put personal information online. Just because Facebook asks for your home address, doesn't mean you have to put it on, or if it asks for your age, you don't have to put it on," Fleming said.

Social Media Week has been addressing the impact of social media on companies and individuals, including an experiment to see whether one could survive dependant on one's social media graph.


But users continue to expose themselves to personal risk by posting content to their social networks without considering the wider impact it might have.

This month, a senior official at the Civil Aviation Authority was suspended over negative comments he wrote about superiors on Facebook.

South African socialite Khanyi Mbau has been mired in controversy since nude pictures of her were leaked online, reminiscent of the scandal involving New York congressman Anthony Weiner, who tweeted a sexually suggestive picture of himself.

Privacy is not as important for young people, Fleming said, but added that it made them potential victims of opportunistic crimes online.

"People these days, especially the next generation of users - I'm talking about young users - they don't have privacy concerns in a way that people in the past have had.

"Twenty-year-olds these days just don't have the same kinds of concerns for privacy. I understand it's a beautiful kind of transparency, but it also opens you up to abuse: things like identity theft or phishing or scamming."

She added that companies may exploit a lack of privacy on social networks to mine data for advertising purposes.

Targeted advertising

"People need to be a bit more aware that they need to be cautious about what they put out there and what they put online, because a company will take it and they will use it for advertising purposes if nothing else.

"Facebook's open graph is designed with advertising and marketing in mind," said Fleming.

Some young people don't mind targeted advertising if they have a specific interest, but Fleming cautioned against this approach.

"I do think that what gets lost in that is a sense of savvy, like a street smarts about what you should and shouldn't do online."

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  • Martin - 2012-02-17 15:27

    i live in cambodia and was born in mogadishu haha screw u fb

  • Fidel - 2012-02-17 15:39

    You got that, Frank the American.......

  • jason.dutoit - 2012-02-18 21:40

    psycho paranoia! how is targeted advertising a bad thing?

      Ebon - 2012-02-20 11:27

      When you start receiving unwanted sms, email and phone spam, that's when. Adverts on TV, radio and webpages (as long as they are tastefully done and not headache inducing) I can accept as a necessary evil because they generate revenue that makes the existence of those media possible. However when I start receiving emails, sms's and phonecalls, it is going to far. Maybe it doesn't bother some people, and that's great. But for a great many people it is more than just a minor annoyance - it borders on outright harrassment.

  • VWhitepaw - 2012-02-20 08:41

    Your information is out there, somewhere. But why make it easy? Most agancies, like employment agancies have data bases. Some of them online. Ever filled in a job search website? What information did you give to these places? With personal information being needed to do most anything, its still the way Banks use to verify who you are. That always scares me the most.

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