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Facebook privacy: Is it to be trusted?

Info: 6536 words (26 pages) Dissertation
Published: 12th Nov 2021

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Tagged: TechnologySocial Media

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Chapter One: Introduction

1.1  Background of the Study

DiMaggio, et al (2001), it is clear that digital age allows the accessibility to sensitive information gained from available internet sources. To illustrate, a host of information relating to people’s births can be extracted from their Facebook profiles within a given social circle raising issues of whether it can be trusted. This explains that the use of digital age, within the dimensions of social networking can increase the ability to high sensitive data combining several social media databases. The foundation tenets that users of social network site are based on the ability of the digital age to give them control of their own data. However, as Marwic and Boyd (2014) outline, this threshold formulates the initial loophole in which such data is handled, generated, reproduced and even published. Regarding this, it becomes notable that the user control perspective is not adequate in mitigating the challenges of accessibility. This is reflected in the views of Nissenbaum (2011) that individual users are unaware of which information about them is gathered, accessed and sensitively inferred. Thus, it becomes evident that while control is normative, the conceptual principle of privacy is positively implied. In light of this, empirical evidence underlying the publication of personal information can extensively impact on the propensity of an individual to reveal sensitive data to strangers. The assumption levelled touches on the inability for users control to help achieved the volatile balance of security between information protection and information sharing.

“The world has changed; it has become more public than private” (Kirkpatrick et al., 2010). The likes of Social Media have become an outlet that nobody can ignore, its features, characteristics and convenience encapsulates all that is needed for any walk of life chosen by an individual.

Of course, with the undying support for social media, especially Facebook, one must ask his or herself, is it to trusted? Is my information being kept privately like they said it is?

Some believe it is however some feel that is far from safe. However, this study is going to give a clear-cut decision as to what the majority think and why. Of course, there is no right or wrong answer, and there is the likelihood that this study may not affect the broader picture, but it will give clarity and I think that is necessary. As supposed to concentrating on Social Media as a general platform this study will revolve around Facebook only to have a more tailored and focussed reading.

I have chosen Facebook, because this is the Social Media outlet that revolutionised all those that were to follow. The physiological as well as sociological impacts will be ostracised, this will look at how Facebook affects the attitudes and body/verbal language of individuals. Last but not leady corporate governance will be looked at; this will test how Facebook is in line it at all with corporate governance codes

Both sides of the arguments will be welcomed with reasons for balance and recommendation will be ushered as to how Facebook could become the safe zone that everyone urges for.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Can Facebook privacy really be trusted will all the technological developments? Marwic and Boyd (2014) articulate that the existing legal framework that guides privacy in the digital age is failing, the underlying impact of Facebook emerges as a force that renders obsolete a host of theoretical perspectives on legal protections. A case in point is a scenario where a few pieces of personal information can lead to the unique identification of an individual thereby allowing the inference of more sensitive information about the person.  Privacy in the use of the Facebook has continued to pose a challenge as it is a complex issue for users, administrators and policy makers due to its very nature. Nevertheless, the problem posed by the use of Facebook on the privacy of the users require that efforts are put to ensure that users of the internet are protected from malicious users of their personal information and other criminals such as online bullies and stalkers. It is important that strategies are put in place to address the issue of privacy and the use of the Facebook for negative activities. One of the recommended strategies is the employment of standard security measures to ensure that the sites are safe for use by the public. This can be done through such things as software and applications for protecting users of Facebook. It would also help to ensure that the security measures are available for social networking sites are known and easy to use for the users. Laws should also be put in place to prevent the continued illegal sale or sharing of personal information by the web-based organizations. Though this move has been challenged by the supporters of free speech, it is important that changes be made to make the use of the Facebook safer (Mogull& Rothman, 2011).

1.3 Justification of the Study

This study is significant because, guardianship of personal and sensitive information is the most effective protection approach to guiding personal information. This is especially due to the fact that Facebook use user-generated content, with the user having a great amount of control over the content. Scholars will use the findings of the study to map out ways of protecting online privacy.  It is important to get sufficient information on how to protect personal information on Facebook. Sufficient information should be provided on how individuals and organizations can protect their information from malicious users and computer criminals. One of the ways of protecting oneself from computer criminals is to avoid identifying oneself unreasonably. This kind of countermeasure is known as risk avoidance. When identification is important, excessive information should not be advanced. Another measure is to avoid using a lot of unnecessary information on Facebook as current location, classes being attended and other such information. It is important to note that information technology has increased the vulnerability to cybercrimes.

1.4 Research Objectives

  1. To examine the extent to which Facebook can be trusted to handle online privacy
  2. To determine measures of promoting online privacy for Facebook users
  3. To find out gaps in legal frameworks around online privacy for Facebook users

Chapter TWO: Literature Review

2.1 Digital Technology

Digital age, through social networking sites have become a very significant part of the society in the modern age. These technologies provide the platform for sharing information, videos, photos, as well as blogging (Kaplan and Haenlein, 2010). The modern society has encountered heated debates, theorizing, hype, and bogging about the role of Facebook networking site in the modern society and whether it can be trusted to deliver the societal expectations. The social media platform has contributed in violating people’s privacy. Such platforms enable individuals to create networks which one shares with friends. Privacy concerns come to play in the use of social media especially Facebook and requires one to give their personal details to sign up for the account (Schmidt and Cohen, 2014). This information which is uploaded into this site can be accessed by fiends and other people. Thus, this implies the possibility of security threats as some members of the network individuals can hack into one’s system and extract crucial information like the location and telephone numbers which they can use to perpetrate an attack on the innocent web user.

Before the security agencies and other parties intercept anyone’s conversations, there is a need to inform the person through the relevant channels. This is achieved either by the authorization from the court or the security chief in the country. According to Schmidt and Cohen (2014), the government, through the aid of modern technological devices has been a threat to privacy. This is especially when an individual is being grilled or imprisoned. As a result, such moves facilitate the profiling of one’s details thus infringing on the dignity and the privacy of the victim. At workplace, many organizations have put in place strategies that enhance total control of staff while at work.

2.2 Privacy and trust Bias

In a strict counterargument, the bias in privacy decision raises concerns over the ability to optimally navigate issues of privacy and trust in the digital age. Schmidt and Cohen (2014) portends that while modern information seems to increase breach on privacy, there is reason for optimism and hope. The quest for privacy and trust is a human desire that digital age can support. In view of this, experimental evidence suggests that privacy protection can be activated through a host of subtle manipulations. The salience of the information revelation, accessibility and activation can be protected through data coding and software development. However, Nissenbaum (2011) argues that individuals face competing challenges in their quest to balance information disclosure and protection.

Policies and technologies have been developed to counter cognitive ad behavioural biases around privacy and trust. Research by Kaplan and Haenlein (2010) articulate that approaches to enhance user privacy decision are inspired by behavioural economics on paternalism, asymmetric and soft technologies. The implication of this argument resonates the interplay between psychological processes of underlying pricy as well as the systems of laws designed to enhance the personal choice without restricting it. The goal of such intervention approached in the space of privacy increases social welfare and individual quest for privacy and digital age security. For example, Google has developed nudging tools for mobile applications, online social networks, and location services to achieve the primary goal of privacy protection.

Underlying how technology can be used to enhance privacy, it is evident that a lot of incentives can be realized through the use of the internet in observing privacy concerns. Personalization of websites can help to promote security. This technique also promotes the strategy where one can send massage and emails without necessarily disclosing the sender’s identity (Marwick and Boyd, 2014).

In the past years, this was something very easy to ensure due to the existent media of communication at the time (Eric, 2007). However, the technological realm has improved immensely by coming up with communication channels that traverse geographical distance and enhance communication convenience. Today, using social media one can easily communicate with any person in any corner of the planet and with this convenience comes the risk of third party infringement in the communication process (Fogel&Nehmad, 2009).

2.2.1 Privacy concerns

Facebook’s policy

Facebook gives users the chance to make sure that what they share does not end up in the wrong hands. This is made sure using the above meters. Additionally, a user’s information is made safe from misuse by using the company’s data policy as a blue print (Liu, Gummadi, Krishnamurthy, &Mislove, 2011). Although, they collect all information shared on the media such as messages, financial information and images the company maintains that this information all goes towards enhancing the user experience by making the entire communication process more convenient (Boyd &Hargittai, 2010).

At the end of the day Facebook is business venture. Although users do not pay anything to enjoy the application, the management must pay the brains behind the creation. This is made possible through advertising which has evolved greatly because of the information collected about users (Raynes-Goldie, 2012).

2.2.2 Who is at fault?

It is the users’ ignorance or lack of knowledge of the privacy feature that induces the privacy concerns (Bedi, 2013). It has been said that there is no secret between two people, so the moment one shares something on Facebook, they should know that the information is visible to all their friends. To protect the privacy of the shared information, Facebook advices one to only accept friend requests of those people they know (Statt, 2013).

Additionally, today most employers do not seek out members of staff the traditional way, today they seek them out socially, this includes using their social media sites to look for information about them (Ostrow, 2009). Furthermore, it is an avenue where people can take on any character they want (Liu, Gummadi, Krishnamurthy, &Mislove, 2011). However, what one shares speaks volumes to those people on your friends list or anyone who is interested to see your activities online more so to a prospective employer.

For one an individual can control what they share to ensure they do not share anything another person may deem inappropriate (Warren, 2013). On the plus side is that its policy outline that the information they collect does not find its way to a third party, something they have proved time and again by incorporating more and more measures that spearhead their data policy (Zilles, 2017).

This way even if an employer was to stumble upon their account, they cannot get to see their posts (Hoffman, 2012). This gives the individual a level ground where they can compete with those eying the same position on several fronts where social media posts are not one of them. On this note, I take a stance that Facebook privacy can be trusted at all costs and that it is the users who need to learn how to use them to their advantage (Warfel, 2008).

2.3 Legal Framework

The law has been viewed as a crucial instrument in safeguarding privacy in the new digital age. There is a big correlation between the law and technology. As noted by Nissenbaum (2011), the law is mandated with the responsibility of inhibiting technology from intruding into privacy of people. The ability to follow the activities of the criminals through the information they provide on the web sites has played an important role in making the world safer (Mogull and Rothman, 51). Parents and schools can ensure the safety of children using the sites, especially the Facebook networking site (Mogull and Rothman, 53).

For some common persons, this suggests little more than a few unanticipated e-mails in their inbox, or a few uncannily pertinent advertisings on a prospect web page. Other users related this to the argument that time spent involving in abnormal interests can cause a flood of more targeted marketing which might not be welcome (Lahlou, 311). 

2.4 Privacy Issues

The other major privacy issue where the use of the internet is concerned is with the use of the Facebook and whether it can be trusted. The Facebook site has a way of making their users to factually expose their actual names, locations and interests.  This aspect of the Facebook renders social networking more realistic and thus engaging or those who use them. Additionally, there is uploading of photos as well as other unguarded statements. Such elements are identified to the person and can be accessed by malicious persons becoming a major privacy issue to the owner (Mogull and Rothman, 54). 

Chapter Three: Methodology

3.1 Research Philosophy

The interpreters philosophy seeks to study and express the feelings of participants were utilized in the study to ascertain the exact feelings not expressed or expressed differently by the users of the social networks.

3.2 Research Approach

The study adopts a deductive approach due to the positive nature of this research (Ormston, et al 2014). The deductive approach represents a common view between the relationships of research results and findings of this study and the existing theories developed by various research analysts and develops through reasoning.

Research questions are as follows:

  1. To what extent has Facebook bewitched individuals to believe that is safe?
  2. What evidence is there to show that Facebook is safe?
  3. What evidence is there to show that Facebook isn’t safe?
  4. How does Facebook's productivity and performance affect the attitude of individuals?
  5. If Facebook isn’t safe how at all how does that breach the code of corporate governance?
  6. How can Facebook make it better?

Primary research aim:

  1. To prove if at all Facebook is an outlet to be trusted and why.

To do justice to the objectives data collection will be done via questionnaire that will be sent out over a specific period of time to a specific target audience of about 50 or more people. This will be the bases of my primary data, but the formation will mostly derive from credible sources of secondary data, namely: the guardian, telegraph and electric forums (Survey Monkey). This all will be emulated to create a constructive argument.

Since Facebook is a global company, information will be gathered globally and not only from London or the UK, this allows leverage and gives more to talk about. In terms of target audience, since people of all ages use Facebook my data will not only be focussed on the younger generation but older and this is where secondary data comes in use. If done appropriately the objective and overall dissertation should be answered.

3.3 Access

The research having been scheduled by the university, it was not as difficult to obtain the research participants. I developed discussions with friend who introduced me to other friends for the study.  I also made some telephone contacts to friends with a view to direct them visit the site through a link of the monkey survey.

3.4 Primary research methods

3.4.1 Quantitative questionnaire

Quantitative methods and approaches are used in the collection of data for research. The approach involves data collection inform of or expresses and numerals or numbers (Ormston, et al 2014). The research employed the use of quantitative questionnaires to administer to student’s respondents. The questionnaire included open ended questions that encouraged comfortable and ethical discussions. The student’s consent was requested in the administration of the questionnaires.

3.4.2 Online Monkey Survey

The online surveys are considered trustworthy since they are administered in the privacy of respondent. The data received from the online monkey survey is more vibrant due to the fact respondents feel they are not supervised and more able to give their honest opinions compared to one on one survey questionnaires (Ormston, et al 2014). The research utilized the online monkey survey to refer students to a link to slot in the answers to the questions asked. 

3.4.3 Respondents attribute

The research targeted respondents within the ages of 14 – 49 years of age. The research was carried on the assumption that this age demography made move visits to social networks compared to the lower or upper demography. The research was therefore open to all active users of the Facebook.

3.4.4 Secondary research

Secondary research forms the basics and foundation of the study. This is a consultation of the available material and information on the research questions. The research therefore utilized Publications, peer reviewed articles and security based books and information to form the foundation for the research. 

3.5 Data Analysis

3.5.1 Quantitative data

The raw quantitative data collected during the research unless analysed would provide limited non-coherent information. The Univariates including the total samples distribution based on a variable at a single time was used to analyse the research finding into percentage and frequency occurrence of each research variable. This included the nominal and the ordinal categories and conducted a rating scale for questions.

The results were analysed using the excel worksheet based on graphs to analyse the data with an aim to make logical comparisons. The excel analysis would include an analysis done to each question asked with the results given per question analysed.

3.6 Limitations of study

The principle limitation witness in the study was picking up a significant measure of respondents for the questionnaires. The online surveys especially were significantly more strenuous contrasted with the normal ordinary face to face interviews.  Important to note was the unwillingness of respondents in answering the face or face interviews with some having to leave some hallways answered questionnaires forms. I was unequipped for compelling respondents to answer certain questions to. However, despite the notable limitations, the quality of and responses to the questions was not interfered.Nevertheless, only four questions from the research were used in the dissertation data analysis. Other responses can be found in appendix 2.

Chapter Four: Data Analysis and Discussion

4.1 Results

Monkey, 2017

From the above graph, all the respondent who participated in the survey report to have a Facebook account. An assumption can be made that this response represents the general population of the world.

Therefore, if situation of social insecurity in communication and data risk are involved in the use of Facebook as a social communication tool. The majority of the population are likely to experience or face the same risks. According to Mogull & Rothman (2011), it is evident that the private information available on Facebook can be used for many purposes without the consent or knowledge of the users, impacting on personal privacy leading to diminished trust. A research carried out on participants’ Facebook profiles, Carnegie Mellon University’s students showed that approximately 800 of the profiles have information on names, current resident, as well as others like classes and causes being studied. This is information a malicious person would require to locate a person at particular time.

(Monkey, 2017)

From the graphs, above, 33.87 % respondents reported to have more than 200 friends on Facebook while other 12.90 % reports to a maximum of 500 friends. This interprets to a situation where a Facebook user handles socially inclined communication to more than 200 people on the internet apart from the people they meet on a day to day basis. Facebook makes use of user-generated content, meaning that the users generate the content that is on the website. This enables the flexibility and multiplicity of information available on the Facebook. The use of Facebook, one of the social networking sites has come as an important platform for its users. However, with it, the issue of privacy of the users arises.  This paper discusses why privacy is important for Facebook users. The problem of privacy of this information has come on the increase as there is evidence of the increased use of Facebook (O’ Bien & Torres, 2012). Facebook like other social media sites have a way of making their users to accurately expose their real names, locations and interests and should not be trusted with such data.

(Monkey, 2017)

Majority of respondents 75.81% reports to have accepted friendship from people they barely know. This poses the general risk as it could be technically difficult to ascertain the objective of friends request to people one has not knowledge of. Asked whether respondents had reviewed their privacy settings the majority of the respondents responded to the negative. While users are provided such amount of personal information, as suggested by Bedi (2013) some of the websites do not have sufficient privacy policies for protecting the information. This has resulted in problems such as stalking, identity theft, online bullying and harassment.

There is the ability to break into the private lives of the users, since sufficient information is provided to perpetrate such acts. This highlights the importance of privacy for the users of Facebook.

4.2 Discussion

From the data, it is evident that it is possible to develop profiles of all the people who use the Facebook with information regarding their leisure activities, shopping interests, their profession, and other important aspects of their personal and demographic profile. This makes up the many privacy issues that have emerged in the use of the social sites such as the Facebook (O’ Bien & Torres, 2012).

Facebook has a way of making their users to accurately expose their real names, locations and interests. The possibility of accessing personal information from the websites is a major privacy issue in the use of the Facebook. Mogull& Rothman (2011) argues that the profiles that are created on the social media platform such as the Facebook are of special interests to other people and even organizations. Based on the terms and conditions of Facebook and the local laws related to the information from the profiles, they can be sold, shared, or passed to other people and organizations without informing the users.  For a common person, this might not suggest little more than a few unanticipated e-mails in their inbox, or a few advertisings on a prospect webpage.

It is estimated that one out of five potential employers search through Facebook to screen potential candidates. According to Bedi (2013) this has been an increase from only 11% back in 2006. This has been seen by many employers as a positive trend in looking for suitable candidates. On the other hand, the reality is that most of the employers do this in search for negative information about potential candidates. According to Bedi (2013) 41% of managers suggested information related to alcohol and drug use as being a major concern. Other things that they look for include improper photos, poor communication skills, incorrect qualifications and other things like bad-mouthing former employers or colleagues.

While Facebook users are provided such amount of personal information, as suggested by Bedi (2013) some of the websites do not have sufficient privacy policies for protecting the information of the users. It is possible and has happened that malicious people are having access to such personal information and using it to harm the owners. One of the problems related with this availability and accessibility of personal information is stalking.

Online bullying and harassment can also occur where personal information is accessed by malicious people. A study done on Facebook profiles from participants, students at Carnegie Mellon University revealed that about 800 profiles have information on names, current resident, as well as others like classes and causes being studied. This is all the information that a malicious person would require to locate a person at particular time, especially during class time. The ability to track users using the information provided on Facebook has become one of the major online privacy concerns (O’ Bien & Torres, 2012).

Bullying, stalking and harassment in the use of Facebook has come on the increase. There is the ability to break into the private lives of the users, due to the fact that sufficient information is provided to perpetrate such acts. Intrusion is very easy, even due to the very nature of Facebook. For example, it is possible for a malicious person to open a proxy account, request friendship and use it to stalk harass or bully a victim. With the use of the Facebook, information can be accessed even through hacking into personal accounts. The perpetrated acts can involve false accusations, threatening, monitoring, data or equipment damaging, luring minors for sex, or collecting information with the intention of harassing the user. Most of the stalkers and bullies have characteristics such as “malice, premeditation, repetition, distress, obsession, vendetta, no legitimate purpose, personally directed, disregarded warnings to stop, harassment, and threats” (Bedi, 2013:  62).

Information gathered from the Facebook can also be used for identity theft, with is a major problem in the age of technology. Identity theft is a compound term that is used to refer to all types of crimes that are perpetrated by an individual who gets personal information, basically through stealing or unauthorised access. For example, there have been cases of photos being stolen from the Facebook that are used in aiding identity theft. People who perpetrate identity theft can obtain personal information through the use of the social media platform, such as the Facebook or by hacking accounts. Stolen information is mostly used for deception as well as committing fraud. Once the information is gotten by the criminal, he or she pretends to be the owner of the information. With the new identity, the criminal can obtain services or commit crime with a fake or stolen identity. Unfortunately, it is the owner of the information who is held liable for such acts as it is not easy to prove that the identity was stolen. Millions of people in the United Kingdom and the United States among other countries in the world are reported to have fallen victims of these criminals due to the ease with which personal information can be obtained through the social media.  Identity fraud is the kind of crime that includes bank fraud, tax fraud, credit card fraud, as well as many other kinds of fraud committed using stolen identity (Lahlou, 2008). 

Chapter Five: Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1 Conclusion

Privacy and trust in the use of the internet and especially the Facebook networking site is a complex issue for individual users, administrators and policymakers due to its very nature. However, efforts should be put to ensure that users of the internet are protected from malicious users of their personal information as well as online bullies. There should be efforts in seeking to develop strategies for addressing the issue of privacy and the use of Facebook for negative activities. One of the suggested responses is the use of standard security measures to ensure that the site is safe for use by the public. It would help ensuring that the security measures which are available for social networking sites are known and easy to use for the users of Facebook. This will ensure that the users can apply them in ensuring security of their information.

5.2 Recommendation

Access to personal accounts on Facebook through various means such as hacking has been used to post obscene and illegal materials that are blamed on the owner of the account. Some of these materials are illegal as they are obscene distasteful or offensive. Obscene statements are such statements that offend the prevailing mortality, are a profanity, or are otherwise a taboo, repugnant, disgusting or offensive. In legal terms, the term is used in reference to information materials that are of sexual nature. One of the areas that have been targeted in this crime is internet pornography, especially child pornography. Unsuspecting users of Facebook and other social networking sites have fallen victims of such hackers and criminals who have accessed their personal accounts and posted the materials (Lahlou, 2008).


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