A Brief Guide to Staying Safe on Social Media
Social media has become an inescapable part of life for many of us, and millions of people are using it every day without giving much thought as to what they share online. While in real life, most of us are fairly vigilant when it comes to interacting with complete strangers and are not likely to give personal information to just anyone. However, social media is constantly coming under fire for its privacy and security concerns, but rather than blaming the social networks you use, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or any other, it is important that you apply the same rules in social media as you would in everyday life. Above all, it is your own responsibility to look after your wellbeing online, and for the most part, you will usually have a high amount control over your online profiles. This guide takes a look at how to stay safe using social media both for the sake of your personal privacy and your financial life.
1 – Protect Your Anonymity
If you want to avoid having your social media profiles being automatically associated with you, you should consider creating anonymity by creating a new email address which you use for your social media profiles. Avoid connecting this email address with any personally identifiable information, such as your last name, home address or phone number. If you want to remain as anonymous as possible while still being able to take advantage of social media, consider using a pen name for your accounts, and avoid using your own image in profile photos.
2 – Protect Your Passwords
Many people use the same passwords for all of their online accounts for the sake of convenience, but this is an extremely bad idea. Not only should you have different passwords for different accounts – you should also use strong passwords of at least ten characters containing both letters and numbers, since these are far harder to guess or expose using brute-force hacking techniques. Change your social media passwords, as well as passwords for any important email accounts, including those containing personal information on a regular basis, every month or two.
3 – Use Privacy Settings
Every social networking service comes with a whole raft of privacy and security settings, but relatively few people change them from their default values. Although you should never take such privacy settings for granted, it is wise to thoroughly audit them to ensure that you have chosen suitable options. Facebook, for example, allows you to specify who can see what on your Timeline and who can find you from the search feature. Other social networks provide a similar level of functionality allowing you to control what others can find out about you.
4 – Choose Your Friends Carefully
Most people are not exactly very choosy when it comes to adding friends to their social networking accounts or accepting friendship requests. There is no need to add a whole raft of people you don’t even know, such as someone you met at a bar one night and are never likely to see again. Be sure that you know who you are adding to your friends’ lists by sending them a private message before accepting their request or adding them, particularly if you have just received an unsolicited request. Be aware that people sometimes impersonate others as well on social media.
5 – Never Share Personal Information
Regardless of your privacy settings, never share any personally identifiable information on your social networks unless you are completely comfortable with it being in the public domain. Do not rely on your privacy settings to determine what people can ultimately find out about you after a quick search of the Web. If anyone requires your personal information for any reason, they should contact you using a more secure medium such as email. Avoid posting things like your location information, phone number or home address in your social media profiles too.
6 – Be Wary of What You and Others Post
While you have complete control over the images and other content you post online, things can be a little more complicated when someone else posts something you’d rather not have in the public domain. However, you can help to prevent this from happening by changing your privacy settings in some social networks. For example, Facebook allows you to review tags when someone tries to associate an image with your user account. Likewise, be mindful of the things you post about yourself and others, and be aware, that once you’ve posted it online, it could well be there forever in one way or another, regardless of whether you delete it or not.
7 – Avoid Using Location Services
Location services can be useful in certain applications, but they serve little purpose in social networking other than to tell people where you are. If you want to remain incognito, be sure to turn off any location services which your social networks may have. In the same way, you should disable location services for any social networking apps which you may use on your smartphone. Even if you don’t use location services, be wary of posting information about where you are or plan to go, since people will eventually be able to pick up on your regular habits.
8 – Be Wary of Private Messages
You might think that private messages on social networks such as Facebook are private, but in reality they are not. For a start, social networks store your private messages on their own servers, whereas programs like Skype store them locally on your own computer. Additionally, the same applies for instant messaging programs which don’t store their message histories locally, and even if messages are stored locally, you should remember that the recipient’s computer might not be very secure either. For example, many employers use keyloggers and other monitoring software in the workplace, and in the same way, malware can uncover your personal messages either on your own computer or on the recipient’s computer.