Security and Social Media Use

Things to consider

Social media can be a useful tool in supporting and giving visibility to the work of civil society organisations. As contexts vary widely, it is important to use it carefully and strategically.

  • Being visibly connected to HRDs and promoting their work via social media can reduce the risks they face, or have the opposite effect and increase risks.
  • Social media sites are not appropriate for any type of sensitive communication. There are a number of potential risks to communicating sensitive data over such platforms, including:
    • The provider of the website may be obliged or requested by authorities to hand over user details, including private messages and ‘deleted’ content.
    • The regular changes in Terms of Service by many social media platforms often lead to changes in the privacy settings available or the defaults, making information previously thought to be ‘private’ more freely accessible to others.
  • Facial recognition software is also ever more common on social media platforms, regardless of whether users opt into being openly ‘tagged’ in pictures or not.
  • Private messaging on sites and apps may only be protected with weak encryption.

Protection tactics

  • Protect your accounts using strong passwords and two-factor authentication, and encourage HRDs to do the same.
  • Avoid having or using social media apps on devices which contain sensitive information because they collect information from your device. Ideally, access social media sites via a privacy-protecting browser.
  • Check the privacy settings of the social media sites that you use and make them as private as possible.
  • If an HRD wishes to connect with you over social media, double-check with them if they are sure they would like to do this.
  • Always ask explicit permission before uploading any pictures, including of HRDs, to social media platforms, and before tagging them.
  • Avoid discussion of any sensitive issues over social media messages and encourage HRDs to use alternative, more secure methods of communication. Exceptions could be made to this in cases where secure messaging applications themselves are the subject of stigmatisation or criminalisation by authorities.
  • Exercise extreme caution regarding any links which are shared on pages or in groups related to political or social movements, especially during times of civil unrest, as these may be malicious.

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Date of Last Update: 31-12-2019