While more than 2 billion people actively use the Facebook platform each month, its founder Mark Zuckerberg recently spent time at the Senate and House trying to clarify the issues related to Facebook’s privacy and data-protection policies. This comes on the heels of the scandal with Cambridge Analytica, wherein data of some 87 million Facebook users was obtained by the said analytics firm whose work included helping US President Donald J. Trump get elected in the recent polls.
Issues like this are nothing new to Facebook or Zuckerberg—understandably so since the social-media platform has been the biggest player in the industry for many years now. Its role in the spread of fake/phony news and propaganda, as well as in political manipulations, is probably the biggest challenge facing the social-media giant these days. In the Philippines alone, local regulations are almost nonexistent as far as social-media use is concerned. This has led to controversies and
confusion, for example, in the political and social arena.
This reminds me of a recent incident that happened to someone I know. She received a private message on Messenger from an account that was familiar to her, although she wondered why they weren’t connected on Messenger because she was sure that they were Facebook friends. She did not give it much thought because the name and the profile picture were both familiar, and she reasoned that, perhaps, sometime in the past, one of them Unfriended the other.
They started talking about harmless topics in the beginning, but pretty soon the conversation started to take a strange twist—it became more suggestive and provocative. The message sender wanted her to call a guy and was ready to give her a number—which was very strange, so she decided to stop replying. As soon as she did, the account name was changed and the profile photo deleted. The fake friend also apparently blocked her. When she did message the real owner of the name and picture, she confirmed that it was not her who was sending the messages.
There is a need to be extra careful on Facebook, and on all social-media platforms for that matter. Your account does not necessarily have to be hacked for criminals to be able to use it in malicious ways. They could easily just download your profile picture and copy your name, and then start talking to anyone on your friends list. Your unsuspecting friends will think that it’s you and could reveal information or do things they should not be giving/doing. This is just one of the specific dangers that could happen to anyone online.
It is so easy now to steal one’s identity and commit crimes on social-media channels. The online space has never been safe, but I think it has become more unsafe now. Extra vigilance is necessary.