Tips for protecting your social media privacy

Person on laptop researching tips for protecting social media privacy.

Social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat have become digital billboards for internet users. People love sharing their personal views and news about what’s going on in their lives.

Social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat have become digital billboards for internet users. People love sharing their personal views and news about what’s going on in their lives.

But stop and think about social media privacy for a moment. This information — some of which is very personal — is going up on the internet. Outside of your trusted circle of friends and relatives, who else is viewing what you post? Could you make yourself more vulnerable to social media scams?

Here are some tips and hints to help you protect your social media privacy and make your social networking a more rewarding experience.

Read the social media site’s terms

Your personal information is valuable. You wouldn’t just hand out your bank account information, so why would you give away your privacy rights on social networking sites? Pay attention to what information you are agreeing to share when you sign up for a social media account.

Take a moment to wade through the legal information contained in the Privacy Policy and Terms of Service before you click “Accept.” You may find that some of the terms are in the best interest of the platform, but may not be the best for your privacy.

Some of the conditions may exceed your personal comfort limit. For instance, some free sites may gather and sell data related to what you look at to third parties for marketing purposes. Make sure your permission choices are right for you.

Don’t share private information like your full name and address

Keep your full name and address to yourself. Same advice also applies to posting your children’s or grandchildren’s full names. As innocent as it may seem to share people’s full names, you never know how a stalker or cybercriminal might use that information to their advantage.

For instance, with a combination of your first name and last name, cybercriminals may be able to guess your email address, or purchase your email address from the dark web. With this information, they could send you a phishing email that could potentially lead to injecting malware and collecting data from your devices.

Remind the teens in your life to adopt the same practices, as they may be more likely to share personal information. Your kids may not be thinking about privacy in social media when giving their name and address, or other personal details, when entering an online contest. It’s a good idea to keep social media privacy top of mind.

Be careful about posting photos on social media sites

Think twice about posting photos. Even if you don’t post a child’s name, you may be revealing too much information in what you thought was a harmless photo.

Consider this scenario: You want to post a digital photo of your grandchild in their new sports uniform at the big game. What’s wrong with this, you ask? If the photo contains the school’s name, either on uniforms or in the background, a stranger wouldn’t have too much trouble tracking down your grandchild’s location and identity. Consider blurring or cropping such revealing details, if you know how. If not, maybe that isn’t the best photo to share.

And what about that picture of your expensive new TV? Advertising its location could make your home a tempting target for thieves. When in doubt, just share your photos privately with a trusted few.

Adjust the social media platform’s privacy settings

Each social media platform has a different process to control privacy settings. Before you share your post or pics, always be mindful of who can see, react, or comment.

Carefully decide whether you want your social media posts and pictures to be visible to everyone, only friends, or friends of friends, when reviewing your privacy settings for each platform. You can also make a custom list for each post.

Tagging friends can be a lot of fun, but also an invasion of privacy. Also, you don’t want to be tagged in something inappropriate. Always opt to review when somebody else tags you in a post before it is published. Keep in mind, however, just because you may not approve the post to be published on your social media page, it may still be visible on theirs, publicly.

Know what types of personal data social media sites store and share

Upon signing up for a social media site, most users willingly give their name, gender, date of birth, and email address. Some social media sites don’t stop at that. They go on to collect other information like an IP address or the types of things you have liked,
shared, or commented on.

Sometimes you’re given the choice to use your Facebook credentials to log in to other, third-party apps. While this may be convenient, you could unwittingly allow other apps to access more of your personal information than necessary.

One way to make sure that you are not oversharing information is to always read the fine print. When modifying your privacy settings on any social media platform, look for the “Apps and Websites” option under “Settings.” Carefully review which websites are using your information.

Consider carefully what personal details you provide in your profile

Social media and networking sites may ask for additional information when you sign in. You can often include your hometown, schools you’ve attended and when, your current and former workplace, political affiliations, and general interests. All this information can be stored and tracked.

As harmless as it may seem, this information could be used to serve you ads and news items. Many sites may also include permissions to access your friends list, personal preferences, and more in their terms of use.

Don’t display the names of the people in your network

Here’s another aspect of social media privacy. While you may not be victimized directly, your connections might be. Spear-phishing scams rely on cybercriminals gathering enough personal information to send out convincing emails, seemingly from people known by the target. With access to the names of your connections, your friends may start to get bogus emails from somebody pretending to be you.

Avoid social media site posting regrets

It’s possible that your employer, or the recruiter at that company you just applied to, could review your social media profile. If you’re posting views that your company wouldn’t appreciate — like talking about how much you dislike your boss — then you might want to step away from the keyboard. Once information is out there, it can spread. Don’t let what you share today come back to haunt you tomorrow.

Social media and networking sites can be a great way to stay connected with old friends and help you make new ones, or to land that next big job. Just keep your privacy shades drawn to the right level.

Always log out when you’re done.

Here’s a basic to remember for your social media privacy. If you’re using a public computer, make it a ritual to log out — but log out of private devices from time to time as well. Logging out helps ensure that other people won’t “commandeer” your social media profile and use it to attack your friends, change your personal information to embarrassing or slanderous comments, or worse, change your password and lock you out of your own account entirely.

Create strong, private passwords.

Another basic? A strong password uses a combination of words, numbers, upper- and lowercase letters, and special characters that is easy for you to remember, but tough for other people to guess. Skip common password elements like birthdates, anniversaries, and the names of your children or pets. Keep passwords private by memorizing them or using a trusted password manager — and never write them on the device itself.

It’s smart to stay on top of your social media practices and try to avoid risky behavior online. That means taking steps to consider privacy when you post on your digital billboards.

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Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. Our offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about Cyber Safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses. The Norton and LifeLock brands are part of Gen Digital Inc. 


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