Jan 2022 / #InfluenceForGood / Blog

How do social networks use our data?

"Tell me who you hang out with and I'll tell you who you are”. This is what your user journey on social networks looks like. Your behaviour is scrutinised and your information is meticulously collected. So if social networks contain a treasure trove of data that accurately reflects who we are, can we rely on the GDPR - General Data Protection Regulation - to protect us from giants like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter? Why is our data worth its weight in gold? And how can we preserve it? An overview of a sensitive and hot topic!

RGPD and social networks: what about them?

At the beginning of 2022, the CNIL has just imposed fines on Google and Facebook for their cookie practices. They will have to pay 150 million and 60 million euros respectively! And this is not the first time that financial penalties have been imposed. In 2019, Facebook was already penalised for “failure to respect privacy” and ordered to pay a fine of 5 billion dollars.

This time, the CNIL demonstrated that it was not possible to refuse cookies “as simply” as to accept them. Thus, several clicks would be required to refuse all cookies.

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Your data is worth its weight in gold

Haven’t you noticed that the friends suggested on social networks often have the same tastes as you? Thanks to cookies! These small computer files installed on websites and whose purpose is to offer you targeted advertising. The collection and processing of data allows us to better understand the behaviour of users in a given age group or city, or the opinion they share about a brand. Once collected, all this valuable information is sold to companies.

These companies will then use this leverage to provide you with tailored offers and encourage you to buy the right product! 

All this data is worth its weight in gold when you consider that by 2021:

  • the number of active users on social networks will be 4.33 billion, i.e. 55.1% of the world population;
  • we spend an average of 1 hour 41 minutes a day on social networks!
(source BDM)

Role of the GDPR

In force since May 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation has changed the European landscape of customer data. The digital link between companies and Internet users is now subject to specific processing. 

Indeed, faced with the explosion of social networks and the growing number of their functionalities, the implementation of a regulation had become necessary. It should be noted that the scope of the regulation is European. As a company from a European Union member country, you must therefore comply with it.

The RGPD in practice:

  • Transparency of the general terms of use (GTU): you must clearly draft and display them;
  • Conditions adapted for Internet users under 15 years of age;
  • The right to data portability: i.e. the possibility to recover your data;
  • A mandatory parental authorisation for the registration of minors.
  • Of course, there is no such thing as zero risk, and don’t think that the simple application of such a regulation will protect you completely… Some information about you may escape the system and infringe your privacy. You should therefore continue to be vigilant and careful when giving your consent.

How to protect your data on social networks?

When you create an account on a social network or install a new application, you accept the conditions of use that you do not necessarily master. Lack of time or not wanting to read all the lines… You validate and thus consent to the use of your data.

But social networks are a great gateway to your privacy (personal or professional) and you are not immune to malicious practices. Hackers, cyber-harassment or just people with bad intentions: you need to protect your accounts.

Be suspicious

In other words, don’t reveal everything about your life on the Internet! Keep some information confidential and as a company choose your partners carefully. For example, as part of an influencer marketing strategy, choose influencers carefully by entrusting this work to experts like Kolsquare.

The ideal solution is to create separate accounts to differentiate your professional (your community) and personal (friends and family) lives.  

You can also keep control of your accounts and filter your followers:

  • Facebook settings allow you to choose who can see your posts;
  • On Instagram, same principle: choose who has access to your stories;
  • Twitter allows you to set the parameters of who can send you a private message.

Adjust the privacy settings on your profile

This is a good way to prevent search engines from indexing your profile.  You can simply limit your full visibility to your contacts. You can also classify your friends into several categories (close friends, acquaintances, family, etc.) to better control the distribution of your publications. 

Secure your profiles

  • It is essential to create complex passwords (at least eight characters including upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters) and to hide your login from the general information of your profile (your email address for example). Also remember to vary your passwords… We tend to use the same one everywhere for simplicity and memorization! 
  • Remember to regularly delete your browsing data and cookies on your computer. 
  • Finally, control your presence on the Internet and do not systematically authorise geolocation. Also regularly delete profiles that you no longer use. Also, use common sense when posting information such as a holiday: you are attracting potential burglars!

What about the social platforms?

If Facebook has been condemned again very recently, can we say that there are good and bad pupils when it comes to using our data?

The bad pupils

The META group, with Facebook and Instagram in particular, is the first to share so much data with third-party services. It is the bad pupil of the class! 

And let’s not forget WhatsApp, which is also owned by Meta and whose data is now shared with Facebook. Many people have therefore left this messaging solution in favour of more secure ones like Telegram.

As ads on Instagram become more and more refined, it is the network that sells the most data. According to a PcCloud study, the virtual network shares up to 79% of our personal data!

The good students

Still according to the PcCloud study, other platforms show more acceptable rates of personal data sharing:

  • LinkedIn and YouTube: 57% to 43%;
  • TikTok: 36%;
  • Twitter and Tinder: between 7% and 21%.

Beyond all these figures and a ranking of “good” and “bad” students, there are many other vagaries concerning our data. In the course of 2021, for example, personal data leaks have affected users of Facebook, LinkedIn and Clubhouse. 

In April, a database containing more than 533 million Facebook accounts, including phone numbers, was posted on a forum frequented by cybercriminals. A little later, a user of the same forum claimed to have data on millions of LinkedIn accounts. Then an Internet user posted a database of 1.3 million Clubhouse voice social network accounts.

Hence the need, as you will have understood, to securely use social networks to protect your data. This is a subject that will continue to evolve as the web becomes more and more popular and personal information is increasingly shared.