Social Media Explosion

January 25, 2013 • Volume 23, Issue 4
Do social networking sites threaten privacy rights?
By Marcia Clemmitt


More than 170 million Americans use social media to communicate with each other online (Getty Images/Jamie Squire)
More than 170 million Americans use social media to communicate with each other online, but critics say the technology can endanger privacy rights and hamper the development of vital, face-to-face interpersonal skills. (Getty Images/Jamie Squire)

From Facebook to the photo-sharing site Pinterest to virtual adventure games, software that helps people meet, converse, work and compete with others is drawing billions online. The use of social media comes with a price, however. Every photo upload or click of a “like” button deposits users' personal data online, much of which is sold to help businesses target advertising. To some, such data mining endangers long-cherished privacy rights, but social media supporters say it is a small price to pay for the benefits of online socializing. Meanwhile, critics of social media express concern that many members of the digital generation may fail to develop vital communication skills because they prefer virtual contact over face-to-face conversations. But proponents say most people use social media not to avoid others but to stay in touch with them.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Feb. 09, 2018  Privacy and the Internet
Dec. 04, 2015  Privacy and the Internet
Oct. 25, 2013  Big Data and Privacy
Aug. 30, 2013  Government Surveillance
Jan. 25, 2013  Social Media Explosion
Sep. 17, 2010  Social Networking
Nov. 06, 2009  Online Privacy Updated
Nov. 17, 2006  Privacy in Peril
Jun. 15, 2001  Privacy Under Attack
Nov. 06, 1998  Internet Privacy
Nov. 19, 1993  Privacy in the Workplace
Apr. 17, 1992  Politicians and Privacy
Jan. 20, 1989  Your Right to Privacy
Mar. 21, 1986  Privacy in the Workplace
Oct. 18, 1974  Rights to Privacy
Apr. 05, 1967  Wiretapping and Bugging
Apr. 20, 1966  Protection of Privacy
Nov. 09, 1961  Wiretapping in Law Enforcement
Feb. 29, 1956  Surveillance of Spying
Jan. 25, 1956  Eavesdropping Controls
Mar. 14, 1949  Wire Tapping
Computers and the Internet