By Emma Sadleir, founder at CEO, The Digital Law Company
It’s a pretty fair question to ask whether privacy even exists at all today. And a reasonable follow-up question would be to wonder if a distinction exists between your personal life and your business life.
The honest answer to both questions: no, not at all. As too many local and international incidents have shown, private can become public very quickly, and actions in your personal life can have very real consequences in your professional life. We’ve all become celebrities in the digital age and our friends, our family, or colleagues and even the general public have become the paparazzi. And this can open us up to significant harm including the risk of legal, reputational and disciplinary issues.
Given all that, how do you stay safe and protect your reputation today? And if digital content is potentially dangerous content, how do we navigate a world where so much of our lives are online?
A good start, and something that people don’t think nearly enough about is basic digital hygiene: having strong passwords and using two-factor authentication, having a plan about what happens to your phone if it gets stolen, being mindful of what you say in work WhatsApp groups.
We also have a responsibility to educate ourselves and our families about the risks we face when using social media. Especially now, because just like the uptick in cybercrime during the pandemic, social media incidents such as identity theft and fraud, the spread of fake news, and the rise of anonymous and fake accounts being used to scam people are on the rise. Further, just as in the cybercrime world the technology to carry out attacks is getting cheaper and more accessible, the technology used to commit crimes on social media is easily available. Take deep fakes, where images are manipulated to, say, put someone’s face on another person’s body. Not that long ago, really good deep fakes were a pretty specialised and niche skill. Today, the technology to create very convincing deep fakes is easily available to anyone and can lead to image-based violence and extortion.
Another important and trickier to navigate aspect to staying safe on social media is managing what other people are saying about you. During lockdown we’ve seen several examples of people being outed for flouting lockdown rules, the subsequent repercussions they have faced. This, at the moment, is the big risk stuff I am seeing.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the risks and challenges we may (inadvertently) be opening ourselves up to thanks to the newness of social media. Issues such as bringing your company into disrepute and breaching the duty of good faith you owe companies by your social media activities. Or the infringement of someone’s privacy. Or social media being used as evidence in court cases. And sometimes there is a simple answer: just be a good human. But also be aware, and take the basic steps needed to protect yourself on social media.
Emma will be speaking at Cyber in the City where she’ll be discussing these issues, providing recent, local examples, and offering practical, step-by-step advice to prevent social media-related security incidents, and what to do if something does happen. You’ll also have the chance to ask Emma questions about staying safe on social media. Cyber in the City is on 19 November 2020 from 9 am to 1 pm. Visit cyberinthecity.co.za to register.