Introduction

This report will document the development of a professional social network platform for Linked-Out and will include the website address and administration login details, as well as a fully justified proof of concept section that reflects on the development process and justifies both design choices and features implemented, against current best practice, other social networks cyber-psychology principles and privacy concerns. 

Development of Prototype

URL

http://linked-out.greenweb-design.co.uk/

Colour Palette

Punchy Pastels

Proof of Concept

Throughout the design and development process for the Linked-Out social media platform, the design heuristics of Shneiderman (2016) and Tognazzini (2014) were taken into consideration and implemented, to maintain a consistent design that adheres to established practice. Shneiderman (2016) and Tognazzini (2014) claim that layout, font and colour should be used consistently throughout an interface to maintain a general style for the design and to adhere to this, the colour palette, Punchy Pastels, was used throughout along with sans-serif fonts such as Helvetica and Arial. Bear (2018) and Kole (2013) suggest that sans-serif fonts should be preferable over serif’s when designing for screens, due to the lower rate of DPI (dots-per-inch) available on screens and the modern look of the sans-serif fonts. Wright (2018) infers that the colour blue promotes professionalism and integrity, when viewed and due to the client requirement of designing a professional social media platform and a shade of blue was implemented as a focal point throughout the design in the header and for identification of important links in the profile navigation.

The interface was designed to have a layout and general feel similar to that of a prominent social media platform, as Statista (2018) and Social Media (2018) claim, Facebook (Facebook, 2018a) is the leading social media network in the UK (United Kingdom) with a market share of nearly 65% as of November 2018. The approach of using a style similar style to that of the leading social media network in the UK should help the user, as Shneiderman (2016) and Tognazzini (2014) claim, stay in control of the interface with no change of familiar behaviour and provide an interface with a small learning curve.

Throughout the interface design, the concept of Fitts’s Law has been implemented, as Tognazzini (2014) proposes that important functions should be clearly identified using large objects and smaller objects for functions that would or should not be performed often by the user. To complement Fitts’s Law, Shnedierman (2016) suggests that the interface should provide the user with informative feedback for every action performed and within the design, on hover effects, drop shadow and colour changes have been implemented to inform the user when they have made or are about to make an interaction with the interface.

When considering the development of a social media platform, the implementation of communication methods or channels must be considered, in relation to which communication styles are prominent in current, popular social media platforms and why. According to the University of Minnesota (2018) there are 12.5 differing communication styles, with the three main styles of communication being verbal, written and nonverbal and the other styles consist of subtypes of the three main styles, such as storytelling or crucial conversations. Currently, most of the communication conducted over social media networks is written, through the use of status updates, private messages or instant messaging features which can be seen implemented on Facebook (2018a), Twitter (2018) and LinkedIn (2018). The Linked-Out platform in its infancy as a prototype, promotes the use of written communication through status updates, comments and messaging between members and nonverbal communication through the use of the like button, to indicate that the user likes a particular piece of content that another user has posted. An option that could be implemented later in the development or after release of the Linked-Out platform, would be to incorporate further verbal communication methods through the implementation of a video messaging service, similar to Facebook’s (2018b) Facebook Video or Microsoft’s (2018) Skype service.

Users of social media platforms can use written communication styles to express their views and/or as Orehek and Human (2016, p.68) suggest self-expression of personality traits. Orehek and Human continue to claim that social media users are become increasingly more reliant on social media platforms to express themselves positively and accurately. This could be perceived as a positive when considered the users personal expression when posting content to the Linked-Out platform. However, there are also negative aspects to consider when considering personal expression, as the University of Leicester (2018) claim, ensuring that the user considers whether the content they publish is accurate and that they have considered thoroughly what they area about to post to a social media platform that can be viewed by others and any future implications the content may have on the user themselves and/or potentially other parties mentioned in the content. As this is an area that cannot be controlled entirely, the implementation of buttons to delete content that has been posted has been applied throughout the Linked-Out platform. A future business consideration when considering posts made by users is moderation, as Adobe (2018) Majumdar (2015) propose that moderation of social media is about handling the emotions of users effectively, while allowing negativity but moderating abusive language. Majumdar continues suggesting that moderation should not be excessive and the moderators of a platform should always proactively resolve legal issues that could arise due to plagiarism, slander, etc.

Privacy on social media is a concern, with breaches of data regulation laws affecting prominent social media platforms recently such as Facebook during 2017.  O’Connell (2018) claims that the optimal way to protect a user’s privacy is to allow the management of privacy within their account. The Information Commissioner’s Office (2018a) expand on the claim made by O’Connell, inferring that microtargeting, a form of online advertising targeted at the user specifically, is another issue linked to privacy and the data that social media platforms obtain regarding the user. Information Commissioner’s Office (2018b) continue, stating that there are options available to combat microtargeting when using social media platforms, such as changing options in the user account that relate to interaction and information sharing on social media. After consideration of the points proposed by O’Connell (2018) and the Information Commissioner’s Office (2018a and 2018b), the ability to modify privacy settings was implemented within the Linked-Out platform, allowing the user to modify who can view their content on the platform, including who can view the user’s profile. The ability to add other user’s as friends or to groups was implemented, along with the option to deny an invitation to a group or friend request, giving complete freedom and privacy to the user if required.

When using websites that obtain personal data from the user, Childline (2018) and Symantec (2018) claim that it is important to be aware of what information is being retained when visiting a website and this collection of information is known as a Digital Footprint. As the Linked-Out platform is intended to be a social media platform the collection of information from users is somewhat inevitable, due to users posting content on the platform that is searchable through search engines such as Google. Heathman (2018) deduces that a digital footprint can lead to consequences in the user’s everyday life such as a potential job prospect being rejected due to social media posts, but if the user understands what their digital footprint is and how to protect it, the user can manage their digital footprint effectively. Heathman and Internet Society (2018) suggest that one optimal way to limit the impact of social media upon the user’s digital footprint, is knowing what privacy controls are available on each social media platform and how to effectively implement them. As mentioned earlier when reflecting upon the privacy settings implemented within the Linked-Out platform, the user has the option to amend who can see their profile, but unfortunately, they do not the ability to remove their Linked-Out content from search engines directly to limit the impact on their digital footprint.

Social engineering is a concept that is heavily linked to online activity such as social media activity, as Hassan and Hijazi (2017, pp.66-67) infer that a definitive aim of social engineers is to exploit a tendency to trust that some humans possess, which in turn can lead to persons revealing sensitive information to the social engineer. Similar to privacy, the Linked-Out platform contains options to allow specific users access to a user’s profile information, via the privacy settings in the user’s profile and the only other possible counter measure to social engineering is to employ moderation of the user’s content and messaging. This method of moderation however could lead to a potential for investigation and possibly prosecution under the Data Protection Act, as GOV.UK (2018) claim that collected data must be used lawfully and for a specifically defined purpose. GOV.UK continue inferring that the individual(s) that the data relates to have the right to be informed as to how the collected data is being used and the individual(s) can also apply to stop or restrict access and processing of said data.

According to Dascalescu (2018) and Panda Security (2018) Doxxing is revealing the true identity of an online user and publishing this information publicly online. This is another area that could potentially be countered by moderation, however, Panda Security recommend that increasing the security of information on social media accounts by altering privacy settings, installing a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to stay anonymous while online by masking the IP address of the user’s computer and removing information regarding yourself online are key to reducing the risk of being targeted by Doxxing. Under current UK legislation, a user that recognises a Doxxing attack can report the attacker to the local authority who, according to legislation.gov.uk (2018) can apply for a warrant under the Investigatory Powers Act 2016, to intercept communications between the parties involved.

As the Linked-Out platform collects sensitive data from users such as the user’s real name and email address, the storage of this data must be secured with adequate encryption methods or the potential consequences for any breach of data, as Information Commissioners Office (2018c) claim could be severe and include an audit of the individual or organisation involved, non-criminal enforcement and criminal prosecution, including heavy financial repercussions. To secure this sensitive information for Linked-Out, investment in encrypted database technology is recommended and for the prototype, basic encrypted password protection should suffice until official release of the platform.

Badshah (2018) proposes a recent high-profile case involving Facebook entailed a data breach involving 87 million users and this data was collected by Cambridge Analytica, some of which from users in the United States was used to predict and influence voters. Badshah continues to claim that Facebook discovered the data breach years earlier in 2015 but failed to alert the users involved accordingly and that Cambridge Analytica used this information to exploit what was known about the users, which could be deemed as Social Engineering. The BBC (2018) expand further on the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica data breach, suggesting that MP’s (Member of Parliament) in the UK had seized documents regarding the data breach and in particular documents detailing Facebook’s privacy controls. As the Linked-Out platform currently has no third-party involvement and as mentioned earlier, the personal data of user’s is to be secured in an encrypted database, the eventuality of a data breach at this stage is highly unlikely but must still be planned for as a realistic eventuality.

Finally, applicable cyber-psychological concepts must be taken into consideration when designing a social media platform and Suler’s (2004) six factors of the Online Disinhibition Effect are to be investigated. Within the Lined-Out platform the personal information collected regarding users is limited due to potential implications of the Data Protection Act and this could lead to issues with Dissociative Anonymity, as Suler (2004) deduces that users can hide parts or the entirety of their identity, leading potentially to the separation of one’s actions in reality to the actions one conducts online. Users could use Dissociative Anonymity to harass other users within the Linked-Out platform, however, with adequate moderation and local authority powers such as the Investigatory Powers Act 2016, users should feel that their data is protected on the platform. Asynchronocity and Solipsistic Introjection are other potential issues, as Suler (2004) infers that as users do not interact in real time and there is an absence of face-to-face contact, communications could be misinterpreted leading to issues between members and becoming what is known as toxic inhibition. As Linked-Out currently only consists of asynchronous communication methods, a partial fix to the issue could be the introduced of verbal communication methods using a video service, where users use a webcam to interact.

References

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BBC (2018) Facebook documents seized by MP’s investigating privacy breach. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-46334810 (Accessed: 18 December 2018).

Bear, J.H. (2018) The Purpose and Best Uses for a Sans Serif Font. Available at: https://www.lifewire.com/sans-serif-font-information-1073828 (Accessed: 18 December 2018).

Childline (2018) Taking Care of Your Digital Footprint. Available at: https://www.childline.org.uk/info-advice/bullying-abuse-safety/online-mobile-safety/taking-care-your-digital-footprint/ (Accessed: 18 December 2018).

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Project Details

Client:

Blackpool and The Fylde College

Project Date:

December 19, 2018