If you’ve tuned into any of the major cable news channels, or The Daily Show this week – you’ve undoubtedly heard the story about Rep. Anthony Weiner’s allegedly hacked twitter account and the lewd photo that was sent to a college student. I’ll leave it to Jon Stewart to make Weiner jokes and the pundits at Fox/CNN/MSNBC to debate whether his account was really hacked and if the photo was really him – but thanks to Weiner, there are a few things brands and personal users of social media sites should remember.
- We all hear about it anytime Facebook tries to change its privacy settings without telling anyone. Someone finds out that a setting has changed and it becomes headline news. Everyone you know is posting to change said setting otherwise evil hackers will have access to your account and all your high school ex’s will end up with your cell phone number. What you don’t hear about nearly as often are the privacy settings (or lack thereof) of the smaller, third party sites that help build the social community of Facebook and Twitter. As was the case with yFrog – it was fairly easy to post a photo to someone’s Twitter account by sending that photo to a dedicated email address tied to the account. If you have any kind of hacking skills it probably wasn’t difficult to find out that email address and post any kind of photo to that account as if it came from the owner. Think about it – have you really looked at the security and privacy settings of Instagram? Hipstamatic? Until recently TwitPic’s copyright statement said: “By uploading your photos to Twitpic you give Twitpic permission to use or distribute your photos on Twitpic.com or affiliated sites.” Bet you didn’t read that as you were uploading photos of your hipster beer to Twitter…
- Be aware that Facebook does allow people to post images and status updates to their profile or pages through email. However, these email addresses seem a lot more random and not so easy to hack.
- Mashable published some interesting stats related to the state of photo sharing on Twitter this week, with the announcement that Twitter would be rolling out a native photo sharing feature (potentially making sites like YFrog and TwitPic obsolete). To highlight – on a busy day, Twitter users send out 170 million tweets a day. Out of those, 1.25% percent include a link to a photo. Well, that may not sound like much, but 1.25% of 170 million equal 2.125 million photos shared per day! Thats a lot of photos floating around on the interweb.
- The bottom line is, anyone active on social media needs to think before they post. I tend to believe that Weiner’s account was hacked. But, if you’re a public figure should you have photos of your *ahem* self on your phone or somewhere that someone can email them out – probably not. Public figures and brands that are active in social media have too many people watching their every move. Everyone hears about it when a big brand’s social media manager accidentally drops the F bomb from a corporate account at work instead of their own. And before you can hit delete, some fraction of your 11,000+ twitter fans have seen the damage.
Social media isn’t hard – but it does require a lot of tact and attention to detail. Its real time and its social – so like it or not, people are going to see what you post and tell you their honest opinion. After all, its a lot easier to be shady when you’re sitting behind an electronic box, right Weiner?