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Social Networks: your privacy, explained

Just how private is the information you share on social media? Every day, we tweet, like, snap and share without thinking too deeply about who really has access to the content we’re voluntarily posting online.

Recently, we conducted a survey to find out just how careful Brits are when it comes to sharing their personal information, and our results were pretty surprising. In fact, 1 in 10 don’t have any privacy settings whatsoever on any social account, while over half never bother reading T&Cs when they sign up to a new social service.

We’re here to give you the run-down on the rights you’re giving companies, like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat, when you sign up to their networks, as well as some handy tips on how to keep your personal info, pictures and videos as private as possible.

Facebook

When it comes to Facebook, there’s loads of rumours and murmurings on what exactly the company own when it comes to content uploaded by the user, and how much information they collect on our activity.

To clear up rumours, here’s a snippet from Facebook’s official terms and conditions concerning intellectual property:

‘For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide licence to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP Licence).’

And another snippet:

‘If you have selected a specific audience for your content or information, we will respect your choice when we use it.

These extracts highlight one of the major reasons why your privacy settings are so important on Facebook. Without them in place, we grant Facebook the right to use our content for advertising purposes and more, free of charge. Applying privacy settings, according to the company, should put a stop to this – although the finer details still appear vague.

As for the personal information we use to sign up, our general activity and the private messages we send, Facebook can legally use and collect this data as they wish. There’s no way to prevent this, so perhaps it’s time to think twice about what kind of information you give out on Facebook, especially if you’re a frequent user of the Messenger app!

To understand more, we recommend heading over to Facebook’s Data Policy page for a detailed guide on what Facebook uses, and how information can be used! And to be on the safe side, we discourage keeping your privacy settings on ‘Public’.

Snapchat

With only 12% of Brits using privacy settings on Snapchat, it seems that we’re less aware as a nation of what information this fun-filled app can actually collect. As far as your actual snaps are concerned, Snapchat deletes this content as soon as it has been opened by the intended recipient. But what about the rest, like your chats and general activity?

What information can Snapchat obtain

Snapchat states it collects information for the three following categories:

  • Information you choose to give us

Usually, information that you use to sign up with, like your email address, age, name and phone number. This also includes any information you communicate to friends, from chat and in snaps.

  • Information we get when you use our services

This category includes a whole host of information based on your activity, including the type of filters you use, what channels you watch on Discovery and what time of day you snap. Snapchat can also collect data on the type of device you use, your location and any search queries you make.

  • Information we get from third parties

You’ll use Snapchat with friends, and the company can collect information about you from others too.

A lot of this information helps Snapchat to personalise your experience on the app, such as calculating your Snapchat score, placing the correct emoji next to friends’ names and tailoring ads to match your preferences.

Want to know more? Here’s a link to Snapchat’s full privacy policy.

Your personal privacy settings

You might not know it, but Snapchat has privacy settings users can apply to their accounts too. From the settings menu, you can select permissions (where you can prevent Snapchat from accessing your contacts), advert preferences and ‘My Story’ preferences, so you can choose who can and cannot view your story!

Instagram

Now owned by Facebook, Instagram shares very similar terms with the large social network when it comes to privacy. The app collects your basic account information and monitors your activity, stores data (your photos, comments, videos etc.) and has a right to use content you publicly post on Instagram. While you officially own the content, posting it to Instagram grants the service a ‘non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license’ to it. If your account is private, they must respect your decision.

When you sign up, you can choose to set your account to private. Your photos won’t show up on the ‘Explore’ tab and your images will only be visible to accepted followers. To do this, head to your Instagram account, go to settings and enable ‘Private Account’. It’s as simple as that!

Twitter

You can learn a lot about another person in just 140 characters, and if you’d rather keep your tweets between friends, you should protect them – head to your account settings, click the Privacy and Safety tab and tick ‘protect my tweets’. You’ll find a couple of other privacy settings here too, including controls for your location and photo tagging.

As for what information Twitter gathers, it operates in a similar way to other social media services. How you use Twitter, your basic account information, what you publicly tweet and the information you convey in direct messages, can all be stored by the company. View Twitter’s entire privacy policy here.

However, Twitter does specifically state that the information you use in direct messages is never used to tailor advertisements to you on the platform. Similarly, you can prevent Twitter from using your activity to adjust Promoted Content by heading over to your privacy settings. Click ‘Privacy and Safety’, scroll down to ‘Promoted Content’ and untick the box!

Next time you use social media, make sure you check your privacy settings and keep an eye out for the term ‘content’ when you’re scanning terms and conditions. If you’re curious to know more about the latest tech news, don’t forget to explore our blog!

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Beth Wadlow

My name is Beth and I am the Junior Marketing Executive at Ebuyer! I started here at the beginning of 2017 after having studied English Lit and Journalism at University and working in retail for a million moons. I enjoy eating yummy food, reading mystery books, going to the gym and walking my cockapoo. I have somehow acquired the nickname ‘kiwi’ in the office and I am a part-time vegetarian (hotdogs only).

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