Publically Safeguarding Private Data

Where social media bring benefits, it also brings risks. Acceptable online social behaviors are subjective and as companies increase their social media interactions, so too raises associated privacy and ethical concerns.

A key component of all social media campaigns is to ensure your content is directed to the right audience via such targeting demographics as age, sex, location, income, job industry and interests. Madden (2014) states, “Social security numbers are universally considered to be the most sensitive piece of personal information, while media tastes and purchasing habits are among the least sensitive categories of data”.  As indicated by the below chart, physical location, health information, private phone and email messages, and birth date are some of the top sensitive issues and I will add income as data in need of protecting.


While 55% of Americans are willing to share information in order to use online services for free, the rest have concerns with the protection of their privacy. Madden (2014) continues, “Across the board, there is a universal lack of confidence among adults in the security of everyday communications channels”.  The Cisco 2013 Annual Security Report adds “the highest concentration of online security threats are on mass audience sites, including social media”. In order to get customers to engage with social platforms, websites, mobiles apps or online program offerings, companies must put into place safeguards that reassures privacy, security of information, and builds trust. Such next steps include:

  • Allowing individuals to set their own privacy settings and defaulting any platform updates to the highest of privacy settings.
  • Ensuring that their information will not be sold or shared with third-parties.
  • Evaluate data encryption processes and data loss prevention technologies to ensure they are secure.
  • Make transparent your use of their information by posting policies as well as the data protection technologies that are being used to safeguard the information.

If these steps are not taken, companies are at risk for a breach of company trust and confidentiality, loss of brand reputation, online brand defamation, and attacks and law suits aimed at the company, just to name a few. It is highly recommended that companies build strong social ethics policies and guidelines that are not only distributed company-wide but also followed. Appoint a team to monitor and audit online social behavior. Build a culture where social behavior online is just as important as offline. In fact, if everyone on the team has a say in developing the policies, they may be more likely to be followed.


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