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Social networking sites are used by millions of people in today’s world. With reasons varying from connecting with a few old friends to sharing photos and videos, it is plain to say that social networks are a part of many individual’s lives. Sometimes the usage of social networks areusage of social networks is required for business and other times, it is just for leisure. With various individuals constantly sharing personal information or even photos from a wild party on the Internet, exactly whose hands does all of this end up in? Although many privacy rights exist for individuals on and off of social networking sites, networkers are not well aware that government agencies, police officers, and many decision makers legally have access to their online data.
The Fourth Amendment and the Electronics Communications Privacy Act
The Fourth Amendment
According to the Fourth Amendment, “unreasonable search and seizure is absolutely prohibited” (Sasso, 2013, para. 5). However, if an individual has committed a crime, the government is able to place their hands on all of the individual’s information all through social networks. As a result of this, many networkers information could be gathered without the individual even knowing.
Electronics Communications Privacy Act. In 1986, the existence of social networks were obsolete. This very same year was the year that the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) was passed. This law protects the privacy of every individuals’ electronic usage. “Since 1986, technology has stretched and has made an incredible breakthrough. While technology continued to advance over many years, the electronic law has become outdated” (“Modernizing the (ECPA),” n.d., para.3). The ECPA allows the government to gain access and gather massive chunks of information about an individual such as where a person goes, who a person is with, and what a person does. All of this information is collected by cell phone companies such as AT&T and Verizon, search engines such as Google and Yahoo, and the biggest social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. With this being said, the Fourth Amendment and the Electronics Communications Privacy Act are very similar.
Data Collection and Mining
Digital security has become a major concern in today’s world. The United States and British intelligence agencies are officially finding a way around encrypted privacy and security settings offered online to prevent the collection individuals’ information known as data mining (Michael, 2013, para. 1). With this information being revealed, not very often will citizens agree that data mining is very unconstitutional because many of these citizens feel as though their rights of privacy have vanished. One major government agency that has been accused of completely stripping citizens of the rights of privacy stated in the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is the National Security Agency (NSA). “Ever since the year 2010, the National Security Agency has collected massive amounts of various individual’s data to create graphs of social connections. The social connections help identify a person’s acquaintances, the exact location of a person, and other personal information” (“N.S.A. gathers data”, 2013, para. 1). This information is known as “metadata”. “Recent revelations regarding the collection of data by the NSA and the allegations made by former intelligence analysis, Edward Snowden concerning the NSA’s electronic surveillance program used to mine users’ data” (Cope, 2013, para. 1). However, data mining isn’t illegal nor unconstitutional at all. In fact, data mining has many great benefits.
Data Mining by the Government.
The government uses the data that is collected by what is known as the NSA’s PRISM program, to connect points that between terrorists activities online (“Facebook and your Privacy,” 2012, para. 50). Although many citizens will protest and agree that data mining is an invasion of privacy, it is used for good preventative measures.
Data mining by decision makers. Not only does the government use data mining. Many decision makers such as insures, employers, and college admissions officers can sometimes evaluate individuals by through social media. In many cases of performing a background check, a service that searches public posts on Facebook, Twitter, and other popular social media sites is used. Employers search for many “red flags” such as sexually explicit photos or videos, racial slurs, and evidence of illegal activities such as the use of illegal substances. If any of these “red flags” appear then the applicant will simply not get hired (“Facebook and your Privacy,” 2012, para. 49). A New York-based research and consulting firm serving insurers and financial service companies stated, “We can now collect information on buying behaviors, geospatial and location information, social media and Internet usage, and more,” (“Facebook and your Privacy,” 2012, para. 50). According to “Facebook and your Privacy” (2012), the result of insurers being able to mine data on social networks should serve as a cautionary to Facebook and Twitter users who make posts about their health and medical issues and disabilities public (para. 51). College admissions officers may often use the same process of mining to select applicants into the school or institution. The admissions officers review the applicants’ Facebook and other social profiles to make sure that there is no inappropriate content to be found that could possibly hurt the applicants’ chances of being enrolled greatly. “Many IRS agents can scan public postings on Facebook” (“Facebook and your Privacy,” 2012, para. 53). The posts that are found can then be used as research to help resolve a taxpayer case. For example, an IRS agent can simply find out how much money a taxpayer who is also a singer made at a previous venue just by looking at the singer’s Facebook posts such as videos that help promote previous and upcoming events. The agent then is led to contacting past and future locations of the singer’s performances. However, many social media users may claim that data mining may be an invasion of individuals’ privacy, the mining process has major benefits.
Data mining by police officers. Enemies and criminals can also be found on many social media sites and can be reported to police officers if no action is taken by the social media website itself. In September of 2012, a California lawyer named Kevin Jolly was hacked on Facebook by a “frenemy who allegedly downloaded his profile picture and then created a fake profile. “The perpetrator then inserted pornographic language into the fake profile and began to send vulgar sexual messages” (“Facebook and your Privacy,” 2012, June, para. 55). “These messages and pictures were sent to Jolly’s friends, family, and colleagues. Even though Kevin Jolly reported this problem to Facebook, it took approximately 30 days and over a few e-mails for Facebook to resolve the issue by deleting the fake profile” (“Facebook and your Privacy,” 2012, June, para. 55-56). No matter who a person is, anyone could be affected and get placed into the same situation as Kevin Jolly. To sum up, the best way to prevent this from happening is to be careful and to make sure the people that send users friend requests are really friends instead of online acquaintances.
Social Network Privacy
Major social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter offer many privacy settings. However, some are very complex. “A new study by Siegel+Gale, New York-based consultants, finds that Facebook’s and search engine, Google’s privacy policies are tougher to understand than typical bank credit card agreement or government notice’ (“Facebook and your Privacy,” 2012, para. 75). Luckily, many walkthroughs are offered on social networks to show users how to protect information on the site. This then makes setting up privacy setting a lot easier to work with. Therefore, implementing privacy settings aren’t necessarily difficult.