As social media becomes more and more ingrained in our lives, the need for social media privacy laws that deal specifically with it becomes increasingly important. After all, it seems like everyone is on at least one social networking site like Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat.
While social media can be a great way to stay connected with friends and family, it can also be a risky way to share personal information. In light of the recent data breaches at companies like Equifax and Yahoo, it’s now more important than ever to understand social media privacy laws.
So, what does this mean for you? Read on to find out!
What is Data Privacy?
The concept of privacy as a basic human right is recognized not only by the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, but also by other international and regional discourses.
There are different types of privacy protection: privacy of person, privacy of behavior and action, privacy of communication, privacy of data and image (information), privacy of thoughts and feelings, privacy of location and space (territorial), and privacy of association.
- Privacy of Person refers to a person’s right to decline any unauthorized invasion against his or her body. An example is when a person resists providing blood for testing.
- Privacy of Behavior and Action refers to a person’s right to not have his or her actions monitored in public. Concepts on sensitive issues such as sexual orientation, habits, religious preferences, and political activities are included here.
- Privacy of Communication refers to a person’s right against the interception of his/her oral, written, or verbal messages. An example would be the right against wire-tapping and access to emails.
- Privacy of Data and Image refers to the person’s privacy against the collection, use, and handling of his/her data. An example would be a breach of financial and medical information.
- Privacy of Thought and Feelings refers to a person’s right not to share their thoughts and feelings with others. For instance, a person may decline to provide his or her employer access to any social media passwords.
- Privacy of Location and Space refers to limiting others from the intrusion of a person’s private space. This may be in the office, at home, or even in public areas where there is video surveillance.
- Privacy of Association refers to a person’s right to associate him/herself with a group without any fear of marginalization. This also includes the association of a person with something that they have no control of such as ethnicity or ancestry.
Data Privacy vs Data Protection
According to an article published in the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA), data privacy or information privacy looks into sensitive data handling. This data may include personal data and confidential data like financial information and intellectual property data.
Data privacy, alongside data security and traditional data protection, falls under the umbrella of data protection.
Data protection, on the other hand, is a process that prevents data from being corrupted, lost, or compromised. It should also be able to restore unusable or inaccessible data to its functional state.
What is the Importance of Data Privacy?
Simply, data privacy is an important business asset. Companies collect, share and use the personal data of their consumers through social networks.
In turn, these companies are legally required to have data privacy policies that inform their consumers of how their data will be collected, kept, and managed. This is done in order to build trust between the company and the consumer.
Still, companies are required to legally comply with how they collect, process, and store their consumers’ data. There are regulatory compliances that need to be met to manage data securely.
State and Federal Laws on Data Privacy
In the United States, there is no central law on a federal level unlike the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
As of this writing, the US only has vertically-focused data privacy laws, including the US Privacy Act of 1974, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996, Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) of 1999, and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) of 2000.
- The US Privacy Act of 1974 includes the rights and restrictions on the data held by government agencies.
- HIPAA has a set of rules to allow who sees a person’s protected health information (PHI). As an example, healthcare providers may use a patient’s data to proceed to “treatment, payment, and health care operations.”
- GLBA, according to the Federal Trade Commission, requires companies acting as financial institutions to “explain their information-sharing practices.” In this way, financial institutions that offer loans, insurance, investments, or financial advice can safeguard the private information of their consumers.
- COPPA limits and regulates the collection of personal user data from minors. Recent updates include online services like social media platforms.
It’s also important to note that there’s also the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1986, which updated the Federal Wiretap Act of 1968. The ECPA protects communications while they’re being made, in transit, and stored on computers. The communication protected under this act can be in the form of oral, wire, or electronic communication.
State Laws on Data Privacy
Moving to the state laws on data privacy, the National Conference of State Legislatures lists three states that have comprehensive consumer data privacy laws.
- California Consumer Privacy Act
- Colorado Consumer Protection Act
- Virginia Consumer Data Protection Act
However, each individual state also has their own type of protection for medical data, digital data, and financial data privacy. Though they may not be as comprehensive as the three states mentioned above, the individual state laws are drafting their regulations to ensure that their citizens can also enjoy data security.
To summarize, though state levels may have enforced their laws concerning data privacy, there are also federal legislations that provide a reasonable expectation of privacy to their citizens.
Social Media Privacy Laws
In recent years, many internet users engage in online platforms for news, research, purchases, and social media. Most of these internet users also have their own social media accounts.
It’s no secret that most people use social media sites, not only for personal reasons but also for business engagements. As such, the digital economy is a growing business for big and small businesses alike.
The connectivity offered by social media to its consumers and business owners is limitless. This could be viewed as a double-edged sword, as increased connectivity might be a public concern for the internet privacy of users.
As lawmakers try to keep up with the ever-increasing concerns of social media privacy protection, can there truly be a way to enact a comprehensive social media law? With technology advancing much quicker than lawmaking, the legal issues that may arise from the use of social media websites may increase even more. So how can users of internet sites protect their online data?
How You Can Protect Your Online Data
The relationship between social media companies and users can be seen when the latter signs up for the former’s official website. Users can see the terms and conditions which may link them to the privacy policies, marketing, and standards and practices of the company.
In the case of the high-profile breach involving Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, the standards and practices of both companies were violated. The personal data of Facebook users were collected without their consent for political advertising.
Though social media providers take accountability for misuse of data and data breaches, what their users post on their sites is not their liability. This means that third parties like social media users are allowed access to sites without the social media company worrying about subjecting them to litigation.
In this case, the privacy rights of users might also be violated by other users. To cite an example, some users post intimate photos or videos without consent. In this case, social media platforms try to address these concerns through their rules and processes regarding unauthorized content. For instance, Facebook has a “photo-matching” technology that identifies photos that are shared without consent.
Social Media Privacy Laws in the Workplace
Another scenario includes social media privacy in the workplace. Social media can also be used to reach a potential employee and employer. Here, employers potentially pursue data collection from data subjects that fit their employment roster.
As a general rule, state laws typically prohibit employers from accessing their employees’ personal social media accounts. Specifically, employers are prohibited from the following:
- Requiring access to employees’ social media profiles using login credentials
- Requiring employees to change their privacy settings
- Requiring employees to add their colleagues to their social media accounts
Most companies have employee privacy policies for their current employees. In this way, employees are more empowered in the workplace. It also allows for transparency between the employer and the employee.
Here Are Some Ways You Can Secure Your Online Data:
- As a means of authentication, set difficult passwords or passcodes when using online platforms. Aim for at least 16 characters in your passwords.
- An IP address can be used to track a person’s location. A proxy server or virtual private network (VPN) web application can help avoid this.
- Avoid giving out personal information online whenever possible.
In today’s internet age, we’re still waiting for a national law to secure social media data. Until new laws are enacted, the most important first step is to know how social media use affects our privacy. Through this, we can learn how we can keep our online data as private as possible.
While it’s unclear what the future of social media holds, we can be sure that privacy laws will continue to evolve.
In 2022, it will be important for social media users to be aware of their privacy settings and the implications of sharing personal information online.
Protecting your privacy is more important than ever, and we encourage all social media users to take steps to safeguard their data.
- Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
- Uses and Disclosures for Treatment, Payment, and Health Care Operations
- Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (“COPPA”)
- Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA)
- The Seven Categories of Privacy that Every Enterprise Must Address