It is amazing how fast the information age has evolved. Computers now run our lives. And when it comes to communication, we are virtually tied to our smart gadgets. Just thinking about the progress of these devices is a dizzying experience. That two decades ago, our smart phones started life as bulky, unsightly blocks of plastic with unexciting buttons and which cost an arm and a leg (plus a kidney, at times).
And now, our sleek, faster and more responsive gadgets cost as cheap as cheap can be. Which story mirrors the evolution of computers.The evolution of handheld communication devices, backed by the solid desktop and the mobile laptop, has gifted us with social media. As such, we can keep in touch with friends and family on the go, reach new markets for our products and services, and contribute to local, national and global discourses at the touch or swipe of a screen. That said, this gift that is the social media can be abused if recent events are anything to go by. In the same vein, there are certain measures we can take as individuals and as organisations to prevent or control this abuse.
“The internet never forgets.” You have probably heard of this modern day saying. Extrapolating on the same, the internet never forgives either. Which is to say that anything that is transmitted online – an email, a photo, a video, a memo, a sensitive dossier – leaves footprints and it can be accessed by the wrong party and used for blackmail or to cause embarrassment.
Electronic transactions of a monetary kind abound in the information age. Whether banking, sending or receiving money, or selling and buying, you do not need to physically present yourself to the bank or the retailer. With the click of a button, you can conduct business with another person on the other side of the globe. As with email accounts, bank details and electronic card details can also be breached and monies siphoned off these accounts.
Cyberbullying includes psychological torture, body shaming and threats of physical violence perpetrated online. Usually, this is done under relative anonymity afforded to the perpetrator, say, by use of a fictitious online account.
Browsing and social media companies use algorithms to improve their users’ experience. This by way of collecting data on the users’ likes, interests and so forth, thus feeding or pointing to them at similar content that may interest them. By and large, such data is confidential and is not supposed to be divulged to a third party. However, recently, it has been revealed that this information was used by a third party to individualise political messages so as to influence individuals to vote a certain away during the general elections in the USA.
As it were, we cannot wish the information age and social media away. Whoever, we can be responsible, responsive and safe in how we use it. This so as to protect ourselves as individuals and as organisations. How so?
Are we aware of our national laws and regulations concerning the use of social media, for instance? Then again, common sense should prevail when it comes to how we use social media. This entails being mindful of how we use social media. For instance, should we chance upon an accident, it would not be wise to share gory pictures of the victims so as to protect their dignity and the dignity of their families. The cardinal rule, “Do unto others as you would like them to do unto you.” Thus, we should be mindful to also not spread falsehoods about others by posting or sharing these falsehoods. And in case we err in our use of social media, we should take full responsibility and institute remedial measures promptly.
As online citizens, we have a duty to uphold the law as well as stand up for our rights or the rights of others when they are in danger of being trampled. This calls for participating in various campaigns that advocates for human rights or seeks to right an injustice visited on an individual or an organisation. And as denizens of planet earth, we have a duty to protect our environment and use our resources sustainably in the realisation that we have borrowed them from our past and our future generations and we are but mere custodians of them. As body corporates, a good place to start would be to thoroughly be acquainted with the sustainable development goals, align our business practices thus and report this online via platforms such as the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC).
We should strive at safety at all times when online. At the individual level, we should take measures to ensure that our information or
communication is safe at all times. This applies too at the organisational
level. This calls for a heightened awareness of what information or communication we post or share online, as well as how we pass it.
In this, we should be guided by the catchphrase that when it comes to posting or sharing information online, we should do so with an abundance of caution.
So, what mechanisms can we use to keep safe online? This includes safeguarding our communication by use of secure means of transmission. For instance, by having official email through which to transmit sensitive or confidential information as an organisation or as an individual. Such emails can be gotten from a domain registrar and webhosting company. Further, they can be localised as per your country’s internet domain name (firstname.lastname@example.org) or be sector specific (yourname@
yourcharityorganisation.org). Such email accounts have multiple layers of security to secure information transmitted through them.
Other ways to keep safe include using strong passwords for your email and social media accounts, changing these passwords after some time and linking them to other accounts where you can be notified in case of attempted breach. Also, each of your accounts should have a distinct password from the other accounts. In the case of social media, you should be wary of who you accept to be friends or communicate with.
Care should also be taken in the kind of files or apps you download or install, and the kind of permissions granted to them regarding access to other files or apps or your computing device. Lastly, it goes without saying that your computer or smart device should have an antivirus software to prevent your machine being hacked into.