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Social media: Beware adverts coming from illegitimate companies

Whether it’s being exploited for money or sending explicit images, you need to be conscious of this at all times as sharing your personal information.

Social media apps. — © AFP
Social media apps. — © AFP

With social media having embedded itself in, and become a core aspect of, most people’s daily lives, users have grown accustomed to its accessibility and ease of use, so much so that it’s far easier to place yourself at risk online than most people would expect.

Stuart Hyde, a social media, Internet, and cybersecurity expert, has revealed via digital resource provider Virtual College by Netex to Digital Journal the social media apps that therefore pose more of a risk to users. These include apps that make it easy to mistakenly break data protection laws and apps that potentially reveal where a person lives and making them more susceptible to thefts.

Dating Apps

According to Hyde, dating apps are a prime example of how social interactions and romantic relationships are shifting from the real to the virtual world and with over 6.5 million monthly downloads recorded in May of 2021 alone, Tinder is the most popular dating app in the world.

Followed by its competitors including the likes of Badoo and Bumble, this app plays playing a significant role in how many people maintain and form relationships.

Hyde warns that those with unethical intentions on these apps are becoming much more convincing when trying to portray themselves as someone else and that we need to be more aware than ever that the people we may be forming romantic attachments to might not be who we think they are.

Hyde explains: “Whether it’s being exploited for money or sending explicit images, you need to be conscious of this at all times as sharing your personal information even with those you think you trust can have severe consequences later down the line”.

TikTok

Having merged with the popular application Musical.ly in 2018, TikTok made its mark on the world from the get-go and was the most downloaded application globally in 2022, and one of the world’s most popular video-sharing platforms to date.

Whilst TikTok may seem harmless in the sense that its uses are strictly limited to uploading videos, with the ability to follow others as well as comment, like, and share their content, the app can still place its users in a vulnerable position.

The addition of adverts to social media, whilst not being a new concept, is producing highly-successful results for small e-commerce businesses and companies on TikTok specifically. With this comes illegitimate adverts coming from illegitimate companies as the app offers little moderation to the adverts that can be added to its site.

This causes Hyde to comment “With applications like TikTok, it’s not just its core purpose that people should be aware of, it’s everything that goes with it, like ads for instance”.

Hyde adds that these adverts can crop up as videos themselves or links can be added to videos by accounts on the platform, which will redirect users to sites that claim to offer something beneficial or desirable to the user. These can often lead to scams, whereby either the advert is fake and users will spend money on a non-existent product, or users may click on a link that appears safe but may direct them to a dangerous part of the Internet.

Hyde adds that one of the greater problems with this is that this is unregulated in the sense that if you have a problem, it’s difficult to know who to go to follow this up. Thus, even for more external aspects of social media apps, like adverts, users need to remain savvy to protect their online safety.

Hyde highlighting the need for everyone to have a good idea of where their information is going, and what it is being used for, at all times in order to prevent the risk of being exploited by unethical practices.

Hyde emphasizes, “There is a need for governments across the globe to invest more and to work harder to set regulations for social media usage as the pool of users grows, because this will only mean that more users will be making mistakes that exploit their vulnerabilities.”

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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