Any virtual or real life space can be used by criminals. This includes people (or automated bots) seeking to commit fraud, harvest personal data or photographs, spread viruses, but also people using social networks to find victims to exploit in other ways. There have been cases of people’s devices and accounts being hacked in order to obtain sensitive personal photographs which could then be published online for “revenge porn” or used for blackmail.
There is advice on safe social networking available – with a special focus on protecting your data from fraudsters and other criminals.
There are many ways in which your data is exposed through social networks:
- you may have added details to your profiles yourself
- if you install apps on your mobile devices, these may harvest data about you (including geographic locations, contact details of friends, etc.)
- if you install apps within social networks (for example, games in Facebook), these may access some of the data about you and your friends
- websites you access using your social network identity as login (e.g. Facebook Connect) will get access to some information about you
- if your friends have apps installed on their phones or their social networks, these apps may harvest data about you without your knowledge (for example phone numbers, contact details etc.) through your friends’ accounts
Most of the collected data will 'only’ be used for advertising purposes, but for every piece of data about you that is exposed, there will be some risk that it could be obtained and used by criminals.
Film makers have prepared an entertaining, somewhat unsettling video about this: Try Takethislollipop (We have taken some steps to ascertain how trustworthy the video site is: it has been well-used, the project has been nominated for and won awards, and we have not seen any indication anywhere on the web that the site breaks its promise not to retain user data. Therefore, we believe it is likely to be safe to use.)
Your Reputation and the Law
There’s more advice to be found on our Social Networking page – including some tips about social media and your career, and information about social media and the law.