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7 Ways to Shore Up Your Social Media Privacy

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Social media has become a part of our everyday lives. And yet, we take for granted how much information is readily available on social networks. The focus is on friends or building follower counts but random people can sneak through the cracks and they may not have the best intentions. 

A quick search could get them your mother’s maiden name, address, and so much information you may not even realize is lurking in your socials. Not to mention, all of your data can be monetized, weaponized, and capitalized on. 

The cost of your personal data

Social networks aren’t ever “free.” We pay for them with our information. Surveillance marketing and behavioral targeting are just a few of the ways these sites monetize your information. Using the data you share, social networks can market to you or share your information with big brands. And that means tons of ads. 

We may rush to post and “do it for the ‘gram” but oversharing on social media is just one of the many ways to end up the target of advertisers, cybercriminals, and stalkers. Posts can be public,  get crawled by search engines, and potentially even syndicated on websites. This means your information can be available for the whole world to see. 

Your information is where the money is at. This can be for the social network itself or for hackers, grifters, and thieves. They may want to get their hands on your credit card or social security number, your identity, or even your cryptocurrency. Oversharing on social media can be a huge problem. 

Social media can put a kind, cute, or even innocuous face on a profile and send you a request. You’ll naturally click yes. Once they have access to your socials, someone can target your friends, clone your profile to steal some of your business, or worse. 

Social engineering evolves with the times. It’s important to take stock of what information is available, what your privacy options are, close some of these security gaps, and shore up your social media. 

1. Review the privacy policy

We scroll through terms and conditions and privacy policies and can miss vital information. Some of our favorite apps and social media networks have complex legalese that we ignore. We can miss some of the rights we sign away to use our favorite social networks. 

It’s important to at least skim some of these privacy policies and user agreements. You want to make sure you look at the rights to your information, photos, and who these social networks are sharing that information with. Norton recommends checking these terms for your own safety. 

2. Check your settings

Social media privacy is a major concern. After the revelations of the Facebook whistleblowers and the passing of laws like California’s California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), pressure from politicians means social networks will have to give options to protect your information. But they aren’t going to tell you what settings best protect your interests. Staying aware of your settings can let you keep track of what information you want to keep private. It’s good to schedule an annual check-in.

3. Go private 

Social media can be transformative for businesses or for influencers. But let’s be honest, a lot of large brands and huge celebrities are not managing their social media on their own. It’s worth considering going private. After all, even influencers curate their social media. Just because your favorite stars are sharing their whole lives on social media doesn’t mean you have to. It also doesn’t mean that they don’t keep some things private.  

Keeping your Twitter or Instagram private means you can have a stronger grip on who gets to see your information, family photos, and vacation pics. The fewer people accessing your social media profile the safer your data will be. 

4. Watch when you post

It’s a natural urge to want to post about a restaurant or tourist attraction in the moment. But even celebrities and influencers don’t post their exact whereabouts for fear of their safety. So why should you? Everyone on your social media list doesn’t need to know where you are at all times.  Posting photos broadcasting where you are and what you’re doing can put your safety at risk. Stalkers, thieves, and other problematic characters will know when you’re not home or where to find you. 

5. Keep an eye on who you add

Networking works for everyone. But not everyone who sends you a request or follows you on social media has the best intentions. Many accounts can be set up to catfish you, set you up for a phishing scam or try and collect information about you. In the interest of networking, it’s always a good idea to look at who is following you, watching your stories, and interacting with your social media profile. You can also talk to someone before you add them. That way you can block suspicious characters to preserve your privacy. 

6. Be careful of bots 

Bots are on the rise. They’re a tool in the arsenal for hackers who want to co-opt your information on social media or manipulate the algorithms. Be wary when you see form comments or get messages from random bots. Instagram is flush with fake accounts that will clone an account and impersonate friends to try and get you to click on phishing links, download malware,  give up personal info, or ask for financial help. Sometimes even by engaging with these accounts, you can put your account at risk of getting cloned. 

7. Lie 

Maybe you don’t have to have your real school, work history, and family relationships online.  Maybe you have your resume on LinkedIn and your friends on Facebook and keep some information cleverly concealed. This may seem paranoid but you’d be surprised at how inventive cybercriminals can be. Not to mention, too much transparency online can come back to bite you. Sometimes, it’s best to have healthy boundaries with what you’re posting.

Social media isn’t going anywhere. But your privacy shouldn’t be up for grabs just because you want to chat with your friends about Ted Lasso or post photos of your dog. Hopefully, these tips have given you some tools to better protect yourself and keep your private information, photos, and opinions out of prying eyes.

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