Social networks and media provide a range of services enabling businesses to increase their visibility on the Web and thus gain the customers’ loyalty more easily; their initial purpose, however, is instant connectivity among the users. The average Facebook user has around 200-300 friends, which facilitates the creation of the so-called “weak ties” – just the kind of connections that allow people to get easier access to resources (Morgan, 2016).
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Benefits aside, repeated conflicts of privacy involving social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter have become a serious issue. The present work is, therefore, focused on the privacy policies of Twitter and Facebook. It seeks to build a case on these two networks, compare, analyze, and evaluate their privacy policies. The popularity of the networks, and the fact that they collect so much data, constitute the rationale for choosing Facebook and Twitter as the objects for the present research.
Facebook & Twitter: Overview, Privacy Policies, and Privacy Issues
In this part, an overview of the networks’ usage and policies is presented, along with the issues the users can face, either knowingly or inadvertently.
Although the users of Facebook can just as well post to Twitter on a daily basis, the outreach of the networks can diversify. Facebook is growing in popularity among the senior population (4% of persons 65 and over are active Facebook users), while Twitter is most commonly utilized by people aged 25-34 (Wolfe, 2016). Other statistical data available on the networks indicate that 15% of all adult population of the U.S. are Twitter users, with 8% of these tweeting/scrolling the network every day (Wolfe, 2016). The fact that Twitter is less advert-ridden than Facebook can explain such user devotion. Other points of distinction concern the websites’ interfaces, basic tools and functions, and privacy policies.
Analysis and Evaluation
In this part, the privacy policies of the companies will be analyzed and evaluated by the ease of access and understandability to users, default settings adequacy, and security.
Although the Terms and Policies mentioned above outline practically any interaction, the user has, the default settings make their information open to anyone within the network. To secure one’s account, one needs to undertake a number of steps and adjust the information to their needs. The adjustments may include the groups of users able to see the posted data, tagging options, past posts, contacts, and more (Data Policy, 2016).
Facebook retains the right to preserve all the data shared by the users: posts, tags, likes, private messages, etc., even if the said user deletes their account and/or message history. The Sponsored Story was removed after a scandal arose concerning users’ faces and accounts appearing in adverts without them knowing – but still, the ad platforms Facebook cooperates with can tell the users’ friends where and what for they shop online.
The cookies used to allow the network to keep the dates, time, and URLs that the user browses if these sites have a Facebook plugin (e.g., a “share” button). Users can change the settings and limit the groups of people who can tag them, but Facebook can still use facial recognition to locate users in pictures. Finally, like Twitter, Facebook conceals the frequency and the volume of data it allows legal services to access (Luckerson, 2014). Such a long list of insecure practices speaks of the network as potentially harmful for the users’ privacy.
Unlike Facebook, Twitter’s Terms, and Policy lack clarity. Experts and observers state that it would be difficult for an average user to get to the bottom of the Policy, which is why they are likely to either skip it or cease using the network whatsoever (Steinmetz, 2015). For instance, Twitter states that it tracks the users’ interactions with links over the services they provide but fail to denote what exactly is meant by each interaction (Steinmetz, 2015).
Unlike Facebook, the posts on Twitter can be either public or private. The default settings make every new user’s account public, which means that everyone on the Web can view their posts. While Facebook provides many additional settings to make posts visible only to certain groups of people, Twitter opts for maximum visibility.
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So far, Twitter has shown itself more sensitive to the users’ privacy concerns. Although the content is visible all over the Web, the users can adjust their experience thanks to the opt-in – opt-out policy Twitter uses. Facebook states its policies and terms more distinctly and covers all aspects of usage. However, the default settings make the accounts quite vulnerable from the start.
Users of both networks have to understand that the best way to protect their privacy on the Internet is to abstain from using it at all (Moran, 2015). When they decide to enjoy the networks, they have to go with the services’ requirements. The security of the networks is, thus, more reliant on the optimizability of the settings and the number of functions than on anything else. At that, Twitter appears to be more advantageous simply because its functions are more limited: unlike Facebook, it has no polls or groups, and the targeted ads only include promoted tweets and accounts, in contrast to Facebook’s banners, videos, and referrals.
Data Policy. (2016). Web.
Luckerson, V. (2014). 7 Controversial Ways Facebook Has Used Your Data. Web.
Moran, N. (2015). Consumer Information in the Digital Age. Northridge, CA: California State University, Northridge.
Morgan, J. (2016). Why Every Employee Should Be Building Weak Ties At Work. Web.
Steinmetz, K. (2015). These Companies Have the Best (And Worst) Privacy Policies. Web.
Wolfe, L. (2016). Twitter vs. Facebook, Which Is Better? Web.