Of the many current topics of national concern is personal safety on social media platforms. Social media is used for many purposes, such as marketing, politicking, family connections, and opinion sharing. There are more ways social media is used, yet this provides a good sample of some of the main uses of social media. The giants in the industry such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter are now part of this nation’s culture and daily utilization. Do users of these platforms understand what personal data is gathered by social media and do users understand what the personal data is used for?
Legal expert and former New Jersey Supreme Court justice, Judge Napolitano, has written and spoken about the complete lack of personal privacy on social media. He has written how social media is used to obtain data on where someone is from or where a person is located at the moment. For example, Napolitano informs readers concerning the National Security Agency, or NSA, a federal agency of 60,000, which monitors every text, email, and cell phone call within, entering or leaving the United States. This domestic capture of personal information is not generally known yet it continues on a daily basis. In this same line of thought, social media platforms collect an enormous amount of information on Americans. Every post, every tweet, every picture posted, and everything searched for on the internet is collected by social media companies. This data is then used in many different ways. The most transparent and recognizable use of personal data is in marketing and advertising. Social platform companies take what users talk about, post, or search for and use that data to send focused, targeted, individual advertisements to users. This data is especially pertinent since the onset of the COVID pandemic.
Users shop more online, post their most recent purchases online, and ask online friends for shopping advice, thus giving social media platforms additional data to send advertisements based on the user’s purchases. Additional use of personal data is regarding the business of politics. Social media platforms share and sell user’s data with polling companies and political organizations to perform statistical analysis on voters. Demographic data is like gold to political planners and strategists. Political campaigns then use the data to focus political messages to voters most likely to agree with a particular point of view. Judge Napolitano believes all personal data is now a commodity to be bought and sold and then be analyzed by anyone with the money to purchase the data. Of course, there also exists the ever-present danger of hackers breaking into a database of social media users. Hackers want users’ information not for marketing or analysis. Hackers use the user information in attempts to obtain financial data, which they can use to steal users’ money and assets. This is the reason for user awareness when using social media. Everything that is posted is analyzed to determine how the data can be used and turned into a commodity.