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Data Privacy in era of Social Media


Data privacy, also known as information privacy, is a branch of data security involved with the proper handling of data – consent, notice, and regulatory obligations. More specifically, practical data privacy concerns usually revolve around:

  1. If or how the details of data are communicated with third parties.

  2. How the data are legally obtained or processed.

Data is one of the company's most valuable properties. Companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon have all created empires on the top of the data economy. As the data economy expands, businesses find immense value in the collection, exchange and use of data. Transparency in how companies seek permission, complying by their privacy policy, and handle the data they collect is essential for establishing trust and transparency with clients and social media users who demand privacy.

Privacy is the right of a person to be free from unsolicited surveillance. To live peacefully in one's own room and to openly express one's views behind closed doors is essential for living in a democratic society. Privacy is the foundation of our rights.

Privacy data is relevant for a variety of reasons. Being a user, you need to be mindful that your data is being processed and used by several organizations and be sure that you do not share more than you must. Privacy, however, is a fundamental right.

Users voluntarily offer their privacy to Facebook. Many Facebook users don't know that the site is gaining interest in target advertising and many are not aware how much data Facebook mines.

It's true that tech giants are rapidly gathering reams of data on every individual who uses the Internet, and hundreds of shady corporations are exploiting our data. Facebook stores it all from your stickers to the login location. Facebook also keeps record what you think you would be interested in, based on what you liked, and what you and your friends are thinking about. Somewhat useless, they also store all the stickers you've ever posted on Facebook. Also maintains the record of any time you log in to Facebook, where you log in, and from what application. Users upload profiles on various social network platforms and this information may be used by traders, administrators, employers, etc. to identify potential clients or job applicants.

In this regard, social contact and profiles generated and stored in social media may give rise to problems concerning privacy of individuals. The prevalence of social media gives an easy exposure to personal data. For example, Facebook is one of the popular social networks to be preferred. Privacy in social media can be compromised by a variety of factors that are influenced by inappropriate use of personal data. The truth is that young people tend to connect through social networks and these forums are easily available. Access to personal data of users should, however, be constrained.

Data Mining

Owing to rapid advances in information and communication technology, the number of data available to users has increased exponentially from Terabytes to Exabytes. Thanks to applications and social media users, vast amounts of data are accessible in a number of formats, such as text, video, audio, images, graphics, etc. These data are contained in various server types. It includes a special method for summarizing, evaluating, extracting information and finding trends and connections between data, it is referred to as Data Mining. Data Mining is a method of analysing data from several different dimensions or angles and summarizing it to valuable information that can be used in various fields to make the right decision.

Data mining is a method used by businesses to turn raw data into useful information. Data mining relies on successful data collection, storage and computer processing. By using software to search for trends in large batches of data, companies may learn more about their users in order to create more successful marketing campaigns, boost revenue and minimize costs. Data mining includes exploring and analysing broad blocks of knowledge to collect relevant patterns and trends.

Data mining has been used in collaboration with social media to better understand people's views on the subject, to find influential individuals, to identify groups of people among the masses of the population, to monitor group shifts over time, or even to suggest a product or activity to a person.

The 2008 elections marked the ground-breaking use of social media in the US presidential campaign. Social networking platforms, including Twitter and Facebook, have played a major role in raising funds and sending candidate messages to voters. Big data has become a talking point in almost every digital industry. Big data is undeniably a phenomenon of the twenty-first century. Social media and big data have merged to create a new area of research called social media mining, like data mining, but limited to the context of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and the like. Social media mining is a method of describing, analysing and extracting actionable trends from social media data. In layman terms, social media mining happens when a corporation or entity gathers and analyses data of social media users to draw conclusions regarding the demographics of these users.

Social media mining has significant legal and ethical consequences, many of which are still under progress. Regulation of the use of social media data is necessary in order to protect the freedom of speech of social media users. Privacy issues are the main subject matter of the discussion on this method. To resolve these privacy issues, the sites have policies in place that govern what information third party parties can access and how they can use that information.

With the inception of social media, the data we voluntarily send to these platforms has become widespread. Big data in this form is used to target users and to monitor what content they see. Cambridge Analytica mined more than fifty million Facebook profiles. These data were not used to sell goods to Facebook users, but rather to promote political ideas. This raised significant concerns about the impact this activity had on both the 2016 election of Donald Trump and the 2016 vote of the breeze in the United Kingdom. In the face of the complexities of these incidents, we are forced to question whether what we share on social media will truly be private-- and whether the legislation needs to change to answer these issues.

Data Ownership Debacle

Mark Zuckerberg in congressional hearing held on 10 April 2018 said “people own all of their own content” on Facebook. But is this really a case?

Click, snap, post, like: A social media consumer who uses popular social media platforms for the purposes of transmitting stories around the world from their daily lives. Social media allows users to share life, view the stories of their friends and even comment. Nevertheless, a critical study of social media relationships with its users can change the way we think about the content between us and the platforms we use.

The amount of data in our world today is much greater. Many of our day-to-day activities' personal and non-personal aspects are summed up and kept as data by companies and governments. Huge amount of data is collected through Multimedia, social media and the Internet that should be properly examined. It is vital to promote a discussion on data ownership and the need to strengthen current data security, data protection policy and regulation both at national and international level. Technological innovation plays a key role in the production of large data volumes.

In recent years, researchers have been drawn to the issue of who is actually 'master' of the data or, in other terms, the expression 'data ownership.' Data sent or produced on digital channels is becoming a surveillance potential. There is also a possibility that data ownership problems will increase.

Thanks to the website's wonders, you can get in millions of seconds your content up and running before an audience — but this does not always mean you own your dog's picture while it is live. By putting the check mark without giving it a read on the terms and conditions of the social network sites will take away the rights to your child's birthday photo, or to that cute snapshot you took during your holidays.

Data Anonymization

Data anonymization strategies are designed to protect shared data privacy, but are they effective with high-dimensional data?

In this data-rich world, privacy is an endangered species. Although it is important that companies exploit data to gain insight, forecast patterns and stimulate creativity, sensitive personal information is also endangered. After observing cases such as the Data Analytics, companies switch to data anonymisation techniques.

The process of Data anonymisation is based on protection of private or sensitive information through the process of encryption of identifiers by connecting an individual to stored data. For example, through a data anonymization mechanism that preserves the data but keeps the source secret, you can run Personally Identifiable Information (PII), such as names, social security numbers, and addresses.

The clearance of identifier data would not restrict the attackers as still they can use de-anonymization methods to retrace the process of anonymizing data. Since data usually passes through many sources: some open to the techniques of public de-anonymization can cross-referenced sources and reveal personal data.

A detailed set of rules is outlined in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that protect user data and establish transparency. Although the GDPR is stringent, it allows companies to collect anonymized data without permission, use it for any reason, and retain it indefinitely- as long as companies delete all identifiers from the data through the process of Pseudonymization.

Data anonymization techniques, like data masking, data perturbation, etc. permit organizations to change the data in a way as to protect the privacy of individuals at least in some way.

Need of Data Protection Law?

India is not party to any agreement on the protection of personal data similar to the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) or the Data Protection Directive. However, India has adopted or is party to other international treaties and conventions such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which acknowledge the right to privacy.

The Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 is India's first initiative to legislate on personal data protection measures and aims to set up a data protection authority in the country.

The objective of the Bill is ‘controlling the processing of personal data of people by the government, companies incorporated in India, and international companies dealing with personal data of customers in India’.

Under the proposed legislation, the Government of India is committed to data sovereignty by mandating a certain type of data to be processed within Indian borders. The proposed bill permits the processing of data by trustees with the consent of the individual. Furthermore, the bill also allows for the collection of personal data without permission in such situations, such as when the government offers benefits to the victim, in civil proceedings and in medical emergencies.

The proposed Bill obliges organizations dealing with personal data to rethink their data protection activities.

The new bill gives high priority to individual data privacy rights. According to the Law, the personal information of people cannot be obtained, stored and exchanged without their permission. Only the appropriate data will be obtained and can only be used for pre-defined purposes. The Bill permits consumers to transfer their data from one company to another and allows users to know the number of organizations in which the data is exchanged. The Companies are expected to be transparent and descriptive about what data is collected, what its function is, how it is used, and how long the data will be kept.

Online data exchange by social network Intermediaries

The proposed legislation also aims to safeguard users' personal data (or data principals) by establishing a tiered structure of informed consent for the collection and processing of personal data, with a view to the ambiguity of data flow.

The legislative idea seems to be placing the data main in the driving seat and guaranteeing it a degree of autonomy and control of its own personal details.


The evolution of a compliant data security system in India is currently in its nascent stage. It is therefore early to conduct a full review of the data protection regime which is being sought to be developed under the 2019 Bill. The Bill itself has some creases that need to be pushed out. In addition, the contours of many of the provisions are to be defined by legislation once the law is placed into effect.

Only when the Data Protection Authority is formed under the legislation enacted may it begin the process of formulating Codes of Practice as mandated by law. Therefore, at present calculating the effectiveness of the entire method is no better than a chant by a soothsayer.


  1. Abby Ohlheiser, 74 percent of Facebook users don’t realize the site collects their interests to target ads, Pew survey says, available at,

  2. Dylan Curran, Are you ready? Here is all the data Facebook and Google have on you, available at

  3. Romansky, Radi, “Social Media And Personal Data Protection.” 65-80 (6, Researchgate, 2014)

  4. Pushpam, C.Amali & Joseph, Gnana. “Overview on Data Mining in Social Media.” 147-157 ( 5, International Journal of Computer Sciences and Engineering. 2017.)

  5. Alexandra Twin, “Data Mining”, available at

  6. Barbier G., Liu H,”Data Mining in Social Media.” In: Aggarwal C. (eds) (Social Network Data Analytics, Springer, Boston, MA, 2011)

  7. Abby McCourt, “Social Media Mining: The Effects of Big Data In the Age of Social Media” ( Media Freedom & Information Access Clinic, 2018),

available at

  1. Reza Zafarani, et al., “Social Media Mining: An Introduction” (16 July,2014.)

  2. Judy Selby, et al., “Best Practices in Collecting and Using Social Data”, (BIG LAW BUSINESS,2015)

  3. Carole Cadwalladr & Emma Graham-Harrison, “Revealed: 50 Million Facebook Profiles Harvested for Cambridge Analytica in Major Data Breach”, (Guardian, March 3, 2018), available at

  4. Jason Cheung, Ownership of Content in Your Digital Life – Social Media, (The University of British Columbia,2018),


  1. Al-Khouri, Ali, “Data Ownership: Who Owns 'My Data'?”2, International Journal of Management & Information Technology. 1-8. (2012)

  2. Kellep Charles, “Comparing enterprise data anonymization techniques,” available at

  3. Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India “Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019” available at

Name of Author: Mannat Sardana

Course: BBA LLB (Hons.)

Year of study: 5th Year

College: Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies, Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, Delhi

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