The Social media Dilemma: Data Privacy & Security vs. User Experience.

BY TONI WONG September 30, 2023 3:56 PM

facebook” by emasali stock is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

           The use of the various social media platforms continues to record a rapid increase across the globe. The rise in usage is as a result of various unique attributes associated with them that makes them preferred communication avenues. According to Ozer (2023) social media platforms are ubiquitous in nature. Consequently, they can be used to share information to various groups of people across the globe. Social media platforms unlike traditional media, allows their users to share a broad range of information and media. Moreover, social media permits immediate feedback from target audience, making them not only addictive, but also an effective communication medium (Brandtzaeg et al., 2010). The continued increase in social media usage across the globe, has however come with its own fair share of challenges, particularly those touching on data privacy and various cybersecurity risks. 

A number of past incidences of data breach and cybersecurity attacks whose origin traces to the use of social media confirm the risk associated with continued increase in social media usage. The Cambridge Analytical data breach helps to exemplify some of the risks associated with social media use (NewComb, 2018). The Cambridge Analytical data breach whistle blower video confirms (15) Cambridge Analytica whistleblower: ‘We spent $1m harvesting millions of Facebook profiles’ – YouTube. As a result, many social media company have been caught up with the need to enhance the data privacy of their users, so as to prevent them from cases of data breach and certain cybersecurity risks. Improved data privacy and security features, have however, been noted to have an impact on user experience, considering that increased data privacy and security capabilities dilutes user experience, leaving social media companies in a dilemma as to how to balance the two. The paper makes a consideration of the dilemma that exists between data privacy and security and user experience, by bringing out how attempts to enhance one impacts the other, and how social media platforms can ensure a balance between the two. 

Data Privacy and Security in Social Media Platforms

facebook data security” by Book Catalog is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Most social media are structured in such way that their users provide some personal information such as names, email address and phone numbers when signing into the platforms. Considering the large number of users drawn from different countries who uses the social media platforms, social media companies end up creating a huge pool of personal data which social media companies can sale to third party firms and individual for different purposes such as market research. The huge volumes of data relating to the personal information of users, also exposes makes social media companies attractive to cyber security attacks that are geared gaining access to user information (Brandtzaeg et al., 2010). The attractiveness of social media companies to hackers and other cyber criminals is occasioned by the crucial user information they possess, as some of the information such as e-mail address and phone numbers are personal identifiers, which cyber criminals can use to accomplish various crimes.

            The data privacy and security concerns associated with social media platforms, are equally due to their in-built capabilities and features, some of which makes them a source of attraction among users. According to Chavan et al. (2021), most people have become addicted to the use of social media, because it allows them to share a broad range of information. Through social media platforms such as Facebook one can share written and audio visual content such as images, graphics and videos. Certain features of the platforms, such as those that helps to show a person’s location can infringe one’s privacy, thus exposing the person to various security threats. As Chavan et al. (2021) notes the kind of information shared in social media such as images, can pose certain cybersecurity threats such as impersonation, as one can use one’s name and image to pretend that he/she is a given person. Moreover, certain social media features such as location and content such as videos, can be used to harass people online, or physically, hence posing a security risk to users. 

            Most social media companies derive their revenues from the advertisements they make. In the recent years, many businesses are shifting from the use of mainstream media to the use of social media in carrying out their advertisement campaigns. To ensure they effectively meet the advertising needs of their customers, social media companies uses user data to identify ideal target customers for advertisers. The approach whereas helps advertisers to optimize the overall impact of their advertisement campaigns, it infringes the privacy of social media users (Perrigo, 2023). The need for social media platforms to help advertisers reach their target customers, has motivated them to engage in activities such as data mining, geared at obtaining more information about the users, which can then be used by advertisers to reach their target customers. The use of data mining whereas beneficial to owners of the platforms and advertisers, it infringes on the privacy of its users as it allows for pop up adverts which affect their online experience (Xu et al., 2013). The mined data can be a source of certain cyber security risks, as advertisers can use it to scam social media users, thus exposing them to various security risks. 

How ensuring Data Privacy and Security Impacts User Experience 

Mark Zuckerberg F8 2019 Keynote” by Anthony Quintanois licensed under CC BY 2.0.

            Evidently, there exists an inverse relationship between data privacy and security in social media platforms and user experience realized from the use of those platforms. Putting in place stringent data privacy and security measures in social media platforms affects certain aspects of the social media platforms, that in turn dilutes user experience. Different people uses social media platforms for different reasons.  For some, they use the platforms to share content that touches on their personal life such as their current location, their physical outlook and their day to day experiences. Their use of social media is therefore based on the fact that it can allow them undertake all those. However, some of those social media capabilities affects their privacy and exposes them to various cybersecurity risks (Distler et al., 2020). For example, by having information relating to one’s location, name and photos on social media platforms, it makes such information accessible to other people who can use them wrongly, for instance in perpetuating impersonation, or online harassment. Whereas social media companies possess the ability to disable some of those features, or prevent the sharing of certain types of messages to ensure data privacy and security of their users, such actions can dilute user experience, as some of those features are the main source of attraction of users into the platform.

            Continued growth in use of social media platforms across the globe is partly due to their ability to provide their users with a superior experience, including provision of content that matches the need of its different users. Through the use of personal data provided by users during signing in and the application of various data mining techniques, social media platforms are able to customize the content accessible to its users in accordance to their needs and preferences. For example, it helps to ensure users receive the right news content and advertisement. Some of those aspects of social media platforms helps to enhance user experience and are some of the aspects that have contributed to increased use of social media platforms (Distler et al., 2020). The collection of user data, even though helps in enhancing user experience, it has however been noted to contribute to increased data breach and cyber-security risks, as the Facebook founder noted after the Cambridge Analytical data breach, (15) ‘I’m sorry’, Mark Zuckerberg tells US Congress over Facebook data breach | ITV News – YouTube. The situation has left many social media companies in a dilemma, as it makes it difficult for them to provide users with superior experience, while ensuring data privacy and security.


Social media platforms companies face a dilemma on how to keep user data private and secure without affecting the intended user experience. The dilemma arises from the fact that is through user data, that most social media platforms are able to offer the superior experience users enjoy. Through user data, the platforms are able to offer users with customized content, which helps to set them apart from other communication avenues. Adopting stringent data privacy and security measures, will compromise their ability to provide well customized user content, which will in turn dilute user experience, hence putting in a dilemma situation. 


Brandtzaeg, P., Luders, M. & Skjetne, J. (2010). Too Many Facebook Friends? Content Sharing and Sociability Versus the Need for Privacy in Social Network Sites. International Journal of Human –Computer interaction, 26(11), 1006 – 1030.

Chavan, P., Jadhav, D. & Borkar, G. (2021). Challenges to Multimedia Privacy and Security Over Social Media. Handbook of Research on Cyber Crime and Information Privacy.

Distler, V., Lallemand, C. & Koenig. (2020). How Acceptable is This? How User Experience Factors Can Broaden Our Understanding of the Acceptance of Privacy Trade-Offs. Computers in Human Behaviour, 106.  

NewComb, A. (2018). A Timeline of Facebook’s Privacy Issues – and Its Responses. NBC Universal.

Ozer, D. (2023). The Social Dilemma: Change in Social Media Regulation on the Horizon? Politics Today.

Perrigo, B. (2023). What to Know About the TikTok Security Concerns? Time.  

Xu, F., Michael, K. & Chen, X. (2013). Factors Affecting Privacy Disclosure on Social Network Sites: An Integrated Model. Electronic Commerce Research, 13, 151-163.

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