2013 has been a year of both growth and challenges for social media websites. Although more people and companies are finding innovative ways to use these websites, their successes have been marred by privacy concerns. In fact, as the popularity of social media continues to grow, the focus on privacy protection becomes even sharper among those who use these websites.
What does the future hold for social media in the coming year?
Here are five of the top social media privacy concerns 2014.
#1 – Be diligent about privacy when merging social media websites
In 2014, it is likely that many of the smaller and up-and-coming social media websites will merge together so that they are better able to compete with the industry giants. Although websites such as Facebook and LinkedIn are currently the heavy hitters in the social media world, there are also many smaller websites out there.
Additionally, it is likely that social media websites will continue the trend of acquiring start-up companies in order to use their cutting-edge new technology. By doing so, social media websites will continue to be able to add plug-ins and applications that will in turn draw even more users.
As social media websites rush to add even more features and functionality to their websites, they could potentially overlook key privacy considerations. After all, when one company merges with another or when they add new technological features, there always seem to be a few “growing pains” along the way.
Therefore, one of the top privacy concerns for 2014 will be that social media websites are diligent about privacy and security even during rapid growth periods.
#2 – Single access sign-on can raise red flags for security and privacy
Single access sign-on is another social media trend that is likely to continue into 2014.
Using single access sign-on technology, users can log in once and then use multiple websites without the need to sign in again. Although the convenience of this feature tends to make it popular with users, it brings with it a whole other host of security and privacy concerns.
As the use of single access sign-on becomes more common, it is likely that websites will also start to share information. This kind of access will make it easier for a single social media website to show your actions and activities on other websites. Social media websites will have to take care to ensure user privacy; otherwise this highly convenient feature could become a liability.
#3 – Watch for new website security restrictions and universal legislation
The privacy and security legislation ball has already started rolling in 2013, and it’s likely to gain even more momentum in 2014. As people increase the amount of information they share on social media websites, the need for heightened security and privacy controls also increases.
The big giants in the social media world possess a mind-boggling amount of personal information about the people who use their websites. Without good universal guidelines on how this information can be gathered and used, it could be misused, either intentionally or unintentionally.
It is likely that there will be further progress made in 2014 towards universal legislation on privacy regulations and security. Because websites have been pretty much on their own to set their privacy policies, there is currently a vast amount of variation between websites. As such, users are often confused as to what privacy controls are available and how they should be used.
Additionally, most people do not really understand how to recognize the potential for information misuse. People often share information innocently because they want to use a specific feature, or because they wish to qualify for a free product or service.
When universal legislation is in place, social media websites will have standard guidelines and policies to follow, thus creating a more secure and less confusing user experience.
#4 – Walking a fine line between effective marketing and privacy intrusion
In the past, companies generally focused their advertising dollars on traditional media or on websites. However, in recent years more companies have been dabbling with the advertising and marketing aspects of social media.
In 2014, this trend is likely to increase, as more companies learn how to properly leverage the advertising and marketing potential of social media. As companies discover the vast audiences that can be reached through social media websites, they will tend to direct more of their advertising dollars towards this venue. As a result, it is likely that we may see increased attempts at information gathering and targeted marketing.
Social media websites as well as the companies who use them for marketing will have to be careful to walk a fine line between effective marketing and privacy intrusion. As more people become aware of privacy intrusion issues, they will also likely become more leery and distrustful. Companies that wish to be successful with these kinds of marketing and advertising efforts will have to pay close attention to the privacy needs of their users.
#5 – Social media websites using location-based services need to avoid privacy nightmares
Of course, today’s social media websites are not even limited to traditional online use. As social media continues to take advantage of mobile devices and location-based services, users will be exposed to even more privacy concerns.
Without the guidance of overall legislation and privacy laws, websites will be on their own to figure out how best to leverage location-based services. Even though users will undoubtedly enjoy using some of these services, they could potentially be leaving themselves exposed to privacy risks.
Social media websites that utilize location-based services will have to focus on user privacy and security concerns, if they expect people to put their trust in them. If used properly, these services could open up a whole new world of social media interactivity. However, if used improperly, the results could be a privacy nightmare.
As we enter 2014, it will become even more important for individuals to take the proper actions and precautions to protect themselves against privacy and security risks. In addition to using good judgment as to what they share online, using a good online privacy and reputation management service such as Reputation.com can definitely help with privacy concerns 2014.