What’s there not to like about social networking sites? They give us the opportunity to share our photos, thoughts, and life events with our friends. We can communicate with people from all around the world and engage with our favorite brands. But, do all of these interactions stay exclusively between us and our friends? Unfortunately, they do not. Actually, this is the one thing that none of us likes – the many issues surrounding social networking privacy.
A friendly gesture of tagging someone in a photo shared on social media can easily put you or the other person in danger. Also, bragging about going on vacation in an exotic country or posting a photo of your new house or car can harm your entire family’s safety. Every bit of personal information you share on social media could be easily exposed and abused.
Who can access your family’s personal data on social networks?
Social networks give you the opportunity to choose the people you share your content with. But, many people still don’t take these privacy settings seriously. They tend to think that there is nothing to hide and that their information is not interesting enough to be exposed. That is the biggest misconception that can make anyone a victim of personal data abuse.
In order to avoid this happening to you, check out who can access your personal data on social networks without you being aware of it.
Why would companies violate your privacy? Well, it opens up opportunities for them to make big money. How? By using your personal data for crafting personalized offers that will motivate you to buy their products and services – also known as behavioral advertising.
You can use social networks free of charge. They make their profit by selling advertising services to businesses, i.e. the opportunity to make targeted ads based on people’s individual interests. While you may like getting relevant offers based on your interests, you should be aware of the downsides that come along with it.
There are no strict regulations about the way companies keep and use your personal data. They are not obliged to follow any rules regarding the security of your data, and the time period in which they can keep it. This leaves your information at risk to be accessed by hackers. You may not even know which companies have access to the information that you share on social networks. Moreover, your children’s data can be gathered and used for behavioral advertising, too.
All right, most of us know that the government can get access to personal data on social networks in order to fight crime. But, do you have to commit a crime for your personal data to be gathered from social networks by the government? You never did anything wrong, so why would it bother going through your personal information?
Well, government agencies like the IRS and the DEA regularly request information from social networks. When the government investigates a person or a company, it can gather information about people connected to them. This includes friends, relatives and even followers. It means that your personal data can be collected because of anyone in your network.
Leaving a digital trace of your personal information on social networks opens opportunities for harm to your privacy and security in many ways. Cyber criminals can abuse your data for phishing, malware infection, identity theft and many other scams.
Not protecting your private information on social networks can lead to even more dangerous threats to your family. For example, publicly posting information about your plans for a weekend getaway can be used by burglars. Posting photos and information about your children and the location of their school or playground can be used by kidnappers and pedophiles.
How can you protect your social networking privacy?
To be honest, maintaining privacy on social networks can be a hard task today, due to the policies that govern these sites. By signing up to social networks, you automatically agree to allow them to display bits of your personal data online. This is why it’s very important to pay attention to your security and your family’s security online. Here are some things you can do to protect social networking privacy.
Carefully read the fine print
Social networking sites and other networking apps and platforms have long fine prints that the majority of people don’t bother reading. But, clicking the I agree button is a lot like putting your signature on a lifelong contract.
Some networking sites don’t erase your data even when you deactivate your account. You better read carefully what you’re putting yourself into. Double check if you feel comfortable with the terms. See if there are options to choose what information the site will be allowed to share and with whom.
Check your social network privacy settings regularly
These settings exist for a reason. All networking sites give you several levels of privacy that you can modify. Learn the details of the security settings of the social networks that you use. Check them regularly, because the sites tend to change them occasionally.
Regardless of how strict the settings you have set up for your privacy are, avoid putting unnecessary personal data online. Hackers can easily access your account and the posts that were once visible to just a few of your friends may become visible to everyone. What is even worse, they can use your personal information to steal your identity or stalk you and your family.
Avoid posting revealing photos
What may appear to be a cute and harmless photo of your child can sometimes reveal more than you are aware of at the moment. If the school name or your house number and address appear in the background, anyone who sees the photo can easily track your child. Check for these details before you post a photo online and crop or blur them if you can. If not, consider avoiding sharing that photo on social sites.
All of us are sometimes tempted to post a photo of a new TV or a sound system and share the news with our friends online. But, have in mind that these details can be tempting to criminals if they somehow get to them. Also, if you’re eager to post a photo of your brand new car, make sure that your license plate number is not visible.
Manage your friends
The main purpose of social networking sites is to connect with old and current friends, as well as to make new ones. But, not all of these friends are equally close to us. Use the tools that social sites provide to make different friend lists with different access to your personal information and the posts you share.
Avoid accepting friend requests from people that you don’t know or don’t have any mutual friends with. Remember that it’s easy to fake an identity online and that’s one of the things that criminals do. Don’t let total strangers have access to information related to your daily life.
Become a master of your online presence
Never set your social networking profile to log you in automatically. Also, don’t allow your computer browser to remember your login details. This way, you will protect your data in case someone gains access to your personal devices.
Use long and strong passwords and change them occasionally. Combine upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. If you share your mobile photos online, turn off the GPS on your smartphone camera. Always keep your exact location private. Close all the old accounts that you don’t use and try to delete as much personal data as possible.