Whenever a user writes a post, shares a photo or likes a product's page, that user is sending a very large amount of data to everyone who is on his/her friends list, and to many agencies that aren't. These agencies comprise of advertisers, marketing analysts, other social researchers and salesmen. The information obtained can then potentially be shared with any number of advertising, spamming and marketing firms.
While it is not criminal to share user information for the purposes of advertising on their own website, there is always the threat that information would be shared with other less ethical parties. Social networks don't generate enough money to sustain themselves on their own and this is why they have to share their users' information with advertisers, trade of this sort keeps them afloat. It is also important that the users be protected from having their information stolen by third parties.
Mark Zuckergerg, founder of Facebook, argues that the loss of privacy is a social norm that we have acquired recently and that it is only normal for everyone to know everything that others are doing. This was in response to complaints about the recent privacy changes to Facebook that removed many privacy features. It is not normal for the choice to be taken from the users, as privacy options are being changed without notifying or giving the options for users to change them back. City, gender and profile picture information were private before an update removed the option of making them available only to friends or family. These demographics are now considered to be public information and are shared with the world no matter the settings that a user may have.
Not only is social media a means to steal personal information, it is also a way to spread gossip, harmful misinformation, and further abuse. There is no way to really check for what is happening in a photo or video, except through user voting and reports. This means that if a humiliating photo taken at a party is posted, the individuals in the photo have no knowledge that their reputation is being hurt. They will likely not find out until it has reached an enormous audience and has harmed their reputation badly. Employers have recently started checking their employees and prospective employees Facebook pages for opinions, habits and other subjects that could make them reconsider hiring or continued employment. This means that personal data leaks are all the more dangerous. Employers looking through their employee's pages or data also has a negative impact as they will have access to the most intimate personal data, what their friends are like and what kind of person they're hiring or have hired. Employees can and will post what they think of their jobs, coworkers and bosses, which may get some more expressive employees fired for their opinions. Not only are employees responsible for keeping their opinions out of their statuses, they are also judged by who they are friends with, needing to clean up or delete friends' comments and posts on their pages.
The loss of privacy is a rising issue among web rights activists as more and more users sign up to share their lives with the world. If a major exploit is ever found that allowed anyone to see anything posted or otherwise told on any media site, it would have huge repercussions for both the users and the network's good status. Measures must be taken by social media developers for their users' sakes to stop the misuse of private information, take action against the posting of media containing non-consenting individuals and their own carelessness in handling user data. Privacy is being thrown out the window along with inhibition against sharing even the most private things which is leading to a whole market based on user data. The loss of privacy is affecting users in myriads of ways with self confessions, private information theft and the scrutinizing eye of their peers reporting all that they do. The participation in social media comes at a very high price. With privacy shriveling at a rapid pace with no signs of stopping, at what point will we be putting it in museums along with the remnants of our individuality?