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Data Privacy Day: Own Your Privacy, Part 2 - Safe Use of Social Media

Understanding Social Media’s Risks and Benefits

The impact of social media on our everyday lives is immense; something unimaginable even just 10 years ago. But the benefits of near-instantaneous communication and the potential for positive social change inherent to social media come with a dark side.

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Industry research has found that 77% of employees admitted to using social-media while on the clock.With 3.2 billion social users worldwide, it’s a great way to stay connected to our personal and professional networks. It makes us feel a part of what’s happening.

Social media has become such an influence that 73% of marketers believe social marketing is effective for their business; 54% of social browsers use social media to research products; and 71% of consumers who’ve had a positive brand experience through social will likely recommend that brand to family and friends. Clearly social media has a big impact on modern businesses.

Except for those working in public relations or certain marketing roles, though, using social media isn’t typically a part of people’s job responsibilities. Despite this, industry research has found that 77% of employees admitted to using social-media while on the clock.

While individuals own their social media accounts, use of social media can have unexpected, and sometimes harmful, effects on others, including their employers.

Understanding these risks will empower everyone to use social media in a way that’s safe for users, their coworkers, and their companies.

How Can Social Media Use Be Harmful?

The very nature of using social media is to have your activity tracked. Not only by someone’s contacts and followers, but by the social platforms themselves and even trolls or hackers doing research for social engineering attacks.

Because of this, there can be diverse impacts from sharing the wrong thing online. Here are a few examples:

Reputational Hits

All employees have a role in preserving their employers’ reputation. That’s especially true for anyone who acts as a public representative of a company. Public actions those employees take, either online or in-person, will be seen and can greatly affect the organization’s reputation.

But actions taken by other employees may also be seen. Be careful about the possible PR backlash from anything you might post.

Data Leaks

Leaking sensitive information is another risk. Of course, deliberate leaks are wrong and possibly even criminal. But often things that are innocently posted on social media reveal company information that should be kept private.

For example, talking about a particular project’s details, providing information about teammates, highlighting recent accomplishments, sharing location data, posting photos from team events or travel to different locations – any of these could unintentionally reveal bits of information that, when combined, can put the company at risk.

Unintended Data Sharing

Social media sites are not free! As the saying goes, if you’re not paying, you are the product.

Everyone using social media “pays” for the service with their data, which could compromise company information. Social media accesses data in ways that aren’t always evident. It’s important to be aware of possible intrusions so as not to unwittingly compromise anything sensitive.

Perceived Discrimination or Harassment

Employees do not have the right to absolute freedom of expression about their employer organization. The workplace needs to be a safe and healthy place for all employees, and the same anti-harassment and discrimination laws that apply in person also apply online.

Avoid posting anything that is culturally insensitive or could be offensive. Besides, dissing your employer online makes you look bad. You work there, right?

Harm to Personal Careers

Inappropriate social media posting can also have detrimental career impacts. CareerBuilder’s 2018 research study found that 70% of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates. Of those already doing so, 57% found content that caused them not to hire candidates.

Twenty-five percent said they did not hire job candidates who bad-mouthed their previous employer or a fellow employee online; and 20% cited a job candidate sharing confidential information from a previous employer online as their do-not-hire criterion.

Put simply, the wrong post could cost you your job or keep you from getting a new one.

Risks to Home Life

Beyond risks to the work environment, social media information sharing can also impact our personal lives.

The more information anyone shares about themselves, the more it can become fodder for identity theft. Posting photos from the awesome vacation you’re taking while you’re still traveling lets everyone know you’re not home, making your house vulnerable. Viral links and videos can take you to dangerous sites or download malware onto your device. And there’s always the risk of reputational damage that can come from sharing inappropriate or offensive content.

Social media can pose special risks to children, who are too young and inexperienced to understand the dangers. Cyberbullying can cause social and psychological harm. Bad actors may “game” children to build online relationships that lead to in-person encounters. Revealing children’s personal information like name, address, and especially photos provides data for identity theft or even real-world stalkers.


For more information regarding Data Privacy Day visit Media Pro Cybersecurity & Privacy Education and join the Data Privacy Day live web conference on Thursday, Jan. 28, from 9-12 PT 

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