Social Media Privacy and Data Concerns

Social Media privacy isn’t free. It is one of the most costly and expensive things we have ever had the opportunity to mindlessly give away.

As a social whole, we are ignorant of what social media is worth. The friendly buzz about people we know has obscured the fact that social media privacy protections for the general web audience has been lost in our daily chatter.

The problem is fundamental to the business model of online greed: social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have forced themselves into a critical business requirement to monetize your data. This monetization occurs through the sale of advertising. These advertising budgets have historically been major financial forces and the effectiveness of data collection with social media has lined many business coffers.

If you still think social media is free,
you don’t understand the value of your social media privacy.

With that said, the simplest way to convince someone to use a “free service” is to fail to educate them on how they will be monetized. If you don’t educate someone to understand that personal data has a value of X, then it is a simple process to convince them to give you an item of unknown value.

In any other marketplace this is called a SCAM, CON or simply… unethical.

Would you ask a pawn broker to buy an unknown family trinket or sell your home without any understanding of market value?  An honest pawn broker or real estate buyer will advise you to get an item appraised, while a dollar-driven business will steal your family heritage for $5 and move on to the next victim.

This is where social media privacy fails.

When was the last time a free site advised you on what you are worth? I’ve looked over both Facebook and Twitter as an example.
While they have lengthy terms of service, there isn’t any description of how they make money from me…

In the social networking marketplace, the item of value (your data) is hidden behind a complex business model and incomprehensible terms of service. If we look at a valuation price of $33 Billion for Facebook or $1 billion for Twitter, what would the value of the data surrounding 500+ million Facebook or 150 million Twitter users be?

What are we really worth?

At the end of the day most of us have no idea how much money someone made off our information. We all inherently know that sites sell advertising, but few of us know that the information about us creates significant revenue streams by itself.

To think about this, lets think about these three example groups:

Example One – the value of our  social media privacy and the surrounding data can be seen by how our personal information is valued by big business. Several recent security breaches and data topics revealed some interesting points for the value of our social media privacy-

Example Two – how does the criminal element utilize and value our personal data? The following sites were created by developers to highlight a problem regarding our security with location based applications (while these are benign, I can guarantee that some criminal elements are highly active on social networking services) They simply aggregate information from services like Twitter, FourSqaure, Gowalla and tell people when you are not home.

Example Three- social media privacy in the news. The Wall Street Journal has been writing a comprehensive series on “what they know” that discusses some big picture elements. The last two articles are additional pieces that I wrote this summer.


This isn’t something new. Companies and criminals have been making money off your information for years.

A good read to prove the point: Top 12 Ways to Protect Your Online Privacy by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. This article was written in April of 2002.