Social media and privacy? That sounds like an oxymoron to me. We have often been told that keeping the privacy of our personal information is always under our control. After all, privacy is considered a human right.

But social media has pretty much disrupted that sense of agency. Much of what we do on social media is being recorded somewhere for reasons we may not be aware of.

Social Media for Social Beings

Human beings are social animals because sharing things, telling stories and talking about ourselves has always been a part of our nature. The technology to aid this social behavior is called social media.

Groups of like-minded people share their thoughts and opinions. Now they’re doing the same thing, but using websites and apps as a tool. Among the most-used social media channels include tools like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and WhatsApp.

What You Really See

Most of the social media apps don’t charge a user fee. Hence, the only way they can make money is by selling advertisements to its users. Facebook, for example, uses user profiling techniques to show us ‘relevant’ advertisements. These adds are based on demographics, the brands we follow, and location among other things.

I think most of millennials are aware of as they continue to use Facebook. But few are aware that selling advertisements is not the only thing social media apps store the user data for.

Selling advertisements is a major revenue channel, but not the only way social media companies make money. Facebook holds the data of its billions of users. If you are a Facebook user, the algorithm of Facebook controls what you see on a daily basis.

From the news you read, the brands that you shop for, the book that you read, the food that you eat – you name it. Facebook even keeps track of all the activities that you do in the offline world even when you don’t share it on the platform.

Creating Bubbles

Social media, despite being an open platform, is making its users more delusional. Twitter, for example, gauges your behavior and will suggest you people based on your ideology. So if you often tweet about political issues, Twitter will suggest you people of your political inclination. In a way, it is putting you in a political bubble.

Facebook archives every photo, video upload, status update and private message that you have ever sent. You can download your Facebook history just by clicking on ‘Download a copy of your Facebook data’ in the settings page. Only Facebook knows why it cares to archive a message I sent in 2011.

How to Control Your Privacy

The easiest way to control this privacy hack is to totally get rid of social media apps. In fact, the recent Facebook-Cambridge scandal has triggered #DeleteFacebook campaign leading millions to drop the platform.

However, this isn’t a good solution for someone like me. Being away from Facebook keeps me from connecting with friends back home. There’s a lot of things I wouldn’t be able to update myself on.

I believe a user needs to take their privacy into their own hands and think twice before sharing something on social media platform. Moreover, a simple google search will tell you the ways of restricting your content sharing to the people you care about.

Avoid Clickbait

Avoid clicking random things like “check which celebrity you look like” or “comment below and see the magic.” This is clickbait, and it’s just a trap to capture your private information and misuse it. Facebook isn’t taking any responsibility for third-party apps.

Avoid Fake News

Often times, there are unverified articles on the newsfeed, especially political ones, that align with our biases and we tend to click them after reading the headline.

Not everything on the internet is factually correct. For example, not every quote that is attributed to Abraham Lincoln or Gandhi was actually quoted by them. Remember: facts don’t care about your biases or feelings. So read everything on Facebook with a pinch of salt.

Turn Off Your Location

Besides this, you can turn off your location sharing. You’ll avoid giving reviews to businesses and places you visit and prevent Facebook Email and Phone Lookup.

I think the future of social media apps depends partly on how they are keeping their users safe and protecting their privacy. If the companies don’t care, the governments may have to step in by bringing in regulations.