Online privacy becomes concern

Facebook scandal brings light to concerns over privacy on social media

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Online privacy becomes concern

info obtained from Pew Research Center
Survey taken March-May 2016

info obtained from Pew Research Center Survey taken March-May 2016

Sophee King

info obtained from Pew Research Center Survey taken March-May 2016

Sophee King

Sophee King

info obtained from Pew Research Center Survey taken March-May 2016

Jacob Morss, News Editor

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         For many people the Internet and social media have become an inseparable part of everyday life. In 2017, there were approximately 2.46 billion users of social media worldwide with over 208 million in the United States alone, according to Statista.

        With so many people having a presence online, privacy and safety can be a major concern. Senior Ashlyne Powers, who has a social media following of over 10,000 across multiple platforms, believes that the privacy concerns are a part of the risk one takes when joining social media.

        “You are putting your stuff out there for everyone to see, so I don’t think [social] media can ever really be truly private,” Powers said. “There’s always a risk because there is always people trying to get your information or hack your accounts. I think this can be a privacy concern, but you also have to consider that you are getting on social media to post things for the public to see.”

        The issue of privacy on social media was brought to light again March 17 when it was revealed that Facebook users had their data improperly shared through the use of software created by a firm linked to Cambridge Analytica, according to the Guardian. The scandal was revealed after whistleblower and co-founder Christopher Wylie claimed the company would use the information gathered in order to target swing voters in political campaigns like the Brexit referendum and the 2016 U.S. election. Cambridge Analytica created a survey that would then require users to download an app that not only gathered their personal information, but also the personal information of their friends on Facebook. The scandal has been connected with the Trump administration since Trump’s former Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon, was an employee of Cambridge Analytica and the company was funded by well-known Republican lobbyist Robert Mercer, according to the Intercept.

       “We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s profiles,” Wylie said in an interview with the Guardian March 17. “[We] built models to exploit what we know about them and target their inner demons. Broadly, this a company that goes around the world and undermines civil institutions of countries.”

        Facebook calculates that approximately 87 million users were affected in the data sweep and just over 70 million were from the United States. The scandal not only is a concern for the legitimacy of our democracy, but for the safety of every individual who has an online presence. In a 2018 Gallup poll, approximately 74 percent of Facebook users are very or slightly concerned the about their privacy being invaded. Despite this lack of confidence, global population on social media continues to rise and is expected to reach over three billion in 2021, according to Statista.

        Arizona Private Investigator, Michèle Stuart, utilizes social media often in her cases and has worked closely with the FBI to investigate both conventional crimes and online crime. She believes, with the span of the Internet, the expectation of privacy has disappeared.

       “There is absolutely no expectation of privacy in today’s Internet age because no matter how hard you try to hide information, there is always going to be a new way to uncover it,” Stuart said. “I would suggest if you have social media, whether you are a child or an adult, that you set it on private. Otherwise, anybody, whether they be a predator trying to groom a kid or someone trying to commit fraud against you, will just have that much easier of time doing it.”

        One issue when it comes to social media for high schoolers, specifically, is how it can affect them when it comes to applying for college. Social media plays a vital role for high school athletes trying to get recruited. Missouri Western volleyball coach Marian Carbin says social media can act as a way to reveal the attitude of a recruit and whether or not they will be a good team player.

        “In our program, we use social media as a way to learn more about a prospective student-athlete in an environment where they are most comfortable,” Carbin said. “Sometimes, when a recruit comes on a campus visit, they are nervous and we don’t always get to see them open up and be themselves. Social media provides us with a glimpse into who they are on a day-to-day basis.”

          Social media has become a new outlet for the world of college recruiting and Carbin says it is not only a tool for colleges to use, but also students, in order to get familiar with the programs they may join one day. Although social media can be beneficial for both colleges and recruits, it can also make or break a recruit’s chances if they have a lot of red flags on their social media.

        “It is also one of the primary ways that we identify red flags about a recruit,” Carbin said. “Some of the red flags that we look for are: negative or passive aggressive comments about teammates or coaches, posts that hint at partying or underage drinking, or even something as seemingly innocent as being late for class and how they handled it. A positive social media presence does not guarantee an offer, but a negative online presence will almost certainly prevent one.”

        Students can wisely use social media to not only follow and like the accounts of colleges they are interested in, but also put a professional image of themselves out there that colleges may be impressed with, according to Next College Student Athlete (NCSA), since NCAA rules say colleges cannot personally contact recruits until after June 15th between their sophomore and junior years. Carbin says that, although it is good to promote athletic achievements, recruits should be humble and show themselves to be team players.

        Social media, and the Internet in general, have also opened up a whole new field for crime. Stuart explains how she has to investigate many crimes on social media from drug dealing to sex trafficking.

        “I mostly hunt for videos or people stating what they have been doing on social media,” Stuart said. “If I’m working, say a human trafficking case, and the pimp or culprit says what they are doing that weekend then it can aid law enforcement by giving them the individual’s location. Often crimes, which are not typically done online, now use social media. Now, in today’s age, I could be investigating somebody who is selling drugs on sites like Reddit or the dark web. The Internet has just become another major outlet for crimes to be committed in, anywhere from fraud to drug dealing to sex trafficking.”

        According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center’s (IC3) 2016 report, there are an average of 280,000 crimes reported each year and more than 800 a day. Most of these crimes involves cases of fraud and identity theft which the IC3 reports resulted in a total loss of $1.33 billion for victims. Those under the age of 20 were not affected near as much when compared to people above the age of 60, who were the largest group of victims.

        Since most youth do not have access to large sums of money worth committing fraud for, the real dangers of having an online presence for teenagers is being groomed online by predators or sex traffickers, or in the distribution of child pornography. According to the National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW), approximately 76 percent of cases involving predators were initiated online and in 27 percent of incidents solicitors asked for the victims to send sexual or nude photographs of themselves. A survey of victims of internet-initiated sex crimes showed that the majority of victims willingly met in person with the predator and 93 percent of these encounters ended with sexual contact.

        Sexting and the sharing of pornographic content through the use social media and the Internet is also a major concern for young people. Fr. Curtis Hecker believes this is not only a legal issue, but a moral one.

        “When I was in St. Louis there was one girl I knew who committed suicide because she sent some [nude] pictures to a boyfriend who shared it…and she ended committing suicide with all the shame and guilt that came along with it,” Hecker said. “In addition to that, anyone taking pictures of themselves underage is child pornography. The production and distribution of child pornography is a federal offense. From a moral side, sexting is just another venue of lust itself and looking at someone with lust rather than love. We don’t cover our bodies because there’s something wrong with them, we cover them because they are good and not mundane.”

        According to NSOPW, approximately 11 percent of teenagers say they have shared nude pictures of themselves, and of that 11 percent, only 26 percent believe the person they shared it with would not share them with someone else. For those young people in a relationship, 40 percent say they have experienced at least one form of abuse via technology and 26 percent admit to sexting. Despite these statistics, approximately 81 percent of young people in relationships say they rarely or never feel their significant other uses social media to keep tabs on them.

        “I think the openness and accessibility the Internet offers is something to worry about,” said senior Lily Crowdus. “Anyone can follow me or anyone else on social media and use what I post against me, so I think people need to be smart on social media and only interact with people they know.”

Cali Estrada
100 students surveyed
April 13-16