A step forward to safeguard privacy online

Social media networks can access personal information about their online users, often without their knowledge. New online tools and guidelines can help users protect themselves.

Privacy is very much on the minds of citizens today, especially since so much private information is being gathered online through social media platforms. It is then often distributed or sold to third parties for marketing and other purposes, impacting users and compromising their right to privacy.

The EU-funded SOCIALPRIVACY (Addressing Privacy Challenges in Social Media) project researched privacy issues for citizens and businesses in order to offer solutions that enhance protection. It found that data collection takes place through social media on a large scale and without the knowledge of people, often through the installation of online software.

To achieve its aims, the project investigated how best to protect users, from providing them with technical safeguards and promoting informed consent to establishing corporate guidelines on the topic. It also considered how to develop and test recommendations for public policy with the support of experts in computer science, social science and cyber law.

Interestingly, the project team showed that people are more likely to share personal data if this benefits them in some way, such as targeting ads or improving service. Nonetheless, most people were keen on protecting their privacy, underlining a need for ways to help society understand the risks and possible benefits of sharing information online with groups or individuals.

In this vein, the project created a viable online platform to support privacy through educational material and self-testing tools for users, as well as voluntary guidelines for industry and policy recommendations for lawmakers. The research undergone with respect to this topic can serve as a solid basis for advancing online privacy through social media.

last modification: 2016-05-31

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