In the middle of 2010, Facebook launched Facebook Stories where people could express how Facebook had made an impact on their lives for good. Many from Facebook’s 500 million plus strong user base contributed to this. Many would speculate that Facebook has a positive impact as they have a huge platform to use for organising parties, get-togethers’, uploading photos and access of quick communication through Facebook chat and now the newly launched Social Inbox.
Google’s social network – Orkut, has prominence in India and Brazil with it being the dominant force before Facebook became popular. Like Facebook, Orkut also provided the opportunity to interact with friends and family all over the world and connect with people with whom you share interests.
The bad and the ugly
While all this is well and good but the ‘social’ aspect of this also lures for negative actions. One of the threats of this is identity theft which can happen to anyone. Due to this,cyber crime cell of Mumbai police issued stringent guidelines in 2009 as more college students made fake profiles. It also invites for stalkers to see what you’re doing and even hack into accounts.
Not just fake profiles, even posting of private information such as phone numbers and addresses can lead to a crime.
Internet security vendor, Sophos in a recent report surveyed 1200 computer users in December,2010 and revealed spam has increased by 10% from December 2009 to December 2010; phishing has increased from 30% to 43% during the same period and malware threat grew marginally from 36% to 40%.
According to the UK Police, Facebook crime also rose by 540 percent in 3 years. In the period of 2005 till 2010, London police had received 100,000 crimes linked to Facebook while 2010 alone contributed to 7,545 calls.
While revealing too much information on profiles and updates is an issue, checking-in via Foursquare or Facebook Places can be a big invitation to home invasions/thefts/burglary, mugging, sexual predators and/or kidnapping. Please Rob Me was an initiative to highlight how Foursquare can easily be used for burglaries. Same goes for Facebook’s Places which runs on the same line.
On the web relationships can also go wrong which can lead to disasterous results.
Recently, Facebook announced they would be revealing a user’s phone number and address to third party applications and developers but they did a U-turn after a lot of criticism and how it could lead to security breach.
Brands can’t breathe that easy either
While all this covers the personal aspect of increasing crime on Facebook, it can also be a problem for brands and companies that exist on the social network.
- Brands share links that takes the user back to their website. With more spam links being shared on Facebook, users would even be reluctant to click on authentic links due to security concerns.
- Anyone can use a different brand or company name even without any affiliation to the said company. A problem Twitter has taken care of by using the feature of verified accounts.
- The sole reason brands are present on these social networks is because of the splendid social aspect that it entails. If the user leaves, then there is no reason for the brand to be present there. With brands putting more resources (both in terms of expenditure and man force) into social media, they expect users and people to come in and convert the clicks into revenue. If this doesn’t happen then brands are merely wasting their resources by being present there.
- While it is said that ‘any publicity is good publicity’, it may not hold true for brands. A brand thrives to maintain a positive image in the eyes of its audience. The incidents above can put a question mark over a brand’s image.
- Cyber crime can be directed not just towards individuals but also towards brands and companies. There can be breach of copyright material on these social networks and a message be relayed to a wide audience that the brand caters to. This has taken place in the past with a Facebook security glitch giving a user access as an admin to fan pages and then spam was sent out due to Facebook API issue for users using Sendible.
What do you think? Do you think social networks are more of the negative than the positive now? Do you have any suggestions on how these issues can be combated by the respective service? Will this take away the sheen off of these social networks for you? Share your thoughts.