You Have Control Over What You Share Online

Governments can only do much in managing social media and the Internet

Social media is perhaps one of the most significant innovations of the 21st century, so far. From Friendster and Multiply in the early 2000's to today's Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, it has revolutionized casual interaction and sharing of information among people and even the conduct of business in ways not imagined during the 1800's and the 1900's. It continues to evolve as time progresses, hence the expectation it will widen its reach and usage among the billions who go online every day.

With the benefits of social media come its counterpart risks. Facebook, the most widely used social media platform in the world, recently got involved in controversy after being revealed that private information coming from millions of its users was obtained through applications such as quizzes and used by consultancy firms such as the UK-based Cambridge Analytica for purposes such as creating political strategy for some of its clients. Facebook, already dealing with accusations of trying to manipulate public opinion and not addressing the spread of fake news, allegedly had knowledge of what Cambridge Analytica, earning the ire not only of netizens but also of governments around the world because of national security repercussions of the said data breach.

I do agree with the need for governments to come up with concrete courses of action to address the concerns surrounding the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica controversy both on the basis of protecting the rights and privacy of their constituents, and protecting the national security interests of their countries. Social media, and the Internet, in general, are potent sources of information that can be utilized for both good and bad purposes. Governments can monitor illicit activities that are happening on social media, and one way to do is to clandestinely do intelligence gathering work provided that they will operate within the bounds set by law. On the other hand, individuals and entities can resort to doing fraud and identity theft by stealing valuable information from social media users, especially from those who carelessly share personal information online. The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica controversy should serve as a guide for politicians, national security officials and information technology experts on how to make both social media and the Internet secure for their countries and their citizens.

However, governments can only do much in managing social media and the Internet, addressing serious concerns about personal and data privacy, and cracking down on elements that illegally obtain information from online sources. Individual users are the ones primarily responsible for protecting themselves while they use social media and the Internet. It is being emphasized repeatedly not only by the likes of Facebook but also by legitimate online sources and even the governments themselves.

For instance, everything that is being shared on Facebook is being done on a voluntary basis and the company itself repetitively reminds users to be careful in sharing personal data online. If one recklessly shares virtually every single detail about him online, from his birth date to his personal identification numbers to home address and phone numbers, either deliberately or by being fooled by seemingly innocent quizzes and applications, he is giving both entities like Cambridge Analytica and crooked individuals every single chance to take advantage of him, ultimately resulting to his privacy and safety being compromised. If individuals will not share everything online and will be more than careful, incidents like the one involving Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, as well as cases of fraud and identity theft could have been avoided and minimized.

At the end of the day, we are the ones primarily responsible for our own safety online. We can enjoy the benefits being offered by Facebook and other social media platforms, and the Internet free from worries if we know exactly how to use it and if we will refrain from being too open online. Technology has provided us with convenience in terms of information gathering and sharing, and interaction with other people, but we must be more than aware of the risks and the disadvantages, hence the need for us to exercise caution, restraint and logic whenever we go online and we share something about ourselves on the Internet.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of TheLOBBYiST.
About the Author
Benedict is an agricultural economist, academician and writer. He has gained experience and expertise in various fields of economics, business, political science and public relations after through professional ventures in the academe, and in the public and private sectors. He has authored or co-authored key publications on topics ranging from agriculture and food security to global affairs and politics.
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