Start Date

8-5-2020 12:00 AM

Document Type

Poster Session

Department

Communication and Media Studies

Advisor

Maureen Ebben, PhD

Abstract

Social media has transformed communication in many positive ways. However, there is growing concern about personal data and privacy for users. Routinely, social media users must battle complicated privacy policies and default profile settings in their attempts to achieve privacy. This project examined the privacy policies of four major social media sites: 1) Facebook, 2) Instagram, 3) Twitter, and 4) Snapchat. These four platforms report a combined total of 3 billion monthly users. The aim was to determine how accessible and understandable online privacy is for social media users on each platform. The privacy policies of each social media sites were assessed to discern how social media sites handle the private information of users, including how social media sites may exploit user’s privacy by collecting and selling data to third-parties. Additionally, profile privacy settings were examined to identify how much freedom users are given to manage the privacy of their account. Results show that while all social media sites provide users with some tools to make their social media profile private, the process is very difficult. Further, while these social media sites provide users with some information about how each site handles user’s data, the information is vague and, in most states, social media sites do not need to disclose how user data is manipulated by the companies. Ultimately, many social media sites mislead the public through ambiguous statements that ensure users their information is safe.

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May 8th, 12:00 AM

Communicating Privacy: An Exploration of Social Media Privacy Policies and User Account Settings

Social media has transformed communication in many positive ways. However, there is growing concern about personal data and privacy for users. Routinely, social media users must battle complicated privacy policies and default profile settings in their attempts to achieve privacy. This project examined the privacy policies of four major social media sites: 1) Facebook, 2) Instagram, 3) Twitter, and 4) Snapchat. These four platforms report a combined total of 3 billion monthly users. The aim was to determine how accessible and understandable online privacy is for social media users on each platform. The privacy policies of each social media sites were assessed to discern how social media sites handle the private information of users, including how social media sites may exploit user’s privacy by collecting and selling data to third-parties. Additionally, profile privacy settings were examined to identify how much freedom users are given to manage the privacy of their account. Results show that while all social media sites provide users with some tools to make their social media profile private, the process is very difficult. Further, while these social media sites provide users with some information about how each site handles user’s data, the information is vague and, in most states, social media sites do not need to disclose how user data is manipulated by the companies. Ultimately, many social media sites mislead the public through ambiguous statements that ensure users their information is safe.

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