Protect Your Privacy Online

All you hear about these days is Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, but concerns about your privacy have kept you offline.  Is it possible to protect your privacy while using social networking sites?  It is, but you need to take the necessary precautions.  Here are some guidelines that will help you defend yourself against online predators.   

Customize your privacy settings.  Every social networking site provides you with options for your privacy settings.  Familiarize yourself with them.  Also, check your privacy settings regularly to ensure that they are up to date.  Some social networking sites have been known to make changes, and set every user’s privacy settings to “public”. 

Choose your friends carefully.  How discreet are your friends?  Will they respect your privacy, or will they publicly post something that is inappropriate.  It can be difficult to explain to a friend why you need to remove them from your profile.  However, it is much easier than trying to repair the damage of an embarrassing post. It is also important to regularly review your friends, contacts, and followers.  Is there someone on your list who is not a friend or contact, but just seems to be collecting information about you?  Remove these people from your profile immediately.   

Be selective of the information that you release to social networking sites and that you post online.  Assume that nothing posted on social networking sites is confidential, and that everything will be made public.  Don’t post anything that you wouldn’t want on the front page of a newspaper, in an e-mail to your manager, or in a letter to your mother.  Also, don’t provide your SIN, your home address or phone number, your full birthday, or your mother’s maiden name.  This information is often requested when opening accounts, and can be used to steal your identity.   

Protect your accounts.  Make sure that you log out properly when you are using public computers.  If you leave your account open, you give strangers access to all of your information.  It is also important that you set strong passwords in order to prevent people from hacking into your accounts.  Further, it’s a good idea to minimize your use of third party applications.  These applications often require access to your account, which allows them to view your personal information.

This era of social networking has changed the way that we communicate.  With new opportunities have also come risks and challenges.  While there may be a temptation to shun social media, avoidance is not the answer.  Anyone who does not embrace social media will be left behind.  If you take the the necessary precautions, you will be able to minimize the risks, while still staying connected.

(Written by:  Karen Bivand, Photo From: renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

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