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How secure is information shared on social media platforms?


The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal involving collection of personal identifiable information of up to 87 million Facebook users has, once again, engendered the question of security and trustworthiness of information shared on social media platforms.

Apart from Facebook, what goes on behind the scene on other social media platforms being used by millions of people globally is a question of conjecture. Nobody can say exactly what obtains, except those who own and operate such platforms.

Users are always at the mercy of the platform owners and operators. There are people who know them and could easily influence their activities to the detriment of others. These are the possibilities and that are not far away from what happened to Facebook. Apart from this, there are fraudsters and hackers who always monitor and target the activities of unsuspecting users on social media platforms.


In spite the obvious lapses, social media users, especially in Nigeria have continued to bombard such platforms with vital and private information about their lives and activities. They have also continued to use it to spread false news and rumours capable of causing palpable tension in the society apart, while disguising their identities.

However, so surprising is the users’ opposition to government regulation of the platform, but so unperturbed about the owners and operators’ clandestine activities with the information they share on it, maybe because the owners are not close or known to them.But no matter how one looks at it, while social media has become a veritable tool for easy communication, it is obvious that information shared on the platforms are not guarded or safe to a large extent. It is just a matter of time or circumstances for such shared information to get to the public domain, becomes scandalous or goes viral, as they say in social media circles.

Nigerians Ignorant, Differ On Security Of Information Shared On Social Media
By Maria Diamond, Henry Ekemezie and Shakirah Adunola
Speaking on the security of information shared on social media platform, Maureen Jegede, a student said: “Social media platforms have changed the way we interact with friends and associates.

“These platforms do not only attract friends and family members who want to stay in touch, but they also attract people who bug your timeline, some of them for the wrong reasons.“When you use social networking sites, you post personal information and once the information is posted online, it is no longer private and could fall into the wrong hands. The more you post, the more vulnerable you become to those who may wish to harm you.”

Speaking on the issue, Ojukwu Ebuka, noted: “Even if your account is on the highest security settings, there is still ways for hackers to get even your most secret information. The best advice is to not click on a link until you are sure of the source to tell if it is safe or not. All the websites people subscribe to, the apps they download and the games they play on social networking sites are all synced to personal information about the users.

Ngerem Srem said with social media as the battleground, “it is up to us to protect our personal information. Weeks ago I curiously clicked on a direct message link from a friend that says, “Click to register and earn $200 instant cash bonus,” and like that, my Twitter account was hacked. But luckily, I changed my password, implemented damage control settings and disconnected all my social media from my bank account before things got out of hand.”

Fatai Adewunmi also stressed that many users believe as long as they have an antivirus installed on their device, there is no threat to breach their security. And the main point some social networking users are yet to understand is that telling the world about your personal lifestyle on social media is another means of inviting spammers, kidnappers and all manner of personalities to your profile.

“By telling the world you are on vacation in Europe, you’re letting potential thieves know who you are, what you do, and this could put your life at risk. “Social networks can still be used in the right sense to carryout all they were meant to accomplish, but all we need to do is take extra precautions to make sure that our personal information doesn’t get into the wrong hands because the more information spammers have about you, the easier it is for them to take advantage of you.”

Also speaking, another student, Nnaji Emmanuel, argued that there are many ways the security of our phone could be compromised.“We are already familiar with unknown e-mail contacts sending malicious links with the intention of compromising ones account. Most of these scammers portray themselves as refugees whose parents passed away and left a huge amount of money for them in a particular bank account, when they get to your profile, you would be requested to send some amount of money to do a bank transaction to your account,” he stated.He added that the best way such incident could be avoided is to be cautious about the amount of information we deliver online when interacting with people we do not know.

A web programmer, Yomi Agbato, explained that social media is not just a platform to steal personal information; it is also a way to spread gossip, harmful misinformation, and further abuse. “There is no way to really check for what is happening in a photo or video, except through user voting and reports. This means that if a humiliating photo taken at a party were posted, the individuals in the photo would have no knowledge that their reputation is being hurt. They will likely not find out until it has reached an enormous audience and has harmed their reputation badly.

“Whenever a user writes a post, shares a photo or likes a product’s page, he is sending a very large amount of data to everyone who is on his/her friends list and to many agencies that could go around stealing information for illegal purposes,” he said.Adesola Onaolapo said: “Everyone is always in a hurry and too busy to pay attention to what is going on with you, so social media seems like the perfect platform where you just pen down your thoughts and people get to listen.

“So, for me, it’s about penning your thoughts, which have become a yearning that flows naturally without a second thought for restriction or withdrawal of information.
“You just want it all out and you barely care if you’re letting out too much information for the world,” she said.Onaolapo, however, added that, it helps if the privacy section on any social media platform is activated to restrict information to desired audience.Nelson Omokhaye pointed out that social media has changed the way people seek information and share it, and that has caused a lot of damage to lives and even the society.

“What we must remember is that, there is nowhere in the world where absolute right to freedom of speech is allowed because there are limitations to what you can say or write.“If you exceed the limit of your code of conduct, you face charges with penalties. So, I really think people should be mindful of what they say on social media and the amount of information displayed,” he said.

However, Gbemisola Adewale expressed dissatisfaction over how people just go on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms to post everything and anything that comes to their mind without being mindful of who reads it.“I don’t subscribe to going on social media to showcase your entire life for people to read and see because you don’t know the psychopath out there reading in-between the lines and deducing irrational meaning from what you said.

“The next thing you know after giving so much information about your life, you get a cyber stalker and sometimes these people find a way to locate you and turn your life to a nightmare because you invited them into your life via your post.

“So if you ask me, I think people should minimise the information they share on social media platforms to be on a safer side” she said.Obinna Chukwudika believes social media was basically built as a platform for meeting people all over the world and also get information that seem unattainable because of distance but, users seem to have created an addictive world around it that drives them.

“I really don’t think people can actually restrict information on social media because, it’s like a drive with a muse that encapsulates you and keeps you posting until you have either caused damage or saved the day.“Some even start up big fights that even affect an entire nation on social media. They put out a lot of information about themselves or others and they barely use the privacy settings, because they don’t really want any restriction.

“Those who are mindful of others are the few ones who use the privacy settings and unless you’re friends with them, you cannot access their walls.“So, from my stand point, it is a question of the sane and insane minds as users of social media,” he said.Hakeem Ismaila, a psychology student declared that it is mostly the jobless youths and housewives who flood the social media with a lot of information.

“The worst part is, some of the things they post are not even true, and most of what they post are the exact opposite of who they really are.“The ones who post the truth are mostly emotional or psychologically disturbed and instead of seeing a psychologist or talking to close friends and family, they share their entire life experiences and feelings with the world via social media and some of them get into a lot of trouble afterwards.

“Some get swayed into traps and get violated, while others even lose their lives or other valuables, because they let their guards down and invited devourers into their lives through the social media,” he said.But to a teacher, Abdulhafiz Olayemi, in as much as social media provides a virile platform for meaningful engagements with members of the public, it is trite to exercise restrains, especially in an increasingly sensitive world.

For example, posting one’s family photos and information that imply one’s social status, especially if such status is ‘enviable’, could cause security threats.In order words, your posting becomes excessive when your safety (and your family’s) is susceptible to threats. The hallmark of any communication process is logic, which, among others, could be ascertained through genuine feedbacks.

As a regular and relatively popular social media user, your posts would generate comments. The moment you observe that negative comments to your posts far outweigh the positive ones, you should re-examine yourself and re-evaluate the subject matters you take on. It may be that you don’t have requisite knowledge on the subject; thereby sounding nonsensical, or you’re being infantile and infernally emotional. Then, you should know something is wrong with your posting.

“Too much of social media posts, to me, is not limited to the frequency of dialogic engagements, but essentially the substance of the contents posted therein,” he said.
Bayo Lawal, said, he thinks it becomes too much when people know everything about you through your posts. Social media has a way of making people put up tiger life, without thinking it through.

Also, Akeem Lawal said posting on social media becomes too much when the post is meaningless or irritating and adding no value.But Yemi Kareem said posting on social media does not get too much if what one is posting are beneficial information.

“However, for a lady, nude pictures should not be part of posting on social media. But sincerely, I don’t know how to draw a line between posting on social media and when it becomes too much.”Tosin Ibrahim said it becomes worrisome when users no longer have privacy and everything about their life and family revolves around social media.“I think when the person involved is so obsessed with the social media that you can predict his/her dress in a day, determine the state of mind and happenings around the person involved,” she said.

Top Five Security Threats To Stay Safe Online
1. Having Your Identity Stolen
Identity thieves gather personal information from social media sites. Even if you have your account on the highest security settings, there are still ways for identity thieves to get your information. Most social network sites have required information such as email address or birthday.

It’s common for an identity thief to hack an email account by using social information. For example, a common technique to get personal information is by clicking on “forgot password” and trying to recover the information through email. Once the thief has access to your email account, they then have access to all information on your social networking sites.So, what can you do to protect yourself? You don’t have to delete all your social profiles or hide from the real world; just take these precautions.

Have a strong password. The stronger your password, the harder it is to guess. Use special characters like symbols and capital letters when creating your password. Also, don’t use “common” passwords, like your birthday or your child’s name.


Be careful with your status updates. Often, we innocently post status updates that would give identity thieves information they need to steal our identity. For example, you may post “Happy birthday to my mother!” and then tag her in the post. Likely, your mother’s maiden name will be associated with that tag. A popular security question is “What is your mother’s maiden name?” and if you share that online, you run the risks of identity thieves getting the answer to this commonly used question.
Don’t reveal your location. You can use a fake location or make one up from another city and state. You may even be able to leave this information blank. Be cautious and never use a city and state where you live.

2. Getting Your Computer Or Social Profile Hacked
Hackers love social networking, going right to the source to interject malicious codes. The codes hackers use can steal your identity, inject viruses to your computer and obstruct bank account information, among others. Shortened URLs, such as those created on, are especially susceptible to hackers. Shortened URLs can trick users into visiting harmful sites where personal information can be compromised because the full URL is not seen.

The best advice is to never click on a link until you are sure of the source. To tell if a link is safe, you can:
Hover over the link. If you hover over a link without clicking, you’ll see the full URL in the lower corner of your browser. If this is a website you recognise, go ahead and click.

Try a link scanner. A link scanner is a website that lets you enter the URL of a link you suspect might be suspicious to check for safety. Try URLVoid or MyWOT as possible options.

Check shortened links. A shortened link is popular on sites like Twitter where character length matters. Some shortened link sites include,, and TinyURL. Use a service like Sucuri to determine if the real link is secure.

3. Inadvertently Letting Stalkers Find You
When you use social networking sites, you are posting personal information. Once information is posted online, it’s no longer private and can fall into the wrong hands. The more you post, the more vulnerable you become to those who may wish to harm you. Even with the highest security settings, friends, associates, and even the brands you “like” on your networking sites, can inadvertently leak information about you.

The websites you subscribe to, the apps you download, and the games you play on social networking sites all contain personal information about you. Every time you browse a website, companies can put invisible markers on your computer called cookies. In theory, no two cookies are alike. When you are online, these cookies track your activity as you move from site to site.

To keep sites from tracking your activity, click on the “Do Not Track” feature. Most websites have an option for you to opt out of tracking. You can also clear the cache and cookies on your browser regularly to help prevent any problems.

4. Letting Burglars Know Your Whereabouts
Telling the online world where you’re going and when you aren’t at home is inviting burglars to your house.  Did you know that a run-of-the-mill burglar could break into your home in less than 60 seconds and spend less than 10 minutes stealing your possessions?

By telling the world you are on vacation in Europe, you’re letting potential thieves know where you are, how long you’ll be gone and where you live. Burglars are fond of constant updates, especially about your travel plans. You wouldn’t stand up in the middle of a crowd and announce you’re going on vacation for a week, would you? Of course not, but that’s what you do when you post your vacation pictures and plans online.

When you go on vacation:
Avoid posting specific travel plans. Never post when, where, or how long you’ll be gone.
Wait until you are home to post pictures to a vacation album.
Use highest privacy control. Only let certain groups, like a family group, view your photos.


Be selective with the status updates. You can use an audience-selector dropdown menu on Facebook to choose certain groups to see your status updates.
Stay offline. You’re on vacation, after all. Relax and forget about the online world for a few days.

5. Becoming Overconfident
One of the biggest threats to online security is overconfidence. Whether at home or at work, many users believe as long as they have a firewall and an antivirus installed, there is no threat to security. Many people also believe that they don’t have anything worth hacking so there’s no need to worry about security. With today’s technology, we are more connected to each other than ever before. When you neglect security, you not only put yourself at risk, but others are at risk as well.

To keep yourself and your information safe, pay careful attention to your online activity. Avoid posting information including:
Travel plans (see point 4)
Bank account information
Your full address and birthdate
Your children’s names, school and birthdates
Location information, such as the name of your work place
Your daily scheYou could still use social networks for all they were meant to accomplish, but you need to take extra precautions to ensure your personal information doesn’t get into the wrong hands. Know what threats you are most vulnerable to and take steps to protect yourself and your networks.
Source: Google

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