Privacy and ethical concerns of social media

Privacy and ethical concerns have become more relevant in social media due to the prevalence of “explore”, “discover” or “for you” tabs and pages.

 

“Discover” pages on social media deliver content that the app thinks that the user would likely be interested in. This is based on several factors including user interactions, video information, account settings and device settings. These are individually weighted based on the social media algorithms. This has raised some ears regarding profiling and related privacy concerns, particularly with regard to the processing of personal data of minors. 

 

While automated decisions are allowed, as long as there are no legal ramifications, specific care and attention needs to be applied to the use of the personal data of minors. 

 

The decisions made which cause specific content to show up on “explore” and “discover” pages are by and large automated decisions based on profiling of individuals’ personal data. While this may benefit several organizations and individuals allowing large volumes of data to be analyzed and decisions made very quickly, showing only what is considered to be the most relevant content to the individual, there are certain risks involved. Much of the profiling which occurs is inconspicuous to the individual and may quite possibly have adverse effects. GDPR Article 22 does not prohibit automated decisions, not even regarding some minors, as long as those decisions do not have any legal or similarly significant effect on the individual. Working Party 29, now known as the EDPB states that “ solely automated decision making which influences a child’s choices and behavior, could potentially have a legal or similarly significant effect on them, depending upon the nature of the choices and behaviors in question.“ As a requirement of the GDPR, specific protection needs to be applied to the use of personal data when creating personality or user profiles specifically for children or to be used by children. 

 

Much of the data processed by social media apps require consent, however most minors are not able to provide their own consent. 

 

According to the latest updates of the EU ePrivacy rules much of the data processed by social media apps and websites may require consent. In many parts of the world, most minors are not legally able to provide their own consent. The age of consent in this regard varies around the world, and in some countries it can even reach up to 16 years old. However in the UK specifically, children aged 13 or over are able to provide their own consent. The parents or guardians of children younger than this are the ones who must provide consent on their behalf. As a data controller, it is important to know which data requires consent, from whom, and how this consent will be collected, and which data can be processed based on another lawful basis different to consent.

 

In developing social media apps and features it is important to consider several ethical principles. 

 

Trustworthy AI should be lawful, ethical and robust. In developing social media apps and features, it is important to ensure that the data is kept secure, the algorithms are explainable and that the content delivered to the user does not include any biases. Ethical principles like technical robustness, privacy, transparency and non-discrimination are considered paramount. Because social media algorithms serve up content to users on explore and discover pages, it is imperative that the decisions made by these AI systems are incredibly transparent and that attention is paid to whether, or how these systems may possibly be discriminatory. An AI ethics assessment can provide incredible insight into how fair these AI decisions may actually be, and how to ethically and lawfully go about developing the algorithms for social media apps and platforms. 

 

We recently published a short vlog on our YouTube channel exploring the privacy and ethical concerns in social media. Be sure to check it out, like, comment and subscribe to our channel for more AI ethics and privacy content. 

Does your company have all of the mandated safeguards in place to ensure compliance with the ePrivacy, GDPR and Data Protection Act 2018 in handling customer data? Aphaia provides ePrivacy, GDPR and Data Protection Act 2018 consultancy services, including data protection impact assessments, EU AI Ethics Assessments and Data Protection Officer outsourcing. We can help your company get on track towards full compliance.

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