As social networking and social media have grown, we’ve paid a price few saw coming: the loss of individual privacy. The impulse to share has caused many of us to inadvertently expose ourselves in ways that can compromise our safety and security.
The best way to protect yourself is to not make yourself vulnerable in the first place. Whenever you engage in social media, remember this: what happens on the internet stays on the internet, and it’s up to you to make sure what appears in connection with your name and image does not have the potential to harm you now or in the future.
No Such Thing as Private The internet is like an elephant — it never forgets. While spoken words leave little trace and are quickly forgotten, written words endure in the online environment. Whatever you post, tweet, update, share — even if it’s deleted immediately afterwards — has the potential to be captured by someone, somewhere, without your knowledge. This is especially true of social networking sites including private messages shared between two people and postings to a private group. There is no such thing as “private” in the world of social media.
X Marks the Spot Be cautious about using geo-location services, apps, Foursquare, or any method which shares where you are. When it was first introduced, Facebook’s “Places” feature gave tech writer Sam Diaz pause: “Guests at a party at my home could turn my home address into a public ‘place’ on Facebook and my only recourse is to flag my address to have it removed… If we’re all at a concert…and a friend checks in with Places, he can ‘tag’ the people who he’s with – just as if you were tagging a person in a photo.” Unlike Diaz, Carrie Bugbee — a social media strategist — had fun using these services until a cyberstalking incident changed her mind.
How Old Are You Now? If you must share your birthday, never put down the year in which you were born. Using the month and day are acceptable, but adding the year provides an opportunity for identity theft.
Review Before Posting Make sure your privacy settings enable you to review content in which you’ve been tagged by friends before they appear publicly on your page. This should include posts, notes, and photos. It may seem tedious, but it’s much easier to deal with a small amount each day than to have to go back through weeks, months and even years to ensure that any and all content related to you puts forth an image you’re comfortable living with.
You Play, You Pay…in Loss of Privacy Online games, quizzes, and other entertainment apps are fun, but they often pull information from your page and post it without your knowledge. Make sure that you know the guidelines of any app, game or service and do not allow it unfettered access to your information. Likewise, be cautious about responding to notes shared by friends along the lines of “10 Things You Didn’t Know About Me.” When you answer these and post them, you’re revealing personal details about yourself that may enable others to figure out your address, your workplace, the name of your pet or your mother’s maiden name (often used as an online security question), or even your password. Do enough of these over time and someone who is determined to learn all about you can read the answers, cross-reference information obtained through your friends’ pages, and glean a surprising amount from these seemingly casual revelations.
How Do I Know You? Never accept a friend request from someone you don’t know. This may seem like a no-brainer, but even when someone appears as a mutual friend of a friend or several friends, think twice about accepting unless you can concretely identify who they are and how they’re connected to you. In many professional circles involving large organizations, all an “outsider” has to do is obtain one friend on the inside and it snowballs from there, with others thinking that a total stranger with no personal connection is an unfamiliar co-worker or occasional business associate.
Much of the information in this blog comes from the work of Linda Lowen. I thank her for sharing. After reading her work and the work of others on this issue I decided not to reinvent the wheel but instead give credit where credit is due.
Just think, we haven’t even touched on the issue of social network safety while driving in traffic or going down the interstate texting and talking. Simply put I don’t know how to begin to even consider anything safe about that especially since right before I started this blog I witnessed no fewer than six drivers on I-90 texting as they drove at speeds no less than 65 mph while passing me. Can you spell dumb, criminal and unsafe.