The world of Social Media can be exciting and frightening at the same time. The power of “real-time” communication has enriched our lives and connected us instantly and inexpensively with people all over the world. Social Media has provided new and lucrative business opportunities. It’s also allowed us to easily express ourselves and to share vast amounts of information in interesting and creative ways.
On the flip side, Social Media has turned our lives into open books and it’s become challenging to maintain a semblance of privacy. Our personal photos sometimes show up on the internet without our knowledge and other times we are given information that is none of our business. There are endless stories of Social Media misjudgments and mistakes that have harmed people of all ages as well as those that have been costly to businesses. Students have been expelled from schools and universities, and employees have been fired due to inappropriate use of Social Media. Politicians have ruined political careers and innocent and malicious posts have harmed others to the point of turning deadly, as in the case of teenage suicides due to Cyber Bullying. And when it’s all over, it doesn’t go away. Instead it lives on the Internet ready and waiting for those who search for it.
Fortunately, overall, the benefits of using Social Media outweigh the costs. The trick is to use Social Media with caution and to follow some important guidelines:
1. Be aware that you are sharing your contact addresses when you allow Social Media sites to invite your contacts to join or when you allow that site to identify which of your contacts already use their service
To protect the privacy of your friends and contacts, it is considerate to prevent social networking services from scanning your address books
2. Be selective about who you accept as a friend or contact on Social Media, especially Facebook and LinkedIn if you provide a lot of personal information on these platforms
When I am notified of a new Twitter, Pinterest or Google+ follower I do not know personally, I review the profile to see if I need to take any steps to reject or block them from my account. I always block followers with pornographic references in their profiles
Identity thieves can create fake profiles to get information from you
3. Understand Social Media site privacy policies
Do you care if posted content is monitored?
Do you mind if your browsing habits are shared with others for marketing purposes?
Do you know what type of information is accessed by the sites?
4. Do you know what information apps utilize when you allow them to access your information?
Third party apps can steal personal information so use the same safety precautions you use with downloads
Find the apps settings in your Social Media platform to see what information is being used. Then edit your privacy or remove the app completely if you don’t like the options
5. Avoid personal social networking at work
Employers should create clear Social Media Policies
Employers should educate employees regarding appropriate vs. inappropriate use of Social Media at work and also outside of work hours if it pertains to work
Employees should understand and respect employers’ Social Media and Technology policies
Employees should be aware of privacy restrictions at work. Software programs may legally monitor each keystroke and this can infringe on privacy and even reveal private passwords
6. Use strong passwords, change them as often as practical and keep personal information used in security questions away from your Social Media
Strong passwords contain numbers, letters and special characters and are difficult to guess
Do not use the same password for multiple accounts
To protect against unauthorized users, avoid having devices “remember” passwords
Avoid sharing information on Social Media that answers your account security questions. i.e. Your birthday, mom’s maiden name, and other answers to common questions. Hackers can use this information if they try the “forgot password” option to get to your personal information
Since it is impossible to control what others do or say, our best protection is knowledge and controlling ourselves. Refusing to join Social Media will not prevent others from exposing your personal or private business information or photos, whether intentionally or innocently. If you activate Social Media accounts, at least you will be given the opportunity to monitor what others are doing or saying on your behalf and you will then have options about what you can do about it. It can be as simple as removing a tag or politely asking a friend to remove a photo. It can be as challenging as the need for a business to respond to an inappropriate post in an appropriate manner or it can be as important and as simple as signing up for a service such as Reputation911.com to reduce negative impact from posted information that you’d rather not have people see.