Current Issues With Social Networks

By this point in time, almost everybody has a profile on some kind of social network. Facebook is the most obvious option, of course. But then, we're past the stage of blindly accepting whatever is being thrown our way, and we've become increasingly skeptical of what these free services do to keep themselves in business. In fact, it has gotten to the point where social networking practices have even had people like Mark Zuckerberg in front of a congressional committee to get to the bottom of things.

Here's what people are starting to worry about when it comes to social networks:

Perhaps the most pressing topic that affects individuals directly is their privacy or lack thereof on any particular social network. How easily complete strangers can access your profile, pictures, and intimate details is a big deal to many people who would rather keep a well-curated online presence, as opposed to a massive repository airing out all of their likes, dislikes, and movements. This has led to a rise in networks such as Tap Share that allow users to carefully select who will see their activity and who won’t.

Data Mining
Advertisements are now blatantly catered to our current interests in such a way that people can have advertisements for products show up only seconds after they expressed their interest in a completely different site or product. Some social networks install cookies that track a user's actions while the window is open. This data is then sold to advertisers who use it to run targeted ads. People feel as if their very thoughts are being tracked and monetized, and to some degree, they're right. Social networks will need to move forward by giving out fewer user data to advertisers if they expect to remain trusted by their users.

These websites are designed to be easy to use and easy to stay on. That's the very crux of making any website, let alone a social network. The issue is that when the barrier for entry is low, people can easily misrepresent who they are online to profit from others. It isn't uncommon to hear of stories of seemingly destitute people asking for money on social networks to pay for a bus ride home or some other large expense. Social networks have a growing need to be vigilant in how unscrupulous individuals use their platform to dupe others. Even government agencies or large corporations and banks have been spoofed with online accounts, leaving some out of pocket a few hundred dollars.

These are the three main issues that are currently the main gripes plaguing social networks, but luckily, many are now changing how their service is structured from the ground up to make sure people feel safe and secure while on their site. Some of these problems, such as selling data/user metrics, are directly tied to the free nature of these services, leading to a rise in paid social networks that don't need to engage in those practices to stay in business. Other issues require diligent work from the coding departments of these networks. Suffice to say, it will be interesting to see how things develop in the years to come.

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