The 4 steps you should take before engaging with Social Media Data

By Aydin Farrokhi and Dr. Wael Hassan

Organizations are using big data to help consumers. The question is what steps organizations can take to avoid inadvertently harming consumers. In the event of legal action, an organization’s preparedness is a determining factor in how well the case will move forward.

In court matters, electronically stored information is generally subject to the same preservation and discovery requirements as other relevant information. Preserving evidences or fulfilling a court production order for social media records raises technical challenges and evidentiary issues. As described by the Sedona report:


“social media data is often hosted remotely with third parties, is dynamic and collaborative by nature, may include several different data types, and is often accessed through unique interfaces.”

In addition, social media sites may terminate an account(s) or delete account contents and mobile applications can shut down, or the mobile device itself can cause restrictions.2

For these reasons, addressing the needs for defense in a legal action, with early engagement in an agreement for preservation and collection of social media data is beneficial.


Social media analytics is a relatively new topic and may not always fit within existing laws and regulations. There are no universal agreements on how to regulate it and many countries are still at the stage of developing laws that protect their citizens’ private information from unethical use or misuse. Moreover, current legislation for data protection are not always comprehensive, and sometimes do not work well together. In some other cases these regulations have not been designed with social media analytics in mind.


Big data will continue grow in use, and will benefit growing areas such as education, health, social services, employment, finance, forensic investigation and many more. While big data analytics continue to provide benefits and opportunities to consumers, protecting consumers’ privacy has become a growing challenge. The privacy commissioner of each jurisdiction continues to monitor areas where big data practices could violate existing laws, and brings enforcement actions where appropriate. In addition, raising awareness about the  negative impact of big data practices on low-income and underserved population remains on the commissions’ primary list.


Since big data analytics can have significant consequences, organizations and legislation should work together to minimize the risks it presents. Therefore, organizations and companies that are already using or are considering engaging in big data analytics should:29

  • Consider if their data sets are missing information from particular populations and if so, take necessary steps to address the problem
  • Review their data sets and algorithms for hidden biases that may have unintended negative impact on certain groups
  • Remember that discovered correlations in big data, must be used with the risks of using those results in mind
  • Consider fairness and ethical use of big data


It may be worthwhile to have human supervision of data and algorithms when using big data tools to make important decisions.

Social Media’s Big Data Collection

By  Aydin Farrokhi and Dr. Wael Hassan

To highlight a few areas in which big data has helped to improve the organizational processes, the following are real examples worth mentioning. In education, some institutions have used big data to identify student candidates for advanced classes. In finance, big data has been used  to provide access to credit through non-traditional methods, for example, LexisNexis created an alternative credit scoring (Risk View) system which provides alternative ways to score creditworthiness. In healthcare, a tailored medicare is a new approach for disease treatment  and prevention based on an individual’s environment and lifestyle. In human resources, Google is using big data to help promote a more diverse workforce.


All above said, a concern arises that certain groups of people will be categorized and excluded through the use of big data. In some cases, customers’ credit limits have been lowered not because of their payment history but because of where they had shopped.


Also of concern is the exposure of people’s sensitive data. The results of a study performed which combined data on Facebook “Likes” with limited survey information was found to be staggering. The researchers were able to accurately predict:


Male user’s sexual orientation -88% of the time

User’s ethnic origin-95% of the time

User’s religion (Christian or Muslim)-82% of the time

A Democrat or Republican-85% of the time

Used alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes -65% to 75% of the time


Big data may even increase the incidents of fraud. Fraudsters can target vulnerable consumers and offer disingenuous services or goods for scamming purposes. Big data analytics allows organizations (or fraudster) to more easily and accurately identify persons who are drawn to sweepstake offers or who are vulnerable prospects.

Other malicious intent could occur with companies offering consumers choices to quote and infer misleading conclusion from a likeminded preselected group of people that big data provided them.

Overcoming the Challenges of Privacy of Social Media in Canada

By Aydin Farrokhi and Dr. Wael Hassan

In Canada data protection is regulated by both federal and provincial legislation. Organizations and other companies who capture and store personal information are subject to several laws in Canada. In the course of commercial activities, the federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) became law in 2004. PIPEDA requires organizations to obtain consent from individual whose data being collected, used, or disclosed to third parties. By definition personal data includes any information that can be used to identify an individual other than information that is publicly available. Personal information can only be used for the purpose it was collected and individuals have the right to access their personal information held by an organization.

Amendments to PIPEDA 

The compliance and enforcement in PIPEDA may not be strong enough to address big data privacy aspects. The Digital Privacy Act (Also known as Bill S_4) received Royal Assent and now is law. Under this law if it becomes entirely enforced, the Privacy Commissioner can bring a motion against the violating company and a fine up to $100,000.

The Digital Privacy Act amends and expands PIPEDA in several respects:


  1. The definition of “consent” is updated: It adds to PIPEDA’s consent and knowledge requirement. The DPA requires reasonable expectation that the individual understands what they are consenting to. The expectation is that the individual understands the nature, purpose and consequence of the collection, use or disclosure of their personal data. Children and vulnerable individuals have specific

There are some exceptions to this rule. Managing employees, fraud investigations and certain business transactions are to name a few.

  1. Breach reporting to the Commissioner is mandatory (not yet in force)
  2. Timely breach notifications to be sent to the impacted individuals: the mandatory notification must explain the significance of the breach and what can be done, or has been done to lessen the risk of the
  3. Breach record keeping mandated: All breaches affecting personal information whether or not there has been a real risk of significant harm is mandatory to be kept for records. These records may be requested by the Commissioner or be required in discovery by litigant or asked by the insurance company to assess the premiums for cyber
  4. Failure to report a breach to the Commissioner or the impacted individuals may result in significant

Cross-Border Transfer of Big Data

The federal Privacy Commissioner’s position in personal information transferred to a foreign third party is that transferred information is subject to the laws and regulations of the foreign country and no contracts can override those laws. There is no consent required for transferring personal data to a foreign third party. Depending on the sensitivity of the personal data a notification to the affected individuals that their information may be stored or accessed outside  of Canada and potential impact this may have on their privacy rights.

 Personal Information- Ontario Privacy Legislations

The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and Personal Health Information Protection Act are three major legislations that organizations such as government ministries, municipalities, police services, health care providers and school boards are to comply with when collecting, using and disclosing personal information. The office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario (IPC) is responsible for monitoring and enforcing these acts.

In big data projects the IPC works closely with government institutions to ensure compliance with the laws. With big data projects, information collected for one reason may be collectively used with information acquired for another reasons. If not properly managed, big data projects may be contrary to Ontario’s privacy laws.
























A Lesson to Know: The Unforgiving Culture of Social Media

For better or for worse, for decades public figures ranging from celebrities to CEOs to politicians to athletes have been notoriously remembered for 10-or-15-second snippets of speech endlessly repeated as quotes in newspapers, snippets in television commercials or on news reports until they come to capsulize the person.

For example, way back in 2o14, Elon Musk, the billionaire genius behind SpaceX, PayPal, Tesla Motors and a host of other companies, was asked about what he was looking for in potential hires for his team. He was specifically asked about what colleges or universities he was partial to. He responded that you do not need to go to college or university, “or even highschool”. This was later followed by the now-famous 2015 quote of his, “ If you don’t make it at Tesla, you go work at Apple”. Yahoo’s former CEO Marissa Mayer was also under intense scrutiny when she made the rather obnoxious comment: “The baby’s been way easier than everyone made it out to be.” These are only minor examples of words that were stated within seconds, and yet, have profound impact on public opinion for a lifetime.

With the advent of social media, there is no longer a curtain public figures can hang behind, in protection of their privacy or for when they say things that their publicists probably wish they did not. Nowadays, everything is seen or heard and caught on some form of recording and shared over and over again through social media. Rooted in the creation of social platforms such as YouTube, Facebook and, later, Twitter, viral content allows for the mass wide-spread of messages, ensuring that even those unaware of public figures’ quotes are up to speed. 

Digging deeper into the media coverage that surrounded the aftermath of the viral spread of these messages elucidates the one of the largest challenges to social media- the negative and unfairly reactive nature of it. In today’s era dominated by an overt need to be politically correct, social media has increased our ongoing desire to react without appropriate research or context.

Now, more than ever before, social figures have a responsibility to be careful about their actions as social media is unforgiving. Public figures should always remember that they are public figures who will be scrutinized every day, to masses of people. This is even more prominent when their offensive words and actions are placed on social media for the entire world to see. And you can never be too careful when your public image impacts thousands of people, especially young people who look up to you. It is important that public figures be more responsible with what they share online, and always remember that what they say publically can come back to haunt them. Public figures are influencers for a reason, and their reach extends to many- and thanks to social media, will do so for a long, long time.










Social Media as Political Warfare

The rise of social media has immeasurable power. Whereas in the past, people would get their recent news updates from television or the radio, now it is regular, lay people (often in 140 characters or less) spreading the news. While sharing opinion on social media outlets has the power to liberate and empower people, the messages spread can be harmful and downright abusive.
Social media has changed history. The creation of tactical narratives spread through social media channels is now at the core of modern strategic communication strategies in business, politics and even in warfare. Particularly in politics around the world, the ease of spreading messages from your finger trips has led to a phenomenon in political warfare that has shaped public’s opinions and influence election outcomes. Such digital manipulation has even gone so far as to make policy makers, military leaders and intelligence agencies struggle adapt to the changing climate.

One example of this is the election season of Iran. At the time, the majority of the posts were bashing the election and did not even come from the people of Iran themselves. In particular, it was the Western media outlets that were bursting with an outbreak in protesters using Twitter, blogs, and other social media outlets to spread propaganda, coordinate rallies, share information (that may or may not have been true), and locate supporters. Extensive media coverage highlighted the role of social networking, both in helping organize activities and in causing a rise in cyber activism surrounding the Iranian protests that resulted in an unpresented global debate. In just exploring the sheer volume of information published in real-time through social networks, one can see how this was just one of the most major world event that was broadcasted worldwide almost entirely via social media. While social media allowed an international community of protestors (and some supporters) an unprecedented peek into the turmoil afflicting Iran, politicians also were found to be using social media as a way to mobilize voters as the societal messages discussed on social media became campaign themes for presidential candidates. One of the largest issues, however, was the discussion of how politicians in Iran were using the social networks to advance their own political schemata, yet still opposed free access to the internet for all.

A secondary example of political warfare that steamed from social media is the over 8000 tweets on terrorist and racist comments that came within hours of Saudi Arabia’s announcement of a Saturday a new terrorist-monitoring center. The Ideological War Center, which launched operations in April of this year, stated that it would correct what it calls “misguidance” about Islam through its channels on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. Within hours of its announcement, the Ideological War Center attracted numerous people, including individuals who have been born, lived and grew up in non-Muslim countries. However, there was no time to distinguish false stories from real ones about what the Islamic faith really entails. Instead, each new post contributed to some element of racist thought, which seems counteractive to the Center’s aim of exposing mistakes, allegations, suspicions and deceptive techniques promoted by extremists and terrorists. As such an ideologist war of sorts has been created in which the aim of deterring terrorist and extremist organizations has been met with the continuous breeding of false, racist ideas that linger and thieve on social media platforms.

Lastly, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states that have severed ties with Qatar have declared severe penalties for those who support Qatar. The Attorney General has made it very clear that it is now punishable by law to show sympathy on social media or by any other means of communication for Qatar. The cybercrime law came into effect in December 2012 and covers a comprehensive scope of offences in categories including undermining state security, political stability, morality and proper conduct. The Federal Public Prosecution also announced that according to the Federal Penal Code and the Federal law decree on Combating Information Technology Crimes, anyone who threaten the interests, national unity and stability of the UAE will face a jail term from three to 15 years, and a fine not less than AED 500,000 ($136,000). “Strict and firm action will be taken against anyone who shows sympathy or any form of bias towards Qatar, or against anyone who objects to the position of the United Arab Emirates, whether it be through the means of social media, or any type of written, visual or verbal form,” United Arab Emirates Attorney General Hamad Saif al-Shamsi was quoted as saying in a statement.

From Facebook to Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, or Instagram social media users are besieged with political content, and participate in it readily, which has led to social media being seen as a type of political warfare. Unlike traditional media, social media has a heightened reach, frequency, permanence and immediacy. As such, social media has become a loud speaker of beliefs, a designer of meaning and a producer of conflicts.

There are three things that need to be done to help minimizing the negative effects of this for politicians, and for those concerned about upholding true information: the better filtering of chatbots that post negative, and disruptive; the better identification of fake news; and the better identification of mass manipulation. Current technological developments in artificial intelligence, such as Chatbots that serve as conversational entities relying on artificial intelligence to spread information or in most cases concerted and repeated skewed information, have become important factors in this war of words. Further, fake news is growing and causing a culture of digital anonymity that facilitates hate speech and misinformation to manipulate a mass amount of people. Fortunately, companies that use social media analytics tools, such as KI SOCIAL, are in a position whereby their teams have the technical and intellectual means to detect fake news and Chatbots and the knowledge to better identify mass manipulations (and how to respond).
The political landscape has changed quite a bit in the last couple of decades and social media, in part, is responsible for this change. While social media can be a source of good, it has also come at a price- as a commodity of political warfare.

Building a Social Media Pipeline

A Presentation by Dr. Waël Hassan at Boston University School of Media & Communications

Abstract: Companies who developed Success Criteria, established their Style, decided their Sources, Setup a business process, whilst they survey their results are winning big on social media. The most unknown part of building an enterprise social media service is how to build a social media pipeline. This presentation describes how to do that.



Why Social Media Matters

As the global uptake of social media continues to climb, a new outlet to target a wide range of demographics has emerged. While traditional forms of media such as print advertisements, billboards and networking have remained prominent in the past, use of social media as a form of marketing has exponentially increased as more users join social networks. A new paradigm shift is evident with the uprising of social media – although the primary purpose was to connect like-minded individuals together, networks have evolved to compete with newspapers, television and magazines. 90% of Twitter users rely on Tweets for news information while Facebook and Snapchat host videos garnering billions of views. Approximately 100 million photos are posted via Instagram per day while many 50-70% of consumers make purchases based on social media opinions and marketing.

Quick Facts:

  • Globally, there are 2.3 billion active social media users
  • On average, Internet users have 5.54 social media accounts
  • Approximately 12 mobile social media accounts are created each second

For a business, social media can create awareness and exposure, drive conversation and generate demand. Regardless of product niche, the social network environment will undoubtedly host a space for your target audience. With the prowess of networks such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, information can be disseminated at fast paces and often at a low cost to unique audiences across the world. Through activities such as social posts, promotions, responses, shares and outreach to social influencers, businesses can expose their brand to target audiences, increasing engagement and customer retention in the online sphere.

Evaluating Social Media’s Benefits

Before drafting a social media strategy, it is critical to assess what social media can produce for your company and what your end-goal is. Secondary questions that can be asked are:

  • Where can social media make the most significant impact?
  • Does social media support your broader promotional or marketing goals?
  • Can it move or convince clients onto the next stage of the buying practice?

Understanding Social Media Engagement

Engagement acts as a measure for effective content – it determines in simple terms what materials resonate with audiences and what is ineffective in creating awareness. Although engagement is not directly correlated with a high return on investment, it is an indicator of performance success.

Creating positive impressions of your brand – engaging potential clients – is a crucial step to spreading brand awareness. To build momentum for audiences with the purpose of persuading them to view your product or services as desirable, successful engagement convinces potential clients into action. Once customers are gained, engagement allows for dialogue between you and the client, gaging their brand perception and satisfaction levels.

Balancing Your Social Media Potential

Sharing and engagement is an important aspect of social media. Delivering well-liked content on specific platforms to the desired audience is one process that can bring a multitude of benefits – if conducted properly. However, social media doesn’t just concern posting, but executing a well-devised strategy, aimed at meeting a goal. Moreover, it isn’t effective to just push content into the social sphere with the expectation that a positive reception is guaranteed. Successful social media strategy often requires continual growth and maintenance. While social media does not generally provide a primary ROI, it can help you connect with distant audiences or demographics and as a result, generate increased brand awareness and affinity.

KI Social can help ensure your social media presence is a success – contact us to see how we can help.