How to Lock Down Your Privacy on Social Media

With 2.46 billion users worldwide in 2017, it’s without doubt that social media is an integral part of our lives. While sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have many positive aspects, they also have several downsides. One of the biggest concerns among users is the threat to their privacy and information security. Malicious hackers and other cybercriminals, as well as general snoopers often have access to a wealth of information without having to dig very far.

Hopefully by this point you’re not accepting friend requests from random strangers, but you can take plenty more steps to make sure you maintain as much privacy as possible. Simply adjusting a few settings can go a long way to securing your information, but you may want to go as far as exploring alternate social media sites.

In this post, we’ll reveal eight steps you can take to ensure you maintain the utmost privacy while using social media. Let’s jump in!

1. Manage your passwords properly

As with any online platform, creating a social media account requires you to provide credentials, typically including an email address and a password. Because it’s easy for anyone to gain access to your email address, which often doubles as your username, ia strong password is crucial.

Be sure to use a different password for each account. You’ll no doubt need help remembering them all which is where a password manager like LastPass or 1Password comes in very handy.

2. Don’t complete your full profile

When you join Facebook, the ‘About’ section of your profile has seven sub-sections, including details like address, phone number, and family members. Are they all required fields? Definitely not! There’s simply no reason reason to give up unnecessary information. Just a few simple details could increase your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft and other crimes.

Stick to completing the bare minimum to create an account. If you want to get creative with some answers, that’s fine, but definitely steer clear of dishing out more personal information than is necessary.

3. Adjust your privacy settings regularly

Once you’re signed up for a social media account, the next step you should take is to visit your privacy settings. For many platforms, this is where you can decide who has access to your personal information as well as the media you post.

This may not seem like a big deal, but it can be way more impactful than you think. Do you want every single person with an internet connection to have access to your personal information and posts? Probably not.

Bear in mind that different platforms vary greatly in terms of privacy. For example, Twitter is all-or-nothing when it comes to who can see your posts, whereas Facebook has a wealth of ever-changing options.

Privacy options change fairly regularly, often without notice, so make sure you stay abreast of those changes and alter your settings accordingly.

4. Be selective about your contacts

For obvious reasons, it’s a bad idea to accept friend requests from people you don’t know. However, sometimes this can be difficult. Criminals can clone profiles or hack into a friend’s account. Watch for obvious signs, such as emails or messages that don’t seem entirely legit.

5. Don’t “check-in” and avoid geotags

Walking into a business and checking in on social media to let everyone know where you are seems commonplace these days. Of course, businesses encourage it as it generates exposure.

However, this means that everyone who sees your profile knows exactly where you are and that you’re not home. This is especially dangerous when you let the world know you’re going on vacation and your house will empty for two weeks.

Try not to disclose information in real time. If you must share pics of your lunch or your most recent workout, do it after the fact. Even this can be dangerous as criminals can use data about your common activities to their advantage.

Of course, you may be sharing information without realizing it. Many apps are constantly tracking your location and you likely gave them permission to do so. Visit your mobile device’s location settings to change this. You can also stop your device’s camera from automatically geotagging your images.

6. Watch out for permissions when connecting to other apps

When you connect to apps through social media accounts like Facebook and Twitter, you’ll typically get a series of popups requesting access to information in your accounts.

Logging in this way can be a safer option than creating a new set of credentials. But there’s no need to give up more than you have to. Read these notices carefully and always review the information you’re providing. Some items will be required while others are optional. You’ll find you can probably say no to most of the latter.

It’s worth noting here that some hackers can present a fake login page in order to steal your password. Always check for HTTPS to make sure the page is genuine. As an additional layer of security, you can consider using a VPN while browsing the web. Comparitech has a good round up of the best VPNs if you need help finding one.

7. Set up alerts to see if your name is being mentioned

You might have heard of or already be using media monitoring for a business. Services like Google Alerts and Talkwalker Alerts can tell you every time your brand is mentioned on the web.

Similarly, you can set up alerts to find out if your name has been mentioned. While the above services don’t work well for social media, a newer service called Mention will do the job. Hootsuite is another platform that has similar options.

8. Opt out of traditional social media sites

One of the biggest problems with major social media sites is that the sites themselves are collecting and selling your data. Add-ons are available to help stop them tracking you, but even so, they already have a wealth of information about you to share.

As such, you may want to consider jumping ship altogether and instead use a communication space that offers more privacy and security. There are lots of options, including MeWe and Wickr, depending on what you’re looking for in a network.

Image credit: “Social Media” by Pixelkult licensed under CC BY 2.0