Tips for protecting your social media privacy

Social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat have become digital billboards for internet users. People love sharing their personal views and news about what’s going on in their lives.

But stop and think for a moment. This information — some of which is very personal — is going up on the internet. Outside of your trusted circle of friends and relatives, who else is viewing what you post? Spam bots, vindictive acquaintances, and even cybercriminals could take an interest, too. Lately, especially in light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the discussion relating to privacy rights and social media sites has been the subject of broader public and political debate.

With this in mind, we’ve provided some tips and hints to help you protect your privacy and keep your social networking a more rewarding experience.

Read the social media site’s terms

In the 21st century, information can be a new form of valuable currency. You wouldn’t just hand out your bank account information, so why would you give away your privacy rights on social networking sites? Pay particular attention to what information you are agreeing to share when you sign up for a social media account. As an example, according to Facebook, if a user chooses to delete any photos and videos they’ve previously shared on Facebook, those images will be removed from the site but could remain on Facebook’s servers. And some content can be deleted only if the user permanently deletes their account.

Take a moment to wade through the legalese contained in the Privacy Policy and Terms of Service before you click “Accept.” You may find that some of the terms are in the best interest of the platform, but may not be the best for your privacy. Some of the conditions may exceed your personal comfort limit. For example, some free sites may gather and sell data related to what you look at to third-parties for marketing purposes. Make sure your permission choices are right for you.

Don’t share private information like your full name and address

Keep your full name and address to yourself. This same advice also applies to posting your children’s or grandchildren’s full names. As innocent as it may seem to share people’s full names, you never know how a stalker or cybercriminal might use that information to their advantage. For example, with a combination of your first name and last name, cybercriminals may be able to guess your email address, or purchase your email address from the dark web. With this information, they could send you a phishing email that could potentially lead to injecting malware and collecting data from your devices.

Remind the teens in your life to adopt the same practices, as they may be more likely to share personal information. Your kids may not think anything of giving their name and address, or other personal details, when entering an online contest.

And speaking of photos…

Be careful about posting photos on social media sites

Think twice about posting photos. Even if you don’t explicitly post a child’s name, you may be revealing too much information in what you thought was a harmless photo.

Consider this scenario: You want to post a digital photo of your grandchild in their new sports uniform at the big game. What’s wrong with this, you ask? If the photo contains the school’s name, either on uniforms or in the background, a stranger wouldn’t have too much trouble tracking down your grandchild’s location and identity. Consider blurring or cropping such revealing details, if you know how. If not, maybe that isn’t the best photo to share.

And what about that picture of your new expensive flat screen TV, or your family room full of gifts around the holidays? Advertising their whereabouts could make your home a tempting target for thieves. When in doubt, just share your photos privately with a trusted few.

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Adjust the social media platform’s privacy settings

Each social media platform has a different process to control privacy settings. Before you share your post or pics, always be mindful of who can see, react, or comment.

Carefully decide whether you want your social media posts and pictures to be visible to everyone, only friends, or friends of friends, when reviewing your privacy settings for each platform. You can also make a custom list for each post. Tagging friends can be a lot of fun, but also an invasion of privacy. Also, you don’t want to be tagged in something inappropriate. Always opt to review when somebody else tags you in a post before it is published. Keep in mind, however, just because you may not approve the post to be published on your social media page, it may still be visible on theirs, publicly.

Know what types of personal data social media sites store and share

Upon signing up for a social media site, most users willingly give their name, gender, date of birth, and email address. Some social media sites don’t stop at that. They go on to collect other information like an IP address or the types of things you have liked, shared, or commented on. Sometimes you’re given the choice to use your Facebook credentials to log in to other, third-party apps. While this may be convenient, you could unwittingly allow other apps to access more of your personal information than necessary.

One way to make sure that you are not oversharing information is to always read the fine print. When modifying your privacy settings on any social media platform, look for the “Apps and Websites” option under “Settings.” Carefully review which websites are using your information.

Consider carefully what personal details you provide in your profile

Social media and networking sites may ask for additional information when you sign in. You can often include your hometown, schools you’ve attended and when, your current and former workplace, political affiliations, and general interests. All this information can be stored and tracked.

As harmless as it may seem, this information could be used to serve you ads and news items. Many sites may also include permissions to access your friends list, personal preferences, and more in their terms of use.

Be aware of privacy concerns in the news, like the Cambridge Analytica story

When the Cambridge Analytica scandal made headlines, people began to take greater notice of how fragile their online privacy is. Special efforts are needed to navigate any social media site’s privacy settings to reduce how much access a company has to your personal information. It’s not just advertisers and data firms that are vying for your information; identity thieves and cybercriminals also want access to your data or may want to sell it on the dark web.

Avoid social media site posting regrets

It’s possible that your employer, or the recruiter at that company you just applied to, could review your social media profile. If you’re posting views that your company wouldn’t appreciate — like talking about how much you hate your boss — then you might want to step away from the keyboard. Once information is out there, it’s like water: it finds a way to run its course toward freedom. Don’t let what you share today come back to haunt you tomorrow.

Social media and networking sites can be a great way to stay connected with old friends and help you make new ones, or to land that next big job. Just keep your privacy shades drawn to the appropriate level.

Address your online privacy concerns with Norton LifeLock

There are other options to help keep your personal information private online. Using a secure VPN is one way to prevent companies from tracking your IP address and browsing history. Stronger passwords and good cyber hygiene go a long way, too.

If you’re concerned about managing and controlling your online privacy, think about installing Norton Privacy Manager. Or, for multiple layers of protection on up to 5 devices, Norton™ 360 with LifeLock™ includes Norton Secure VPN and parental controls to give you insight into your kids’ or grandkids’ online activity history and supervision features so you can help them learn safe internet habits. After all, you may know not to post your full name and address online, but do they?

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Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. NortonLifeLock offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about cyber safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses.

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