Social networking sites are addictively fun. Most of us are comfortable using at least one, if not a few, to keep in touch with friends both near and far, to update followers on our daily happenings, and to generally pass the time with new photos, statuses, and posts from others enjoying the web. Yet, with this wealth of information about our “friends”—many people with access to our accounts are not actual real life acquaintances but friends of friends or legitimate strangers, privacy issues and security concerns are highly relevant. Be sure to be to cautious in how much and what types of information you share on sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN, and the infinite variety of others. Here are some tips for staying safe while staying social:
- Remember the web is public! Anyone and everyone has access to the information you post to online sources—even if you delete it. Once it is posted, the information cannot be taken back—others can save and send the information as they wish. Always think twice before adding anything new to your profiles.
- Do not include sensitive personal information like addresses, birthdates, job descriptions, schedules or routines. You wouldn’t openly share this information with a stranger on the street, so why would you with someone on the web?
- Use the site’s privacy settings to customize your page’s viewing access. Only allow people that you actually know and are comfortable with to see your page—you must set these settings yourself, the default for social networking sites is “public.”
- Passwords should be strong and vary for accounts. Change them frequently so that your account and information cannot be hacked or used maliciously.
- Be careful about answering questionnaires—while fun to fill out and send to friends, they also reveal information that many times is related to password and account creation for other sites. For example, many of the “Get to Known Me” questionnaires feature questions like: “What was your first pet’s name? Where did you go to high school?” and similar questions. Do these questions sound strikingly similar to the secret questions used to protect your online bank account, PayPal account, or other sensitive information? Very likely—and by answering that innocent questionnaire the savvy criminal just gained access to your most private accounts.
- Status and Photo Updates are some of our favorite features of social networking sites, but don’t reveal too much! Telling people you are on vacation next week may be exciting and hard not to share, yet by doing so you have also left your house susceptible to break-in. You told the entire online public that your home will be empty for an entire week—perfect temptation for a thief. The same goes for posting pictures of your vacation while you’re still on vacation—now the thief has definite proof that you will not be home for the break-in!
Now, we all know you are probably on a social networking site while simultaneously reading this blog—which is totally acceptable. Stay social, but stay smart. Why not tweet or post a link in on your Facebook page to this page so that your friends can do the same!