Do you love social media outlets like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter? Do you find yourself checking your accounts several times a day? If you answered yes to these questions, here’s another to consider: Do you worry about your privacy being invaded while on these sites? Security experts say you should, and for several reasons.
During the past year, you’ve likely heard about the enormous amounts of data
that social media networks like Facebook collect about their users. Everything from your online browsing habits and purchase history, to your geographic location has the potential to be tracked, stored, and shared. But have you also considered the information that you yourself publish to social media sites? If not, you definitely should.
Most social media networks allow you to adjust the privacy settings of every post you make. You can generally choose between sharing your posts with the general public, everyone on your “Friends List”, or a customized combination of users that you select. If you currently post everything as “Public”, you may want to rethink that decision.
Over the past several years, it has become routine for employers to research prospective job candidates on sites like Facebook and Twitter. They do so in order to get a more personal look into the job applicant’s character and online activity. So, if you’ve publicly shared photos depicting drunken antics, or posted profanity-laden rants or controversial memes, you could be setting yourself up for a missed job opportunity.
And Public posts can be troublesome for more than just job seekers. If you list your place of employment on your social media profile, all of your Public posts could potentially reflect on your employer. If you post things that could be viewed as insensitive or immoral, it could potentially cost you your job, depending on your company’s social media policy.
And it’s not just scandalous photos and posts that you need to worry about when your settings are set to Public. Seemingly innocent posts about your upcoming vacation, or photos of your home could be a treasure trove for criminals. If you share your full name on social media, it’s shockingly easy for people to determine your address using online tools. If criminals can figure out your address and they know when your home will be unoccupied, you’re basically inviting them to come and burglarize you.
It might also seem harmless to mention your dog, kids, first job, or where you went to high school on social media. But the problem is, those are common answers to security questions
for things like your email account, Online Banking profile, or credit card login. Even having your Friends List be public on social media can allow criminals to uncover your mother’s maiden name or your last name (if you don’t include it in your profile). Add to that the fact that some people make their email address or phone number visible in their social media profiles, and you’ve got the potential for an identify theft disaster.
So, if you refrain from posting publicly on social media and only share things with your Friends List, you don’t have to worry, right? Not so fast. Ask yourself how well you know every person that you’ve accepted a Friend Request from on social media. Chances are there are some people on that list that you don’t know very well at all. You still need to be very vigilant about who will be able to see your posts, and what you’re posting, even if you’re only sharing with your social media connections.
Here are some tips to help keep yourself safe on social media:
- Check your privacy settings. Review your existing privacy settings on each social media site you’re using, and make tweaks accordingly. In-depth information about the privacy options for the most popular social media networks can be found here: https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/how-to-manage-your-privacy-settings-on-social-media/
- Pare down your “Friends List”. It’s best to limit your social media connections and contacts to people you know well – friends, family, co-workers, etc.
- Limit the amount of personal information you divulge. The more information you have on social media, the greater the chances of someone finding ways to circumvent security protocols and using that information to gain access to your accounts.
- Think twice before posting. If there’s something that could possibly embarrass you down the road, or jeopardize a job opportunity, steer clear of it. For example, photos taken during a rowdy weekend in Las Vegas are best kept to oneself.
- Don’t post plans for vacations or business trips. Posting about an upcoming or current trip only tips off cyber criminals that you’ll be away from home. And while you’re out of town, avoid posting pictures of yourself at restaurants or popular tourist spots. Save these types of posts for when you return.
- Be wary of “tagging” people or locations. When you tag others in your posts, it typically increases the number of people who will be able to see them. And location tagging can tip off crooks who will know you’re not at home, or worse, give someone the opportunity to physically follow you.
Social media sites attract millions of people every day, opening up new lines of communication never before imagined. But keep in mind that when you use these sites, you should never let your guard down because not everyone out there is necessarily your “friend.”