Good Practices

How can you protect your privacy on social media?

When it comes to your personal data, you should be the only one to decide how, when, why and what is shared. While publicly available information may include your name, mailing address, city and date of birth, private data may include your bank account and credit card numbers, health and medical records, as well as photos and things you might not consider so important, such as a friends list or playlist.

Social media platforms let users consume and share content via the Internet. The information you share on social networks may vary, including:
• Your profile – containing your gender, age, interests, marital status, education background and employment
• Your location – most social networks allow location-sharing via check-ins
• Content – this includes the information you publicly share, such as photos, music, videos, links, etc.

Social media privacy is important

Oversharing personal information online can have devastating results, as the likelihood of you falling victim to identity theft, impersonation, cyberstalking and related cybercrimes grows considerably. Even your friends can put you at risk on social media platforms. A deleted account does not mean that all photos, check-ins and comments you were tagged in have disappeared.

Minimizing your social media presence and the information you share can protect you against hackers and identity thieves. Most social media networks allow you to post pieces of information that is accessible to anyone. In most cases, this information is public by default. Third-party applications that interact with your social media network may allow some developers to access public information about you, while access to private information is sometimes given by the user himself when playing games and taking online polls or quizzes. Advertising companies can also collect publicly available information that you share and use it to target you with specific ads. The best example for this is the Cambridge Analytica incident.

Improving your online privacy

Engaging in social media websites or opening a new social media account can pose risks to the security of information you willingly or unwillingly provide.

Strengthening your privacy on social media can be a lengthy process at times. However, the steps below can help you minimize future risks:

• Always use a strong password when you log in or set up a new account
• Set up a new email address for your social media account
• Set strict privacy settings to your accounts
• Avoid tagging and posting specific locations
• Cleanup your friend/connections list
• Use a security solution on your devices

Popular social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn let users manage an extensive list of privacy settings.

For example, Facebook allows users to select and manage the audience for the things they share, review tags before they show up on their profile and decide who can find and add them as friends. Instagram has privacy and information settings that let users set up a private mode where only approved followers can check out their posts, turn comments on or off and even block specific followers from viewing your posts.

In 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came to the rescue of European consumers, forcing business to be transparent when collecting and using personal data. Furthermore, customers have the right to ask for a copy of their personal data and ask for this data to be permanently removed.

Other countries are slowly aligning their legislation to the GDPR model, including Japan and Brazil. In the U.S. state of California, the Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) requires commercial websites and mobile apps that collect personal information to post a privacy policy that clearly identifies the categories of PII collected and any third parties with whom the operator may share information.

Privacy on social media has become the buzz of the town, and it’s up to you to stay informed and adopt practices that protect your data. When securing your online privacy, less is more. The less you share, post or tweet sensitive information online, the more secure your digital life becomes. Also, changing privacy settings on social media platforms to make sure you’re not oversharing with the entire Internet, is more than recommended.

About the author

Alina Bizga

Alina has been a part of the Bitdefender family for some years now, as her past role involved interfacing with end users and partners, advocating Bitdefender technologies and solutions. She is a history buff and passionate about cybersecurity and anything sci-fi. Her spare time is usually split between her two feline friends and traveling.