Sunday, June 12, 2011

Social Media Can Be Socially Dangerous

The positives of Social Media and the Internet are obvious for both consumers and companies: unlimited free access, massive amounts of shared information and networking. Facebook allows you to show your friends what is happening in your life, Twitter allows you to cleverly share your thoughts and likes with your followers, and Four Square gives you tips on which up-and-coming places your friends are “checking into.” On the other hand, the free marketing, event planning, and ability to easily access demographic information makes social media a publicist’s dream. However, the Internet is not always as safe as it appears to be, and it is important to monitor what you publicize.

Recently, the multi-billion dollar company Sony has had a massive data breach that has allowed hackers to access personal information from over one million Playstation customers. Sony, one of many companies who have fallen victim to a large scale security breach, has spent the past couple of weeks investing millions of dollars in PR recalls and increasing malware for their customers. This is just one of many cases in which the Internet has shared too much.

While your company or client may not be as publically vulnerable as the technological conglomerate Sony is, one should stop to think if they are really protecting themselves and/or their customers’ information to the best of their ability. While doing some research, I stumbled upon the article “Keeping Your Company’s Online Presence Safe” on the Bankok Post’s technology section. The following are what the article outlined as the five biggest virtual threats to both companies and individuals:

1. Malware: In the past, there have been worms that have been circulating both Facebook and Twitter. Do not click on a button or icon you are unfamiliar with! If you are curious, a quick Google search can take only a few seconds of your time and could potentially keep your computer safe.

2. Privacy: The more personal information you put online, the more at risk you can become. Privacy settings can often be broken by hackers, so be aware that people outside of your network may still be seeing things that can put you at risk.

3. Phishing Scams: Do your research before divulging personal information to any website! It is easy for cybercriminals to make fraudulent websites in order to attain passwords, usernames or even credit card numbers from the masses. Make sure any website you submit your information to is valid and safe.

4. Site Flaws: There have been breaches in privacy settings that can allow others to access your personal websites even if they are protected. Often basic information that can be found on your pages can be used in security questions that could give others access to a variety of your accounts or subscriptions.

5. Spam 2.0: Advertisers and companies often use your personal information to target you for your demographic or personal likes. Be aware that information you display may lead to unwanted e-mails or targeting.

As I read up on the Sony data breach, I did a search on data breach/identity theft. I was shocked with how many breaches occur on a daily basis that don’t make it to national news. Large companies may benefit from investing in Identity Theft protection software to avoid these issues. From Facebook to Playstation, information is out there, so make sure you are smart with what you post. Everyone in the Public Relations world is grateful for the use of social media, but beyond their professional uses, be aware that if one isn’t careful, social media can become socially dangerous.

This guest blog was written by PRowl Public Relations staff member Meagan Prescott.

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