ost of us rely on social networks, in one way or another, whether for personal use or for business. Sites like LinkedIn blur the line between the two, adding more social functions over time with features and services from less business-oriented sites like Facebook. If you can’t imagine starting the day without scrolling through Twitter for the news, then you should know that the trade off is your data and how these platforms profit from it.
However you feel about it, these platforms aren’t going anywhere, and we’re going to keep using them. Some of the privacy concerns around these sites are well-founded, but the reality of just not using them isn’t quite that simple.
In some places, Facebook and Twitter are the only free internet access that people have, or the only outlet for ‘truth’ in areas where free press is restricted. There are some places where people get unlimited access to Facebook by topping up their phones, making Facebook Messenger a popular service for socialising and work, rather than using your SMS allowance.
Data has never been so profitable. In the early days of Facebook, most of us wouldn’t have imagined it being used to spread misinformation or to sell user’s data to third parties. Now however, when the product is free, the commodity is the user’s data.
New social networks are usually backed by venture capital. This is where a venture capital firm invests a lot of money in services or technology that look promising, with the expectation that they will make a lot of money and earn a return on their investment through ownership stakes. When the company is bought or goes public, everybody makes money.
However, it’s not common for these gambles to pay off and what happens more often than not is that the company never takes off. It underperforms, key people leave, or they expand too fast. This leaves the CEO with a service with millions of users, but no way to turn that user base into profit.
At this point, they look to profit in other ways. One of these being to profit through user’s data.
Advertising is a straight-forward way for social media platforms to make money from the data that they’ve collected, so they create ways for external parties to use the same information too.
Platforms can offer advertising space to advertisers. Unlike traditional publishing, social media ads can be tailored to the personalised data that the social network sees you searching for, talking about, or liking on their platform. Liking something on a social media platform feeds data on what kind of ads to show you.
Everything you put into a social network and your internet browser, can be used for data. Everything that your friends and colleagues put in can be used too, creating a perfect opportunity for social media profiling. All of this can be mined to make estimations and associations, which will be fed back to the ad units and turned into profit.
Estimates can be based on the interests of you, your family, your friends, your friends’ friends, as well as other clues from your demographics, like your job title, pictures of your home, travel experiences, car and marital status. All of these pieces of data help the social network to make an educated guess about your income, which is another way to work out what adverts to deliver to you.
If the platform sends you the wrong adverts, they lose out. If you don’t click through, the advertisers don’t succeed. All of their investment in ads will go to waste if you don’t interact with them in some way. #Selling your data to advertisers and marketing firms is another option. Depending on the terms of service, some social platforms can anonymise their users’ data and sell it on to a third party. Even when data isn’t being sold, having it out there is always a risk.
Selling your data to advertisers and marketing firms is another option. Depending on the terms of service, some social platforms can anonymise their users’ data and sell it on to a third party. Even when data isn’t being sold, having it out there is always a risk.
There have been many cases where data that was supposed to anonymous turned out not to be, both on and off social media, such as AOL’s search data breach. There are always people who can take that data and piece it together. Social media platforms aren’t immune to theft, leaks, breaches and data scraping.
There are a lot of rogue advertisers hidden amongst the legitimate ones. Whether by buying it or finding leaked data online, scammers will take social media data and use it for email and phone scams, as well as other fake promotions. Even data that has been gained through legitimate means can be misused in some way by unscrupulous individuals, which causes more harm to the advertising industry.
Putting content behind a paywall isn’t a very popular way to earn a revenue stream, although it is sometimes done. Traditional advertising might not be as clever as app/site/service integration, but it is something that almost anyone can use, which is useful for developers who don’t have much in the way of funds.
Despite this, there’s nothing that can really compete with the flexibility provided by mobile apps, integrated advertising and the potential for third-party installs. With the added boost of increased installs through the extra pull of social media influencers, it’s never been as easy to convince key demographics to hand over their data.
The most important question is, what are you getting in return for downloading an app onto your phone?
This has always been important for apps, and will remain a key factor in social media data mining. When it comes to social media, data is the product and billions of people around the world are providing the content.
If you would like to know more about your data on social media, we at Gemraj Technologies Ltd can help. We have years of experience in the cybersecurity field and can offer you help as and when you need it.