Social Media and Privacy Concerns

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Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat…they’re all very popular.  After all, it’s sometimes fun to see everyone’s pictures, opinions, activities, and more.  It can even great for keeping in touch with extended family or old high school friends.  Still, it’s a double edged sword, so there are a few factors to keep in mind regarding privacy and safety.

One thing to consider is that most of these social media platforms are free. This is possible because YOU, the user, are their product.  Social media providers may offer networking opportunities, but in turn, you are sharing your viewing habits, contact lists, and more.  This can be filtered to determine what you should or should not see, including political opinion or articles promoted by advertisers who want access to you.  They can even use your information to sell your habits, views, shopping detail, etc. to others who can also use this information for profit.  Every company that advertises online is interested in knowing what sites you visit, what you buy, who you’re friends with on social networks, what you like and more. By gathering information about your online activities they can serve you targeted ads that are more likely to entice you to buy something.

Some other tips to consider include:

  • Be cautious about or don’t fill out your social media profile.  The people who need your birthdate, email address and phone numbers probably have them.  The more information you share online, the easier it is for someone else to get their hands on it.
  • Check your privacy settings.  Other than not using social media at all, the best way maintain your privacy is to limit who has access to it. 
  • Know who your friends and followers are.  If you have hundreds of friends on Facebook or any other social media sites, perhaps you don’t know them all too well.  Decide whether you are comfortable with those people having access to your information and photos.  If not, it may be time to review and narrow down your “friend” list.  If your settings allow “friends of friends” to see your posts, your pictures could potentially be seen by thousands (or maybe more).
  • As a rule of thumb, don't "friend" strangers.
  • It’s easy to create a fake account or profile and hide behind another identity.  Never assume that someone is who they claim to be.
  • Read the Terms of Service to know how your information is being used.
  • Avoid sharing identifying information, such as full names, schools or photos.  Maybe the photo was taken in front of your home or children’s school.  Maybe your t-shirt has a school logo.  These scenarios and others could tip off information that you would prefer to keep private.
  • Use common sense. Don’t post anything that could be embarrassing in 10 years or more.  With facial recognition technology, pictures will potentially be available for years to come.  That means that your toddler’s potential employer could know quite a bit about his or her childhood!
  • Beware of phishing attempts. Answering those fun questions and surveys can help an identity thief know more about you.