Social Networking: The Way to Communicate

Social Networking: The Way to Communicatetaken from Truste

By Candice Stewart

In recent years the popularity of Social Networking Sites (SNS’s) has exploded – Facebook, after launching a mere four years ago, now boasts an excess of 97 million users;  LinkedIn launched May 2003 and now has over 20 million registered users; and the story is similar across the board.

The dynamic user-generated design of SNS’s makes them very attractive, but also presents many challenges to both platform providers and users alike. As these sites are vastly made up of user-generated content – users disclose PII about themselves and others, share personal and sensitive data and images, and others may chose to implement 3rd party applications that may also collect and disclose user PII. Social Networking Sites must be aware that they are potentially subject to the same vulnerabilities facing internet platforms at large, such as:  Spam, Spyware, and Identity Theft.

What can be done to contain the above risks? Social Networking Sites have a duty to protect user PII, and make custom privacy controls readily available. In order to uphold industry credibility, SNS’s should choose their 3rd party partners wisely and must convey clear and transparent disclosures to users through their privacy policies. Finally, SNS’s must know their audience; privacy controls should cater to the level of privacy required and/or desired by various user-bases. While SNS platform providers must ensure the security and privacy of user PII, the users are responsible for making sound choices regarding what personal information they share and with whom they share it.

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