Who’s watching you online? Your friends, for one. They’re your intended audience. But there might be others with less friendly intent lurking.
- Identity thieves thrive on social media. They can sit back and watch as your life unfolds before them, full of phone numbers and addresses and other personal information. This type of information can be easily harvested from social media websites and put to malicious use in the hands of these cybercriminals.
- Online predators also find social media to be a useful tool. Talking about your location frequently, posting your class schedule, and revealing other information about where you are at specific times may allow a predator to stalk you and plan to break in while you’re gone.
- Employers are wholly less malicious than the previous two, but they may also be an unwanted presence visiting your social media. Inappropriate photos, inflammatory and/or offensive jokes, and other frowned upon activities will discourage potential employers, and all that information is a simple Google away.
Okay, so how to do you protect yourself? While it may not be possible to keep everything posted on your social media private, you can do a couple of things to minimize your risk.
- Just don’t post any personal information at all. This is the easiest way to prevent anyone seeing anything that you don’t want to see. Don’t post information like your full birthdate, phone numbers, and addresses online. Never assume that your post is private, even if your settings say that it is.
- Don’t post any compromising information either. This is a fairly simple concept: don’t post anything on social media that you wouldn’t want to be posted on a billboard next to your face. That way, whether it’s a potential employer or your mom Googling you, they won’t find anything like inappropriate photos, inflammatory and/or offensive jokes, and other highly controversial things.
- Privacy settings are one way to minimize risk, although it’s not as effective as just not posting at all. These do not make your posts fully private, but it will be harder for cybercriminals to access your information. Be sure to check your settings frequently, as social media sites are always evolving and some of your information may end up unintentionally public.
- Be wary of others. Is that person that just sent you a friend request your old friend from high school, or are they someone just pretending to be that person?
- Google yourself. What sort of information does the search turn up? Do you really want all of that information out there? If not, rethink how much you reveal online.
- Understand how hashtags work. Despite your Instagram account being set to private, a potentially malicious person will be able to view your photo by searching for the hashtag you used.
And of course, remember this wonderful, terrible fact about the internet: nothing is ever truly removed from the web. Regardless of if you delete the post afterward, it will ultimately be accessible for much longer than you think. Despite privacy settings, your information is available to those who really want it.