Using social media networking sites has become an everyday activity for most people worldwide. By January 2021, there were 4.2 billion social media users, and Facebook is the most used platform of all. Given its interactivity and possibility to connect with your other regardless of location, this social media platform facilitates communication. Similarly, Google has been a search engine leader since its emergence in 1997, being the most preferred choice globally. 

No matter how useful these digital tools can be, they are not free from risks. Data breaches can happen more efficiently nowadays. Both Facebook and Google, being market leaders in their respective areas, were the target of fraudulent activities more than once. But how can these breaches happen? And more importantly, what are those tech leaders doing to combat them?

Scam adverts

The online environment, as much as it offers advantages and facilitates communication, shopping, and acquiring knowledge faster, can be the proper medium for malicious behavior. Hackers can access vital personal details, such as your address or account passwords. Besides that, it isn't uncommon to fall victim to online scammers who tailor fake ads. 

These ads can include anything from insurance companies to products which you might've wanted to buy for a while. The way this works is that the advertisers will use this information against you. They will post well-made adverts to high-ranking sites, such as Facebook and Google, which you might think are adequately equipped to only authorize genuine ads. And, in case of emergency, users expect these market leaders to tackle such matters promptly. However, the consumer group Which? is pointing at them for not doing enough.

Google and Facebook

The consumer group Which? has urged Google and Facebook to act on scam adverts appropriately. Their research shows that as many as 34% of Google users stated the reported fake ads were still available online. This is also the case for Facebook, according to 26% of users.

Even though these companies have declared they are handling the matter by taking down any fraudulent activity, the consumer group is in disagreement, based on what the victims have said. To properly tackle this issue, the strong recommendation is that the government gets involved as well.

Government implication needed

A study has shown that people don’t trust companies will do something. For this reason, many people who have been a victim to a scam ad didn't report it. Due to the lack of trust from consumers, government implication is crucial. 

The Online Safety Bill is beneficial for banning illegal and non-consensual content in the online environment. The consumer group Which? is strongly recommending the inclusion of scam adverts in the bill mentioned above to tackle this fraudulent activity properly. “It isn't enough to let companies react to these scams on their own, as the need for legal responsibility is crucial”, Which? says. 

Data leaks on Facebook

In 2019 there was a significant data leak of Facebook users' personal details, including locations, phone numbers, and full names. Over 500 million users had their Facebook ID hacked at the time, an attack that came not even a year after the company's security breach in 2018. Only 50 million accounts were targeted in the first attack. However, Facebook declared the company was committed to strengthening its security measures. It became apparent a few months earlier when the 533 million accounts were leaked online that the market leader was still struggling to protect their users' account information. 

Additionally, an email from Facebook mistakenly sent to a Data News highlighted that Facebook tried to make the data breach of 533 million users appear less important than it was. Instead of taking proper responsibility, Facebook decided not to notify its users and cover it as a general issue of the entire industry. Not giving any reassurance that they are fixing the problem has left users feeling utterly concerned. However, there are specific measures you can take to protect your online data better, such as two-factor authentication. You can even check whether your account is among the leaked data. You can read more about Facebook’s Data Leak and how this breach affected you and what you can do.

Data leaks on Google

Google is no stranger to data breaches. Back in 2018, the company's social network, Google Plus, was attacked by a bug, leaving 500,000 user accounts exposed. This bug increases the probability of a data breach. However, Google declared at the time that such an attack didn’t happen. Until then, Google managed to avoid being a victim of major cyber-attacks or mishandling them. 

However, in the case of Google Plus, the company chose to keep the issue out of the public eye. This decision was considered evasive on their part. Their explanation included that because there was no malicious action, they were unable to find the proper measures for users to tackle it. What's more, it was too difficult to identify how many users were indeed a target. As a consequence of this issue, the market share dropped by more than 2%. 

Soon after, the company decided to shut down Google Plus due to low engagement and interest from consumers. This, paired with the bug issue, has probably contributed to the social network not being a preference for personal use. On the other hand, Google Plus remained active for businesses and enterprises under the name Currents.

What can users do?

So, given that social media is embedded in everyone’s lives, it is vital to secure your account better. A way of doing this is by using specific password apps which offer extra protection to your accounts. Another way of protecting yourself against cyber-attacks is by turning on two-factor authentication. It might take a bit more time to set it; however, it will add security to your account. 

Similarly, when you use a search engine or a social media network, it is vital you are wary of the ads you might encounter. Scamming is not uncommon activity and can affect consumers financially. It is of the utmost importance not to access anything that seems from suspicious sources.

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