The concept of social media privacy is somewhat of an oxymoron. After all, how private can you be after sharing your life with millions of strangers on the internet?! Information a user may share includes:
· Photos and other media
· Age and gender
· Biographical information (education, employment history, hometown, etc.)
· Status updates (also known as posts)
· Geographical location
And this information can become public in a variety of ways. Social networks themselves do not necessarily guarantee the security of the information that has been uploaded to a profile, even when those posts are set to be private so that only “friends” can view them.
There are many ways that information on social networks can be used for purposes other than what the user intended. Below are some practical tips to help users minimize the social media privacy risks when using social networks. Be aware that these tips are not 100% effective. Any time you choose to engage with social networking sites, you are taking certain risks. Common sense, caution and skepticism are some of the strongest tools you have to protect yourself.
1. Use a strong password that is different that passwords that you use for other sites. Your password should include a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters in addition to numbers and special characters.
3. Be sure to keep strong antivirus and spyware protection on your computer.
4. Become familiar with the privacy settings available on any social network you use. On Facebook, make sure that your default privacy setting is “Friends Only”. Alternatively, use the “Custom” setting and configure the setting to achieve maximum privacy.
5. Be very cautious of pop-up windows, especially any that state your security software is out of date or that security threats and/or viruses have been detected on your computer. Use your task manager to navigate away from these without clicking on them, then run your spyware and virus protection software.
6. Remember that whatever goes on a network might eventually be seen by people not in the intended audience. Think about whether you would want a stranger, your mother or a potential boss to see certain information or pictures. Unless they are glowing, don’t post opinions about your employer, clients, products or services. Be especially cautious about photos of you on social networks, even if someone else placed them there. Don’t be afraid to untag photos of yourself and ask to have content removed.
7. Don’t publicize vacation plans, especially the dates you’ll be traveling. Burglars can use this information to rob your house while you are out of town.
8. If you use a location-aware social network, don’t make public where your home is because people will know when you are not there. In fact, you should be careful when posting any sort of location or using geotagging features because criminals may use it to secretly track your location. For the same reason, be careful not to share your daily routine. Posting about walking to work, where you go on your lunch break, or when you head home is risky because it may allow a criminal to track you.
9. Don’t post your address, phone number or email address on a social network. Remember scam artists as well as marketing companies may be looking for this kind of information. If you do choose to post any portion of this, use privacy settings to restrict it to approved contacts. Use the social network’s private messaging feature to send this information to contact when necessary.
10. If you receive a connection request from a stranger, the safest thing to do is to reject the request. If you decide to accept the request, use privacy settings to limit what information is viewable to the stranger and be cautious of posting personal information to your account, such as your current location as well as personally identifiable information. It’s also a great idea to review the person’s profile before you accept their request. This will give you a good idea if this is someone with whom you would want to be associated – regardless of whether it is a business contact or personal contact.
11. Lastly, and probably most important, remember that nothing that you post online is temporary. Anything you post can be cached, stored, or copied and can follow you forever. My rule of thumb is to never put anything online that you wouldn’t want the world to see.