Need for stronger policies
Corporate organisations were much faster than the authorities in terms of monitoring, checking and using social media, especially for employment purposes. There has always been a question of knowing what you can’t find out in an interview about a specific candidate. In turn, people looking for a job, became aware of that reality and modified their privacy settings accordingly.
To understand the social media behaviours of users we need to segregate generations. Generation X and Y tend to be more private, and that is not only respective to their online accounts, they were raised with a lot of boundaries and less choices. However, the millennials are very open with their behaviour towards their companies as they value freedom of expression more than anything else. Thus, that also changes with age, as in my experience the older they get, (early 30’s) the less exposed they choose to become.
However, due to the fact that no clear criminal code exists for social media, most users are trying to be more careful, especially after hearing stories of people sentenced to jail because of a post or comment on social media platforms.
The problem with social networks today is that they need user information to monetise their users; the less information, the less income. Instead of introducing stronger policies, networks should research behaviours and educate people accordingly. By doing so, users would have an idea of what they are getting themselves into. In addition to that, they can give users the option to encrypt certain posts instead of penalising the whole community.
From Mr Camil Al Khoury
Consultant and life coach based in Dubai
Surveillance is necessary
The fear that all tech savvy people face today is the fear of being caught by their superiors.
The main reason for this fear is that the majority of people are not true to their colleagues and bosses and to hide their acts , they use encrypted sites that are safe and do not reveal their identity to everyone.
However, if you think of it, the use of encrypted media poses a major threat to society as it’s easier for a person to be tricked without anyone being able to help you out.
If the fear we have is only from our subordinates and not the authorities, it’s a cause of concern. However, when people start misusing it to the extent that it threatens society, that’s when the real problem starts.
There has to be a sense of fear of misusing such platforms in everyone, but for the right reasons.
Our use of the internet is a need of our society but to have platforms that is accessible to all, and especially, revealing everything to everyone is certainly a cause of concern.
Instead, we should have a medium that protects our revelations and ensures that it remains private, yet is stored and registered for security measures.
While encrypted applications like WhatsApp are best in terms of protecting our privacy and the content shared, it can also be dangerous as it poses threat to the security and defence policies of a country.
In my opinion , such apps should not be made public, but should be accessed by intelligence agencies of a country for safety and security purposes.
From Ms Sudha Kathuria
Principal based in Dubai
Appreciate your users
We are definitely more careful of what we post on our social media profiles nowadays, and privacy is the main factor for that decision. We fear the audience, but more than that, we fear how people will judge us based on the content we share. We live in a very judgmental society despite the fact that a lot of boundaries have been crossed. People are always judging or talking about each other, and sometimes, people change simply just to fit into the society, or what society thinks is acceptable. Considering that, yes, corporate surveillance is a cause for concern because you probably have an ‘image’ to live up to, and your social media profile may reflect the same image.
Social media is ever changing, and so are we. We have witnessed the birth of Facebook, which was once a website that someone in school had joined, to what it is today, a platform that you probably access on a daily basis. Similarly, a lot of other platforms surfaced as well as applications and Snapchat or Instagram are currently at the top of the trends.
People have certain fears and social networks have failed to protect its users from such, which is something that encrypted apps are doing. In the virtual world, you need to be one step ahead, and unless social networks work on stronger policies, they will continue to decline.
We need to understand that it is not just about numbers, rather about catering to the people who helped you achieve those numbers. Facebook and Twitter wouldn’t exist today if it wasn’t for people jumping on their wagon and just as they were loyal enough to stick around during their experimentation, these platforms need to give back to their users by looking into their needs.
From Mr Mahmoud Bin Eisa
Engineer based in Abu Dhabi
It is about the fear of society rather than that of corporate or authority surveillance
Social media is a unique characteristic of the Gulf region. However, more than fear of corporate or authority surveillance, people are vary of the society they live in and having them know everything about their daily doings. This region is more reserved in terms of what people do, their private life and even what they promote. While there is a boom in encouraging people to share their day-to-day activities on social media platforms, which in itself is a shift in our society, people still worry. The fear of what people will think of you is stronger than that of being watched by corporations or the authorities, which is why a lot of people refrain from revealing their face or status. Irrespective of the social media boom that we have witnessed, people still view it cynically and sarcastically as soon as someone posts or tweets something that goes against societal values. The reason for the decline is that people have finally realised that they do not want all of their business out there simply because they have seen the implications of it, whether by corporations or authorities.
Corporations in this region are not as organised as they are elsewhere in which managers and employees would go to a job seekers Facebook page to scrutinise him or her before making a decision. However, knowing that the option is there is what encourages people to be more reserved. For example, in this part of the world, it is very common to see people using aliases rather than their full names, simply so that their colleagues and peers would not be able to identify them.
As mentioned before, it is not the fear of corporate surveillance, rather fear of society and what they would have to say about you. However, as for surveillance by the authorities, it is something that should be seen in a positive light as it has made people aware of their limits by regulating the usage. In the UAE, these rules and regulations have worked great as people now know that they cannot attack someone based on their religion, race, ethnicity or background. This is a great move that has made people more vary, thus resulting in less online battles. However, region-wise, we still witness online battles due to the geopolitical dilemmas in the region.
While Twitter has seen a decline in their feeds, it would be wrong to think that it is due to privacy issues. Privacy and the fear of surveillance is not the reason why Twitter is no longer as popular as it once used to. Considering that, they need to look within to find out why they are no longer the flavour of the day. People in the Middle East are very big on trends and we have seen that with the introduction of new applications such as Snapchat or Instagram, and with that in mind, Twitter should have a look at that and analyse why people are following these trends. By doing so, they can adapt accordingly to the needs and wants of the region.
As for Facebook, it is still a giant, irrespective of its decline – it will always be viewed as the base or foundation of social media. However, both Facebook and Twitter need to look at trends more than privacy. We live in an age where young people want to be heard, they want to showcase what they stand for and think about. They want to do all that with as little risk as possible – Instagram and Snapchat allows them that, but Twitter and Facebook aren’t doing that.
It is important to understand that social media in the Gulf region is maturing and coming off age. Everyone jumped on the bandwagon with the birth of social media, but having experimented, people now know what works best. We think about ourselves and what we want to represent before doing anything that could possibly tarnish our position.
From Mr Abdul Muttalib Al Hashemi
People and workforce development specialist based in Dubai
— Compiled by Donia Yassinson/Community Web Editor