The invention of social media sites and applications has changed the way the world communicates. It eliminates many boundaries and limitations that existed before the internet based social networks were born. In general, it’s a good news of course – it makes information and public announcement spread faster, connects people who are separated by geographical distance and proves to be a handful tools in charity too. Despite all these, the ugly truth about social networking is that the line between sharing and protecting is so thin it is almost invisible.
According to recent research done by Marketo, Facebook alone has over one billion active monthly users and 13 million of them have never touched their privacy settings. The same study also reveals that 28% of Facebook users share all, or almost all of their wall posts with an audience wider than just their friends while 11% of them reported that someone else has tried to use their login without their permission.
Here are some advices on how to protect your privacy when using social media:
1. Say no to auto login
This is the most important advice for people who use public or shared devices to access their social media account. Even for people who don’t share devices, there may come a time where you need to send them out for repair or worse, your device get stolen. Nowadays it’s bad enough to be apart from your gadgets but to have someone else in control of your social media account is a nightmare.
The only way to go is you must memorize your password and always select No when ‘Remember me?’ question pops out. Remember to log out at the end of every session.
2. Understand and make use of the privacy and safety feature
Every single social media site has its own privacy and safety setting. When you enter your personal details you would be advised on how the information will be used – in other words, what the public can and cannot see on your profile page.
You should also know who can retrieve your personal information. They are divided into legal and illegal purpose of collecting and using information. Entities that collect information for legal purposes are usually advertisers – they do so to group their target audience, and third-party software developers such as online games and online music player that interact with the social network.
On the other hand, entities that may collect your information for illegal purposes are identity thieves and other online criminals. These people scam or harass individuals, and sometimes infect computers with malware.
When it comes to legal issues, you must refer to data use policy of that particular social media site. It might appear as a tedious and long text reading but it helps you understand how the data that you have provided for them will be used and what are your rights.
3. Take your time to evaluate
Before you click ‘enter’ make sure you reread your post and think whether it is safe for you to publish it, even if it is only going to be visible to your friends. Your friends might not be too careful with their devices and privacy settings.
Do not announce that you are going to be away, leaving your house or your children unattended at home. If you are on vacation, the holiday photos can wait until you get back. It is also not wise to tell people on the internet that you are alone at home or taking a walk on your own.
When it comes to posting photos and images you must take double precaution. Consider whether it could cause embarrassment should it be misconstrued by anyone who views them. Many people forget that in digital world, sound judgment is needed as much as it is in the real world otherwise their postings might damage their reputation or worse, ruin their career.
4. Take action and report
If there is anything that raise suspicion or that you are concerned about when it comes to the content or contact made via social media sites, please refer to experts. If it involves work, you may want to report it to your supervisor or IT guy.
If you think the plugins or applications you subscribe to is abusing your data, you can make inquiries on it. Many social networking sites have reporting system which facilitates such action. Look for ‘Report Abuse’, ‘Customer Care’ or ‘Help’ buttons to submit your report. If it is serious you might as well want to consult your attorney on this.