Generally, social media is defined by the two main features. First, it allows some form of user engagement as it is never wholly passive, even if sometimes social sites allow passive viewing of what others are posting. And the second, at least, a profile must be created that enables the start of the interaction with other users or information. In a broader sense, all the social media platforms serve the same objective – distributing information and granting easy connection. However, by nature, they serve different purposes. Otherwise, multiple platforms would not be popular, so to choose a social network for a particular activity, you need to consider its primary purpose. For example, if you have individual communication goals, Instagram and Facebook serve this purpose. So, it would be very inconvenient to chat with friends on the YouTube comment section regularly, but you still can do that. After finding the right platform, gaining followers might seem difficult at first and require a lot of work. In this case, commercial and individual users might refer to specialized websites on the social media marketplace. One of them is SocialWick, which provides safe and effective marketing services for almost every popular social platform.
However, with the booming popularity of social media, ethical issues such as the security of privacy arise. In 2018, most of the social and broadcast media’s attention was revolving around the Facebook scandal. Private information from accounts of millions of users had been gathered and used by third parties. Later, it was suggested that it was used to affect people’s voting in political events. The Facebook scandal shows the possibility of the potential abuses of personal information that have become possible in the modern era. The ineffective exploitation or ignorance of informed consent mechanisms creates significant issues. Deliberately or involuntarily, individuals are offering substantial amounts of personal information to social networks, and they are not always protected against the possible misuse of that data in the future. Additionally, the creation of a massive industry brings in the financial interests of other sectors that might not break the legal laws and regulations but lose customers’ trust because of their disrespect towards ethical norms.
Researchers sometimes generate significant datasets. All this data is caused by any individual who exploits the internet – by their activity on social media, web search, online shopping, and browsers’ histories. Even people who use the internet for digital music distribution are giving up their personal data to be collected and sold to third-parties. Data is also stored when people use GPS and location applications or their mobile phones, and via recognition software can identify individuals with the photos they or their friends posted online. All this information can create a highly detailed reflection of an individual’s character and life, including their traits, preferences, work, travel, communication, leisure activities, interactions with brands, and their interests. Thus, when it’s harvested and stored, the data can be exploited by organizational researchers without gaining consent from individual participants.
In defense of social media websites, it must be said that whenever a person voluntarily registers on a social network site, they put themselves at the risk of personal data distribution. When it comes to informed consent, usually the company or an individual researcher is required to ensure that the person acknowledges all the terms and the risks. The term “Informed consent” is an implanted method in research practice that manages ethical issues. The researcher is obligated to inform each participant of the research terms, conditions, and potential risks and grant that they understand each and every part of the agreement. But in times of social media, there is no informed consent used. And, some logical questions remain. For example, when individuals give their consent about data distribution on social media, they do not read terms most of the time. Moreover, later the new use for this information can be found, for which they have not given consent, and what happens afterward is unclear. So, it is not easy to deduct if such a type of consent is informed or not. Moreover, there also is a problem with withdrawal. During the traditional social research, participants are usually allowed to withdraw at any time.