Computer Science Technology: Privacy Issues and Security in Social Networks

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Computer Science Technology Privacy Issues


Online social networks, for instance, Facebook and Twitter are vital for social interactions. People can connect with friends in various parts of the world through these platforms. Recent months and years have seen drastic growth in the use of online social networks. The system has stored a lot of private information on the people using them. Such information is confidential and meant for a specific audience only. Concerns have however emerged about database security due to the incidence of loss of information that is sensitive. The database security aims at ensuring authorized personnel access the various accounts especially Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (Altshuler, 2013). While it focuses primarily on physical security and authentication, it also concentrates on securing confidential data. Database technology is important in the computing system. It allows for retaining data and sharing it electronically. Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter strive to maintain proper database security. An incident in August 2009 occurred where some criminals were arrested for the largest breach of security in the US.

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Reports from the Privacy Rights Clearing House (2010) stipulated that most breaches occurred due to hacking and SQL injections. For this reason, the high number of database system breaches called for more attention. Engineering Privacy is also a common practice that ensures proper data storage (Bassan, & Sarkar, 2014). Sensitive user data may be stored in log files, and databases. Sometimes a malicious person may store data in a user’s local system. It is, therefore, important for engineers to appreciate the presence of privacy breaches due to storage or data sharing. The recognition of online social networks by unfaithful and ill-intended people is not surprising at all. Due to the diversity of these networks, sharing of information has become riskier. It is, therefore, common to hear privacy breaches on Facebook or Twitter today because of the huge vulnerability. There are various motivational factors to joining one of these social network platforms. Most people just want to develop a profile and take advantage of the various applications provided to share data with particular people (Basta, & Zgola, 2011).

Displaying personal information on the internet is a big risk. However, for social interactions to continue there is the need to have friends lists and visible profiles. In most cases, when personal details leak, there is a high possibility of malicious activities from cyberspace, for instance, spamming and stalking. Despite all these threats, the online security measures put in place are so weak and do not make communication easier. There is a need for more effective measures to ensure the safety of the database systems and continuous usage of the online security networks. This research paper assesses a qualitative study on a five-year longitudinal review of the security and privacy for online networks from 2009-2014. It insists that protecting data is essential for the safety of the information of different users. Information security awareness is a move to improve security, especially in this online era. The awareness provides security policies for the users to guide them in safeguarding their information.

Literature Review

Information leakage on these social network platforms allows for the exploitation of data by strangers. The information available in the user profiles can be easily traced or researched from different approaches (Caviglione, & Merlo, 2013). The majority of people disclose their identity details, and this causes security and privacy challenges. According to Feizy (2007) there are many users who do not know the revelation of their personal information in social media. Also, he stipulated that social media such as Facebook and Twitter users display their information mostly on their pages. Koehorst (2013) noted that there is a need for the individual to show their details, for instance, date of birth, location contacts, and names in their profiles. This is just a move to enhance their effectiveness in online communication. It is surprising that online interaction can result in more disclosure of information than face-to-face communication.

In cloud computing, privacy issues can be resolved in various ways. It is composed of several technologies, and this is the reason for the high number of security issues. In most cases, the network that links the systems in every cloud should be very secure. Data encryption is a way of securing data (Chbeir, & Bouna, 2013). Also, to detect malware in the cloud the data mining approach is most suitable. In Facebook, for instance, there is a huge audience and maintaining data security is hectic. Therefore, to prevent access to confidential data by third parties, there is a need for legal enforcement of the cloud provider using contractual obligations. This way, the provider can maintain confidentiality.

Protected database especially in these companies is vital for the longevity of the activities and accounts. User privacy needs to be protected through different confidentiality, availability, and integrity. These are some of the essential aspects that any database should not miss. Access control has been used by the companies to safeguard their databases (Cross, 2014). The various components that entail this approach include verification codes validation identification, access control interface, and database security. The first assumption in the use of access controls is that the models for the database should be linked to a logical data model. For this reason, any authorization required for a relational database needs identification of the relations. The other assumption is those databases that are accessed using names; require the recognition of content-based controls.

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Identity theft

Recent reports show that there have been particularly social media platforms that face spamming and malware. Security concern among users of Google, Twitter, and Facebook, has been recommended to prevent strange cyber activities (Dannen, White, & Petrich, 2011). These Media have however tried to provide privacy mechanisms, but as expected anything can go wrong and confidential information can just end up in the wrong hands. This also reflects on what our friends post any them and us. Research shows that users vary according to the degree of privacy concerns. One group that is known as unconcerned and the other marginally concerned are used in most studies. Identity theft is a very serious incident that involves stealing another person’s identity. Research has shown that many internet users have fallen for the illegal activities online (Datta, & International Conference on Social Informatics, SocInfo, 2011). A study undertaken in 2011 in Australia about online users showed that approximately $3 billion get lost annually. A survey was undertaken in 2011 for identity theft revealed the following details as shown below:

Table 1: Percentage Identity Theft

Social Networking Site Percentage Identity Theft
LinkedIn 10
Google 7
Facebook 5.6
Twitter 6.2

The rise in social networking site usage has led to an increase in identity theft, especially in Facebook.

Facebook User Security

Facebook has various security and privacy settings for its user’s information. First, the company introduced the bookmark Facebook privacy page that contains information on the security options available. In other cases, a user can use a privacy shortcut by clicking on the icon that appears like a lock on Facebook’s UI (Davis, & Patterson, 2012). From here you can select the various options available for instance, who can see my posts, and who can contact me. One can also reduce the default privacy options, especially concerning previous account activities. The Limit Past Posts Link enables one to alter any posts or comments previously mentioned or shared with friends. However, this can only happen to friends only and not to other people in the Facebook account. Also, double-checking the settings on one’s Facebook account to ensure that the View as Link setting functions well. The View as specific person link enables one incorporates all friends and ensure privacy.

Twitter Security and Privacy

Twitter is a popular social networking site besides Facebook. Users of Twitter need to protect their information or tweets through the Twitter settings put in place. This way you can select the people to follow your tweets. To protect privacy while tweeting one should only use the geo-tagging feature if he or she wants friends to know where she is tweeting from and not for all users. Twitter can cross-post especially when a person connects it with other social networking sites (Deka, & Bakshi, 2015). For this reason, it is advisable always to be careful when tweeting. The HTTPS box should always be checked to ensure it is working effectively. The presence of login verifications is useful in protecting one’s Twitter account. It is a security approach that entails the provision of contacts and email address before accessing the account. The login verification adds more security because it requires the provision of the other three requirements. These include the login code, text to your contact, and a photo that acts as a backup code.

The existence of a virtual private network (VPN) that protects one’s IP address is important. This is because most hackers use wireless sniffers to access data that has been shared over networks that are unsecured. The VPN ensures that a person hides his or her IP address, and get to other websites in a private environment (Flynn, 2012). A popular VPN such as CyberGhost ensures that a user’s information is safeguarded from cyber-crime and identity theft that is very common.

Use of Information by a Service Provider

The architecture of today’s online era entails the storage of data in a common server. For this reason, an administrator controls all these data. This person is in a position to use the information to his or her interest. One way of gaining from these data is to sell them to firms and earning returns. Research by Hongyu (2011) entailed the organization of security issues, for instance, privacy breach, malware, and viral marketing. He and other researchers provided a detailed explanation of these categories and their relations to the security challenges in online social networks. The study focused on the individual user concern about security and privacy. In today’s modern society, there are various network management devices although complex and more effective ones are required.

According to Carminati, there should be a trust-based control system in which the users only get full recognition regarding the relationship and depth (In Abraham, 2012). However, Talukder et al. suggested the use of relationships to determine the level of trust between users. The approach only guarantees access by another user’s profile by people he or she has a firm relation with. Researchers such as Steinman and Hawkins (2010) argued that marketers should educate their clients properly to avoid any violations of the privacy policy of the company. Some customers might want to use the company’s information in a manner not beneficial to the corporation, and this could result in many challenges. Facebook has its privacy settings flexible, and every customer can get to choose the people to see their posts. Also, selecting friends in a long friend list allows the user to determine the specific audience to his or her posts. On the other hand, Twitter has simple privacy settings. The reason is the users can change their profiles from private to public any time they wish. In case, the user prefers private and then only the people they want will see their tweets and retweet.

There are various methods that been proposed to prevent such issues, especially the SQL injection in Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. The misuse detection system is specifically used in relational database management (Jonker, Petkovic, & VLDB Workshop on Secure Data Management, SDM, 2009).

The approach incorporates an audit data log to access lost profiles through the identification of the user behavior in the database management system. Intrusions are the common detection mechanisms utilized by this method. Other authors identified the detection of intrusion through fingerprinting transactions. It reveals any misuse at the initial application stage in every database. Another method used by companies like Facebook and Twitter to protect user privacy and information through the database is the digital amnesty (Keenan, 2014). It is a more advanced approach that can identify data anomalies in a database log through data dependence links.

Research Methodology

The methodology section linking to research questions intended to scrutinize how online social networks such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook secured their user’s information on the basis of the database system. Also, it aims at designing the database system and still keeping it safe as highlighted in chapter two, intended to bring forth the research design account (Nollkamper, 2013). The criterion of this research was designed within the context of adequately gathering and analyzing data with the aim of addressing the core dynamics of the research. The legitimacy, reliability, and validity of any particular research entirely rely on the great level of the suitability of the design and methodology opted by the researcher in such a study. Therefore, this section avails the methodology and study design engaged in this study. Through quoting a definition from previous work, this section commences by parameters’ definition in that a research design entails as a blueprint or a framework engaged in research conduction. It points to the measures vital to gather the necessary information towards designing a study that will hunt potential answers to the study problems (Malhotra and Peterson, 2006). As a gateway, a wide range of philosophical study perceptions is recognized unto which the theoretical viewpoint of the researcher is situated (Pakhira, 2012).

The examining timeframe was set at 2009-2014 because it is within this period that the information and internet technology industry experienced ubiquitous computing and massive developments. A selection of qualitative research was made as it gives an in-depth understanding and as such, this method has provided unique contributions to this study. To conduct the research, there was the identification of six journals leading in the sector of privacy and security that provided relevant content concerning the study. The journals were: information systems journal, information systems research, European journal of information systems, MIS Quarterly, Journal of the Association for Information Systems and the Journal of Management information systems. The target journals were peer-reviewed and generated relevant and informative articles.

After the identification of the journals, there was the retrieval of the most relevant articles. The search commenced by selecting keywords that read, privacy and security in online social networks’ in the web of science website. The website was easy to retrieve any electronic record of both references and articles from their database. From the website, a total of 48 articles were retrieved with a corresponding 1608 number of references.

Research Procedures

The standards, viewpoints, and experiences of a researcher are vital and complementary to the research design and the unique way that a study is engaged (Pets, Atallah, & Hopper, 2010). Principally, the manner in which a researcher sees the world lies beneath the option of study practices considered during the study, inclusive of research strategies and methodologies. Quoting remarks from previous researchers, Hughes and Sharrock (1997), it is worth arguing that the measures engaged in knowledge creation equally amount to research philosophy, namely, pertaining to the nature and establishment of knowledge, and precisely how such knowledge is realized.

Having engaged the above-uttered search criterion, we yielded overall 48 related articles. From the yielded articles, there was a dataset created with a detailed bibliography. It entailed the topic of the article, the name of the author, the title of the journal, and the year of publication. Another dataset was created from the list of references showing the name of the author, the publication year, and the title of the document (Pride, & Ferrell, 2014). Samples were taken, but they were limited to the references cited at least twice. This was done with an aim to undertake an effective co-citation analysis with only the most frequently cited references. After the analysis, only 107 references were retained.

Following, was the creation of a 107 by 107 co-citation matrix. This comprised of the numbers in each cell that revealed the frequency of appearance of a particular reference in specific rows and columns cited together. After the co-citation matrix followed the Pearson matrix and then direct input into the SNA and FA that was undertaken later. SPSS was used to perform FA, with the use of principal component analysis and Varimax rotation as well as UCINET to undertake SNA. From the co-citation matrix, the shortlisted articles went down to the seven most relevant and updated articles, vital to this study (Schermerhorn, 2011). These seven articles, therefore, met the inclusion criteria of this study. Of the 7 resources, 3 were identified as eligible for client reminder, 3 for small media, while the remaining 1 article was multi-component. No audit and feedback resources were realized.

Research Results

The table below provides a concise summary of the research results, on the resource materials, the Company, topic relevance, methodologies engaged, sample and nature of the sample, and finally the outcome of each particular study.

Source Company Topic Methodology Sample Conclusion
(Jones, 2009) Facebook Disclosure of Information Quantitative Study MIT students n=419

Direct information from Facebook

The most active users will disclose the most information
(Marc, Henry, & Lauren, 2010) Twitter Disclosure of Information Qualitative Study Direct information from Twitter Controlled unauthorized disclosure of information
(Highfield & Leaver, 2014) Instagram Disclosure of Information Qualitative study Direct information from Instagram Controlled unauthorized disclosure of information
(Jones, 2009) Facebook Privacy policies Quantitative Study Facebook users n=389 Users are familiar with the privacy policies, but they do not use them
(Jones, 2009) Facebook Concerns about Facebook Privacy MIT students n=329 There is low concern about Facebook privacy policies
(Jones, 2009) Facebook Likelihood of Friending strangers MIT students n=383 They tend to friend people they know
(Gaffin, n.d.) Instagram Likelihood of Friending strangers Qualitative Study Direct information from Instagram The tendency to send friend requests to strangers is high
(Zeichick, 2009) Twitter Likelihood of Friending strangers Qualitative Study Direct information from Twitter The tendency to send friend requests to strangers is high
(Jones, 2009) Facebook Account protection Qualitative Study Direct information from Facebook Passwords and usernames are used to enhance account security and privacy
(Howard, Mangold & Johnston, 2014) Instagram Account protection Qualitative Study Direct information from Instagram Passwords and usernames are used to enhance account security and privacy
(Howard, Mangold & Johnston, 2014) Twitter Account protection Qualitative Study Direct information from Twitter Passwords and usernames are used to enhance account security and privacy
(Jones, 2009) Facebook Security of user’s information based on the database system Qualitative Study Direct Information from Facebook Facebook uses PHP, Linux, and MYSQL
(Highfield & Leaver, 2014) Instagram Security of user’s information based on the database system Qualitative Study Direct information from Instagram Instagram uses a different range of technology and strategies
(Lin, 2011) Twitter Security of user’s information based on the database system Qualitative Study Direct information from Twitter Storage of information is done for a short period
Zeichick, 2009) Twitter Private policies Qualitative Study Direct information from Twitter The private policies target the protection of the user’s information
(Highfield & Leaver, 2014) Instagram Private policies Direct information from Instagram The private policies target the protection of the user’s information

Findings and Discussion

As depicted from the table, research shows that the most active users in Facebook disclose the highest portion of information. To ensure the security and privacy of such information, over the years, Facebook has taken stringent strategies. When sharing information on Facebook, there is always a question paused, if the information is to be shared and seen by friends only or the public. In this case, there is an option of private disclosure that enhances both privacy and security for the users (Jones, 2009).

Twitter has a limited number of characters that can be disclosed per tweet. Users cannot post messages with more than 140 characters via the Twitter website. This is an appropriate and reasonable security measure that prevents unauthorized access to nonpublic user information.

Facebook users are familiar with the Facebook privacy features but they are not concerned about their use. Out of the 389 Facebook users, 74% (289 users) are familiar with My Privacy and on the other hand, (26%) 100 are not familiar with it. Out of the 389 users, 234 (62%) acknowledged the use of the feature and on the other hand, 146 (38%) do not use the feature. For those who choose not to use the feature, implies that the users are confident that there are benefits that come along with information provision and allowing the public to view.

Sometimes, member conduct is important to keep the account safe. These companies provide terms and conditions that every user should agree on before creating an account. The user should understand the website is not for commercial use but personal. For this reason, the terms suggest posting information that does not violate the rules of the company (Shema, 2012). Also, the posts should not limit the rights of another person to not be copyright or defamatory in nature. The user also agrees not to access other people’s emails or contact data so as to send unnecessary information. The client further agrees not to collect data from scripts on the website. The survey on concerns about Facebook privacy reveals that out of the 329 respondents, 23 % (76 users) are not concerned with Facebook, while 35.5% (117 users) are barely concerned. Also, 31.6% (104 users) are somewhat concerned, 6.1% (20 users) are quite concerned and 3.6 % (12 users) are very concerned. Generally, the users are not interested in Facebook’s privacy, which also indicates that their privacy is well preserved (Jones, 2009).

Facebook users have a higher tendency of sending a friend request to people they know as compared to strangers. Out of the 383 respondents, 243 users (63.45%) never send friend requests to strangers, 110 people (28.72%) friend strangers occasionally, and only 30 (7.83%) friend strangers. Allowing only those people known to you as friends on Facebook is a good Facebook security strategy. This increases the security levels of information shared on Facebook. Moreover, this is made easy because Facebook has many users and most people use it. For this reason, a person will find many of his/her friends, thus finds no need to unfriend strangers since the known friends are already many. On the other hand, for Twitter and Instagram, the likelihood of sending requests to strangers is high. Few people are on Instagram since it is a platform that mostly inclines on photo sharing. Therefore, those not intrigued with photos do not use Instagram. For the users, they are forced to friend strangers to enlarge their friendship base (Highfield & Leaver, 2014). Twitter is similar to Instagram because it is more of a news sharing platform, especially to know what is going on in the country, state, or the world. For this reason, not many friends are brought together to use the platform, and the users are forced to friend strangers. It is a risk to the privacy and security of their information (Howard, Mangold & Johnston, 2014).

Account protection for users is paramount in social media as it ensures no one can access the other user’s account without their consent. This enhances the privacy and security of information. For the three companies, the strategy to protect the account is through the use of passwords and usernames (Gaffin, n.d.).

The privacy policies for Twitter and Instagram ensure private interactions cannot be displayed, released, or exported to other parties other than their agents or customers. This is like a contract between the customers and the company. Access to a customer can only be done through Twitter or Instagram private messages (Lin, 2011). The authorization of the messages is managed by the Chat Enterprise Portal and there is no time that the password will be saved internally in the infrastructure. The client interaction information is only used to fulfill the purpose of the customer engagements and for any other purpose only with the consent of the customer.

Twitter preserves diversified types of information and for a different length of periods. The information stored is either automatically collected or provided at the user’s discretion. The stored information cannot be 100% accurate because the user could have used a fake profile (Zeichick, 2009). Further, Twitter uses cookies, pixels, and local storage for the provision of a better, faster as well as a safe experience. These technologies protect the user’s technology; help detect spam, abuse, and other actions that infringe Twitter rules.

The privacy policies for Twitter and Instagram ensure private interactions cannot be displayed, released, or exported to other parties other than their agents or customers. This is like a contract between the customers and the company. Access to a customer can only be done through Twitter or Instagram private messages (Lin, 2011). The authorization of the messages is managed by the Chat Enterprise Portal and there is no time that the password will be saved internally in the infrastructure. The client interaction information is only used to fulfill the purpose of the customer engagements and for any other purpose only with the consent of the customer.

Twitter preserves diversified types of information and for different lengths of periods. The information stored is either automatically collected or provided at the user’s discretion. The stored information cannot be 100% accurate because the user could have used a fake profile (Zeichick, 2009). Further, Twitter uses cookies, pixels, and local storage for the provision of a better, faster as well as a safe experience. These technologies protect the user’s technology; help detect spam, abuse, and other actions that infringe Twitter rules.

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Longevity in online privacy only depends on common sense on what should be posted on the social network platforms. However, this may prove to be a hard task because most people today are excited to posts interesting stuff about them on the internet. Facebook Company has tried to incorporate database security measures aimed at protecting user information. Social media is used by most people today although no study has been carried out about the impact on end-users. It is an emerging technology that has facilitated sharing of information between users. However, the extent of disclosure is a major concern even today (Sileo, 2013). Database security is important when using Facebook because malicious activities usually occur and someone can use another’s information for self-interest. Twitter and Instagram are other social networking sites that people need to take precautions for especially while sharing information. User privacy is important because it determines the reputation of the quality of the company to protect its customer’s information.

There are various database issues that could limit social interaction and make sharing of information difficult. Many types of research have tried to find out the importance of studying the security and privacy issues faced by these companies (Wisa, Lee, & Yung, 2012). There are traditional security measures proposed although some of them do not ensure effective usage of the accounts. Cloud computing is a technology innovation that has enabled cost-effectiveness. However, despite the numerous activities, there are security concerns that have emerged. There is a need for transparency so as to avoid data breaches. Despite the many reports of the issue, there are still new challenges that contribute to the challenge and have not been discovered. This shows that the situation is very serious, and the action should be taken immediately. Otherwise, a lot of security breaches can affect the effectiveness of the companies. Clearly, the scope of the problem cannot be concluded in a single study paper but further researches are paramount. Community involvement in eliminating security breaches and understanding database management systems is necessary (Wong, 2013).

Despite the awareness of privacy invasion in the media today, there is still a problem with conceptualizing the issue. Information sensitivity is an important factor that determines the disclosure of private data. In most cases, when the users have full trust on the company, they tend to disclose more information. Social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn have attracted many people since their introduction in the market. Many users are not aware of security breaches that could occur. This is the reason; privacy settings that exist today are not that flexible to ensure total user protection. Many cases have been those of marketers taking advantage of sensitive information without the permission of the owner. The User Privacy Policy (UPP) has, however, been useful in giving control of the account to the user. The account owner can command the people who will see his or her posts, and the way they use them.


The research paper focused on studies done between the years 2009 and 2014 because, during these periods, there has been a huge development regarding technology. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram companies have seen massive usage with many people getting interested in what is offered (Yan, 2012). Also, the period has seen many businesses and institutions of learning create accounts to display their information to the public. For this reason, there are people who use these services for the intended reason, while others are just there to take advantage of the sensitive data. Internet security is a concern today because of the huge traffic and the anxiety of people to share information. There have been cases of database security breaches, and this has called for securing an effective database management system. Database security is paramount, especially in this online era. These companies have put in place effective security measure, for instance, cookies and verification codes before one access his or her account. Results shown in the study reveal that most users today are concerned and aware of the risks of sharing information.

The use of access control in database management is vital because of the many data stored there. Also, Twitter and Facebook urge their clients to read the privacy conditions usually provided as this helps in knowing the limits. The use of pixels allows for easier detection of spam or malicious activities in a user’s account. In the privacy literature above there is a challenge recognizing a common stand on information privacy. This issue is likely to grow in the future, especially with the complexity of society. Several factors are contributing to the pressure of privacy breaches in our society, and most importantly its implications. Technological innovations, for instance, cloud computing, and societal change such as globalization, contribute to the lack of understanding of the privacy breach implications (Zeichick, 2009). The paper draws conclusions from various previous researches about the issue to appreciate the effects of user privacy and information breach.

The paper has illustrated the different threats and security approaches of the database management system. The findings from the data collection methods have been placed in a tabular method (Zheleva, Terzi, & Getoor, 2012). Though impressive studies have been undertaken in this field, due to enhancement in technology, there is no doubt that there are database security issues. Despite the introduction of intrusion detectors, there is still further research required because the internet vulnerabilities are increasing. Also, the paper has tried to describe the engineering privacy policies used by most businesses today. The privacy-by-policy method emphasizes the incorporation of the choice and notice principles. The approach has been recommended by most businesses because of its limited interference on the normal business model that depends on personal data. It is still essential for these companies to adhere to security measures that are adequate. This will enhance user privacy and the safeguarding of information.

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