Be social but stay safe

Last Updated 17 October 2018, 19:00 IST

Analytics and big data are truly the words that have taken the world by a storm. Most online and social media companies are clamouring to increase their customer base to get a marketing edge over their competitors. These companies are using data analytic tools to study individual behaviour and preferences for targeted sales, influencing public opinions and targeted advertising. In a constant chase to push their product, companies are more often than usual overlooking best practices and norms on data protection and privacy.

We’re aware that there are plenty of people who use the Internet in both urban and rural areas. With this explosion in the Internet user population, there is an immediate need to educate and inform users, particularly students, of the precautionary measures they need to take to avoid a breach of privacy.

A survey conducted by the Delhi Police in collaboration with AIIMS’ Behavioural Addiction Clinic (BAC) has revealed that one in every five school students in Delhi is a problematic internet user (PIU), a medical term associated with addiction to online socialising and gaming, among other abnormal behaviours. Children and young teenagers are at a larger risk of privacy breach as they upload information, photos and videos that reveal data not just about them but also their friends and family. Cyberbullying is a major concern.

In a 2014 survey, India topped the list of 254 countries for cyberbullying. According to a Microsoft study of online bullying among 8-17 years old, children in India reported the third highest online bullying rate among the 25 countries surveyed. The advent of social media has made it easier than ever for students to be influenced by strangers on the other side of the web who encourage them to participate in life-threatening challenges. These infamous social media challenges are inadvertently dark and have shocking consequences.

Be aware

Be sure of what you want to share: When someone joins a social media network, apps offer to sync contacts from the individual’s contact list on the phone, email or another social media channel’s friend list. Though one might not see anything wrong in sharing their contacts because the pure intention is to stay in touch, the social media network now has your entire contact list and inevitably all the information associated with it. Some people might think that online privacy is a private matter. If you don’t want your information getting out online, don’t put it on social media. But it’s not that simple. If your friend is on social media, so are you.

Therefore, one has to be cautious about what they ‘allow’ when they register on a social media website or an app. Information that you have access to, is not just yours but that of your friends and those related to you.

It is important for children to be aware of how to use the Internet safely. Education institutes should provide them with the basic rules and create awareness about online safety. Parents can have an open dialogue with children about these issues, but some of them may lack knowledge about the safe use of the Internet. Hence, teachers play an important role in providing the necessary awareness.

Some tips

The first business in order would be to do an assessment of your online activities. Analyse the personal information you are posting on your social media handles or sharing over email and WhatsApp.

Secure your ID with a two-factor authentication and use strong passwords. It is always advisable to not use public Wi-Fi for sharing personal information like bank account details or passwords. Have a secure connection before you transact online on a public sharing Wi-Fi. Ensure the messages that are shared over social apps are end-to-end encrypted.

Be mindful before sharing personal content including photos and videos that can get leaked online and call for trouble.

The entire business model of social media websites is to get access to your personal information for advertising and marketing purposes. In such a scenario, ensure the relevant privacy lock is in place. Go to settings and change the default settings to the one that ensures maximum privacy and protection to your profile.

Exercise caution when opening emails, clicking on links, or downloading attachments and beware of phishing emails that can claim to be your bank’s website.

Maintaining privacy online is a mass movement because it’s not just one person who is affected. Your account is linked with your friends and his with a family member and so on. So we all have to protect ourselves from breach of privacy.

While we are not aware of how our personal information is being accessed and used, the only way we can protect our privacy online is to be mindful before turning into a social media regular.

(Published 17 October 2018, 18:48 IST)

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