Do We Need Social Media Watchdogs?

by · July 26, 20122 comments

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post written by Samantha Peters, an avid blogger who writes about social media, digital marketing, and online communications.

The rise of social media as one of the prominent vehicles for marketing, commerce, and communication lead us to consider why this is one of the most unregulated markets in the world. Indeed, few mediums endanger our privacy in more ways than social media. The same way we don’t want our mobile phone activity shared with marketing firms, so too do we want our ‘social’ media protected from predatory companies.

Here’s why:

Data mining can be used to breach privacy or security settings.

magnifying glass

magnifying glass (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Unlike some countries, both the U.S. and Canada are in danger of not passing personal information acts that would protect consumers from data miners who understand that big data is currency. With everything from reputation management to financial information on the line, data miners are continually harvesting our social media profiles, sometimes illegally.

Even the Canadian PIPEDA, the Personal Information Protection and Electronics Act, is weak in places. In America, it seems regulatory committees are more worried about protecting copyrighted information owned by corporations than personal information shared online by consumers.

Even legal uses of data should be scrutinized for potential consumer violations. After all, statutes aren’t usually established until after something malicious happens. An increase in watchdogs groups could help to prevent security breaches.

Social media activity could affect your credit score.

It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. Social media activity on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other networks are being assessed by credit agencies in order to gauge long term financial risk. In Germany, there was a public outcry over such monitoring. In America, where privacy laws aren’t as stringent, the $20 billion credit reporting and collecting industry is free to track our online movements.

Watchdog groups need to be in place in order to recommend regulations on exactly what kind of information can be collected. Otherwise, credit agencies have free reign on anything and everything we put online. The videos we watch, articles we read and pages we visit should not be used to make crucial decisions that affect our financial futures.

Social media can be cyber-crime

Most people don’t realize how prolific criminal acts conducted via the Internet are. Cyber crime–which includes identity theft, fraud, extortion and many other offenses–affects 65% of global population and 73% of the U.S. population

The only way this kind of activity can be policed is by monitoring social media sites and making sure they don’t alter privacy settings without letting their users know–’fly by night’ changes. Facebook has made this move a few times, incurring a very vocal public outcry. Unfortunately, smaller instances of this and larger, more discrete projects, are occurring all the time in concert with data miners.

This article is not arguing for the disbanding of social media. Even if that were desired, which it is not, it would completely unfeasible. What is feasible is establishing a certain level regulatory control and transparency when it comes to how consumers engage with online content.

This will require social media watchdog groups that apprise consumers of changes in privacy settings and provide comparisons of social network safety features similar to how the Official Host Review serves as a hub for online hosting reviews.  In time, social media can be made to behoove the consumer over the corporation. Until then, watchdog groups are needed.

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Samantha Peters is an avid blogger who enjoys writing about that latest developments within social media, digital marketing, and the online communication space. Sam lives in sunny San Diego, California where she lives with her dog Leona and frequently writes for The Tech Update.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog and signature Explore events. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://www.antonkoekemoer.com/ Anton Koekemoer

    Hi Samantha,

    Yes – With the rise of the internet watchdogs have always been and most likely
    always will be a key necessity for secure online world of web and social
    sharing. 

  • http://www.busquemail.com.br Catarina