Cross-Linking Social Media & Apps is Risky Business

The Fine Line Between Convenience & Security

Try to solve this riddle: What’s something that many of us use every day, but also offers up tons of sensitive and personal information like your age, birthday, location, personal and professional relationships and more – all publicly? 

The answer: your social media profiles. 

While you may feel uneasy leaving your house unlocked when you’re away on vacation, leaving your personal information open to the public never seems as bad. Free, personalized services at the cost of your personal data can easily seem worth the trade. 

But if you didn’t know already, few things in life are truly free. 

Cross-Linking Social Media

The concept of trading something as “trivial” as your personal information for “free” services may seem like a no-brainer. But many forget the security implications that come with sharing “too much with too many.”

When you download an app and connect it to your social media pages, you probably don’t think much about it. In fact, it’s often easier to log in, invite friends, send messages and more through the app if it’s connected to a social media profile.

But Cambridge Analytica co-founder and ex-employee Christopher Wylie recently came forward to reveal how his company unwittingly used a third-party app to collect Facebook user information. This app was the tool they needed to collect your private Facebook data – and up to 160 of your friends’ data too. 

In 2014, online users were offered a seemingly irresistible deal. Participants were paid to complete an online survey, only receiving payment after downloading an app called “thisismydigitallife.”

Wylie explained that Cambridge Analytica used the data collected by the app to compile profiles of U.S voters. It was also discovered that these profiles were tied to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

In this case, cross-linking social media caused more trouble than it was worth. This massive leak of personal data highlights the importance of a proactive approach when it comes to knowing who already has your information, who is currently collecting it, and who may share it with others.

Read Your Privacy Policies

We get it – privacy policies aren’t exactly page-turners. In fact, more than half of global consumers failed to read, or only skimmed privacy policies when first entering a website in 2016.

Reading through a privacy policy can be an eye-opening experience. You’ll often find that you’ve allowed a company to share and sell your data without even knowing you had agreed to it.

Have you ever bought something online, then seen an ad for that store or item appear on your social media feeds? While companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram may be monetarily “free,” these sites openly share and sell your information to third-parties they do business with. Most often, these third-party companies use the shared data to create tailored ads and marketing campaigns that align with your personal interests.

The good news is that social media sites and other online services have begun making efforts to create more comprehensible and readable privacy policy agreements. But remember that data sharing goes both ways. While a social media’s privacy policy will tell you how that site shares your information with others, it won’t mention how other third-parties that are connected to your social media sites will collect and share your information.

What should you do?

By now, you may be ready to ditch social media altogether. But you don’t have to say goodbye to your Facebook and Twitter pages as long as you know the risks of cross-linking social media profiles, as well as how to properly secure the information you provide on them. Visit our Social Media Security Center for more information on how you can better secure your identity via social media platforms.

Facebook App Check

To see which apps are currently accessing your Facebook data, follow these steps:

  • Go to your Facebook settings.
  • On the left side, click the tab toward the bottom labeled “Apps.” Apps that appear on this page are currently collecting and using your Facebook data.
  • Click each app to see the information it is collecting, and manage your settings accordingly.

Other Resources

Use these external links to view popular social media privacy policies:

• Facebook
• Twitter
• Instagram
• Snapchat
• Tumblr

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of EZShield Inc. alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other person or entity, including specifically any person or entity affiliated with the distribution or display of this content.

John is General Counsel and Chief Privacy Officer of Sontiq, the parent company of the EZShield and IdentityForce brands. He is a Certified Compliance...
Read more about John Burcham.

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