Privacy And Security Issues That May Arise from Oversharing on Social Media


Social media is something that people use every day in today’s society. Whether it is for work, study or daily life, social media is a convenient platform for remote communication. Especially after COVID-19, people became more dependent on social media because they often work and study from home. On social platforms, users take the initiative to share their lives on Instagram, snapchat, WeChat, and other platforms, and also make friends and communicate through these platforms. However, social media usually collects users’ personal data in order to promote relevant content to them, but over the years, social media has often been exposed to incidents of users’ data leakage that have caused distress to people. Since 1990, the Pew Research Center has been surveying Americans about their opinions on internet and 54% of those respondents are concerned about computers invading their personal privacy. In 2018 the center claimed that 91% of adults surveyed claimed that they do not have effective control over their personal information because they do not have enough choice or power to decide what companies do with their data (Terry, 2021). So, the potential privacy and security risks associated with social media sharing is a cause for concern and users should be more alert to their personal information.

(Image:Sprout social , 2024)

Definition of Privacy:

Marwick and Boyd in Understanding Privacy at the Margins mention that privacy is a concept that deals with the private nature of an individual and refers to the fact that an individual should have the right to decide what information is private and what information can be shared with others.

The purpose of privacy protection could be the following reasons:

  • Protecting personal privacy and autonomy: Protecting privacy is also ensuring personal dignity and that people have the right to decide their own private affairs and the way they handle information. Protecting personal autonomy means that individuals are in control of their own lives.
  • Mental health and emotional well-being: Protecting privacy and having private space allows people to build and maintain emotional security. Private space helps individuals to relax and therefore get away from the stresses and distractions of the outside world.
  • Security and Trust: Protecting privacy can prevent information leakage, which prevents harm from online scams and cyber violence. It also makes individuals more trusting of online technology systems.

How to define data breach?

“A data breach happens when personal information is accessed, disclosed without authorization, or is lost.” from Australian Government Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.

Data breaches can occur due to the following reasons:

  • Loss of cell phone, USB flash drive leads to data breach.
  • The database containing personal information is hacked.
  • Personal information being sent to someone else by mistake.
(Image: Pinapala, 2023)

Privacy challenges in the digital age:

The 50+ Must-know social media marketing statistics for 2024 article on the Sprout Social website states that there will be approximately 5.17 billion social media users around the world in 2024, an increase of 230 million from January 2023 to January 2024, according to statistics. On average, each individual uses 6.7 different social media platforms per month, and users spend 143 minutes per day on the internet. The fastest growing platform for users is TikTok, with a 100% user growth rate from 2020 to 2022. The figures above reflect the ongoing growth and influence of social media on a global scale; however, they also make the issues of personal privacy and cybersecurity more challenging today.

First, the collection of personal data has become one of the main challenges to online privacy in the digital age. Social media platforms collect personal data in different ways for purposes such as personalized recommendations, including browsing history, geographic location, and social media activities. For example, Xiaohongshu, a popular software in the Chinese young generation, recommends relevant content to users based on their search keywords and browsing history, and suggests notes within a distance of 20km based on the user’s location (Eiffel, 2021). However, such large-scale data collection may lead to the violation of individual privacy rights, especially when the data is accessed and misused by unauthorized third parties.

Second, oversharing on social media also brings the risk of privacy leakage. People share a lot of personal information on social media, including their birthdays, family photos, travel photos, location, and more. All of this personal public information can lead to personal information theft or risk of online scams. Criminals can use your name, birth date, location, and other personal information to find out more about you on the Internet and commit fraud. There is also a risk of online scams when people share photos that are too personal for them. fake accounts sometimes appear on Instagram, and they scam your friends and family by copying your ID and photos. Fake accounts usually copy the profile of a real account and make a few changes, so watch out for username details (Roberts, 2023). For example, someone pretending to be Mahdi Woodard’s account used the same avatar but with some changes to the name:

(Image: Roberts, 2023 & Instagram Mahdi Woodard, 2024)

Also, when receiving private messages from advertisements on Instagram you need to recognize if it’s an impostor brand. As well as comments under posts that have no relation to your content need to be watched out too. If necessary, you can report these accounts or block them to protect your personal rights and privacy.

In addition to the above two points, there are some other cybersecurity challenges to consider. For example, Webcams and Smart Homes. An article published by Kaspersky (2023b) states that the parents of a three year old baby heard strange noises in their son’s bedroom and they realized that hackers may have invaded their privacy. The hackers were watching their child through a camera inside a baby monitor and can even remotely control the rotation of the camera to see what’s going on in the house. This news is a scary thing to hear, as personal privacy is completely exposed to a stranger’s screen. Another article by Kaspersky (2023a) mentions that some of the individual devices of the Smart home may be insecure. Some people may not have heard of Smart home, it is a device to remotely control your home by connecting devices and systems over the internet, which is designed to increase the comfort, convenience, and security of your life. But this device usually requires the internet to control it, so there are security risks and threats. If an intruder hacks your Smart home device, your personal information including emails, social media accounts and even bank account information are at a risk of being exposed.

Why oversharing on social media could put your personal information at risk

Corinne Boyer from the University of Kentucky suggests that people usually don’t think twice about sharing information on social media, which can give an opportunity for cybercriminals to act, and that the risk of posting too many specific details can be the risk of a burglary, loss of money, or putting yourself at risk of a safety hazard.Boyer also mentions The Mosaic Effect, which is the combination of information that appears to be harmless to an individual once it’s been posted. Boyer mentioned that Jackie Campbell, a cybersecurity analyst at ITS in the UK, said that The Mosaic Effect refers to the combination of harmless-looking information that creates an understanding or assumption about an individual that can’t be completely deleted or withdrawn once it’s been posted on social media. This is because even if the original post is deleted, others can make the information permanent by saving a screenshot. Therefore, sharing information on social media can lead to personal privacy breaches and security risks, and information may continue to be disseminated even after the original post is deleted in a timely manner. Our mosaic records our transactions, media consumption, location and travel, and our relationships; it is a reflection of our life (Wheeler et al., 2017). So do people realize the seriousness of the problem? Of course not. 

(Image:Too much information: 4 in 5 people are still oversharing personal data on social media,2021)

Michael Feeley’s survey covered 4,000 professionals in the UK and the US, and interviewed hackers from the Hacker One community. Feeley’s research reported that 84% of people post personal information on social media on a weekly basis, with 42% posting on a daily basis. Half of them also share their children’s names and photos, and nearly three quarters mention birthday celebrations, which would expose birthday information. Another 81 % update their work status on social media. 55% of respondents said they have a public profile on Facebook, and only about 33% said their Instagram account were private. Hackers said they analyze the user’s social media posts to get personal information, hobbies, social circles, and other key information to better understand the target. The hackers then formulate an attack, which they carefully plan, such as posing as someone the user trusts to entice the user to transfer money or share sensitive information. Hackers point out that while many people believe that sharing information on social media is harmless, but hackers can organize this information to form a complete picture of the target user, who hardly realizes that the posts they share can pose such a threat to them.

Real life case of social media data breach – 16-year-old boy commits suicide after being blackmailed over nude photos.

Jamie Grierson (2024) reports in the UK news that 16 year old Dinal De Alwis committed suicide after being blackmailed for nude photos. Dinal’s father called the police to report that Dinal was missing and they found that Dinal logged on to his Snapchat before committing suicide. Hours before his death, Dinal received a man’s iMessages, threatening to send two nude photos of him to all of his social media followers if he didn’t pay. According to the police, Dinal may have sent private photos of himself to his online girlfriend, but this online girlfriend was a cyber scammer who used Dinal’s photos to blackmail him after receiving the photos. Dinal’s case reminds people not to exchange any photos online, especially teenagers who do not have the ability to judge the right and wrong well. Even an ordinary photo may be used for blackmail and criminal activities once it falls into the wrong hands, so it needs to arouse people’s awareness and attention.

University of Kentucky Center for Information Technology Services Recommendations for Protecting Personal Privacy on the Internet (Corinne Boyer Oct 13, 2023)

  • Check your privacy settings: make your social media profiles private, check what others can see by looking at your public profile, make some personal information private. As well as never turn on real-time location.
  • Don’t accept follow requests from strangers: set your social media accounts to private, as personal social media can expose personal information, so make sure you limit your social media to only those you know.
  • Delay sharing photos when you are traveling: do this so that cybercriminals miss out on some information. For example, if you go out on a trip and share a photo, they will know that no one is home and that a theft may have occurred. That’s why it’s not bad to share photos after you return from your trip.
  • Limit sharing information on social media: don’t link your social media accounts and don’t share too many interests and other personal information through dating apps. Dating scammers can use this information for relationship scams. They use relationships to win your trust and convince you to send money. There are examples of relationship scams causing up to $527 million in financial losses in the US in 2021.


Please do not overshare on social media platforms as it can be a threat to your personal safety. In this era of information technology people rely on social media so there will be more online scams. People need to have the ability to recognize between right and wrong and not to click on unknown connections on the internet as it could be used by hackers as a means to steal personal data. The education department should also strengthen the education of young people about personal privacy and information security to prevent more incidents such as happened in Dinal. So, start checking your social media for security risks from now.


50+ must-know social media marketing statistics for 2024. Sprout Social. (2024, February 28).

Eiffel. (2021, April 26). 小红书的算法流量分发机制?小红书的机制和算法(Algorithmic Traffic Distribution Mechanisms for Little Red Book? Mechanisms and algorithms of Little Red Book). Zhihu.

Feeley, M. (2021, February 2). Too much information: 4 in 5 people are still oversharing personal data on social media  . New Digital Age.,need%20to%20launch%20an%20attack.

Grierson, J. (2024, February 26). “golden boy”, 16, killed himself after being blackmailed over nude photos. The Guardian.

Kaspersky. (2023a, April 19). How safe are smart homes?. Kaspersk.

Kaspersky. (2023b, May 18). Webcam hacking: Can your webcam spy on you?. Kaspersk.

Marwick, A. E., & Boyd, D. (2018). Understanding Privacy at the Margins: Introduction. International Journal of Communication .

Roberts, J. (2023, August 31). Fake instagram accounts: Why they exist & how to spot them. Later Social Media Marketing.

Terry, F. (2021). Issues of Concern. In Regulating platforms (pp. 72–79). essay, Polity.

What is a Data Breach?. Australian Government Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. (2023, October 27).

Wheeler, T., Tara Varma, B. T., & Levin, B. (2017, May 10). Databuse: Digital Privacy and the Mosaic. Brookings.

Images References

50+ must-know social media marketing statistics for 2024. Sprout Social. (2024, February 28).

Feeley, M. (2021, February 2). Too much information: 4 in 5 people are still oversharing personal data on social media  . New Digital Age.,need%20to%20launch%20an%20attack.

Instagram: Mahdi Woodard home page. instagram. (n.d.).

Pinapala, A., Yates, D., & Haryana, Govt. of. (2023, August 28). Privacy in the digital age: Data protection Bill 2023 and its impact on digital lenders. ET Edge Insights.

Roberts, J. (2023, August 31). Fake instagram accounts: Why they exist & how to spot them. Later Social Media Marketing.

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