If you’re anything like the average person, you’ve signed into at least one social network at some point in your life. You may just have been dropping in to see what all the fuss was about, or you may be an utter and unabashed Facebook addict, a tweep whose thumbs twitch at sound-bites, itching to record them where everyone can see, or a certifiable Instaholic selfie-maniac with a tendency to overuse #hashtags.
Most people take a laissez-faire approach to their online privacy.
After all, with billions of people, each with billions of interactions, what’s one more in the crowd? And so, we share so much information about ourselves online, especially on Facebook. We check-in to show off where we’ve been, our likes say a lot about our personalities, but what’s worse, we often leave information that could be used as security checks (like your mother’s maiden name) for more important services like banking just lying around for anyone to pick up.
The problem is that we put all that stuff out there and there’s so much sophisticated data-mining going on, that we really don’t know what the end use of all our information is going to be. Not only have we spawned a whole new segment of business whose main asset is information – personal information and preferences, yours and mine – we’re also bending over backwards to make stalking and harassing us easier.
Okay, now let’s bring things a little closer to home. Think about that person you cheesed off by turning them down for a date. Or the random weird stalker people who make fake profiles just for kicks? If you’re feeling a touch uncomfortable now, let me add a teeny bit of fuel to the fire. Have you ever stopped to think about how saving a picture you upload is just a click or two away for anyone? That’s perfectly fine when all you put up is cat pictures, but what about those selfies? Consider the widespread use of Photoshop and the possibilities are alarming.
So now that we’ve covered the ‘why’s, here are some tips on how to stay safe:
Abstinence is always safest. If in doubt, don’t do it. Uploading evidence of that crazy night out can wait until after it’s over and your judgment is back to normal. So can rage messages, angry comments and rants about your good-for-nothing boss.
Don’t click on weird links, or use apps that are less than reliable, the ‘Find out who checked your profile’ ones among them – you’re just asking for trouble. Oh, and here’s a good one – add people who actually are your friends, it’s not rude to reject requests if you don’t know the person.
Use the protection you have. Please pick a password that isn’t your cat’s name. And please, please, keep it to yourself. You may love someone OMG5eva!!! but keep it in your head. In addition, Facebook has a surprising number of backups that nobody (or very few) bothers to use. Have a look at this handy infographic, which apart from Facebook’s bragging about how safe they’re keeping you, shows some of the options you could use if you haven’t already. Privacy policies and terms of service for social networks do change from time to time, so keep abreast of changes. For Facebookit’s https://www.facebook.com/fbsitegovernance
Limit your audience. Facebook privacy has come under fire frequently, but that’s no excuse to not use the options you do have. The default setting is public, so do go through your privacy settings to make sure the people seeing your information are the ones you want to include.
Do you want your contact information visible to all and sundry? You can hide it, you know.
Select ‘No’ in response to ‘Do you want other search engines to link to your timeline?’ under ‘Who can look me up?’ to limit Google stalking. Keep in mind that not only do your apps collect information, your friends may be unwittingly sharing your information too… ‘Apps others use’ which you’ll find in the ‘Apps’ section under privacy settings gives you a chance to control some of what is shared.
Speaking of friends, it’s easy to forget who you’ve added over the years, and you might be hanging on to people you’ve actually fallen out with. Why give them ammo? Once in a while, evaluate who you keep on your friends list, get rid of the dregs and make the ones who make the cut feel special.
For those who remain, switching on the timeline review option under ‘Timeline and Tagging’ lets you filter what goes on your timeline after your friends tag you, from unflattering photos to incriminating check-ins and you can choose to make post visible only to certain groups of people.
Also review the ‘Activity Log’ occasionally, just to make sure things are the way you want them. There are quite a few other options, go through each of them no matter how boring it may seem – this is your life you’re putting out there for everyone (creeps included) to see. And if you don’t want real-life creeps following you around, watch where you check in – otherwise you may as well give ’em directions.
Use and dispose. We add lots of apps which we never use after. Check that you’re not harbouring a bunch of unnecessary apps and giving them access to your information. ‘Apps’ lets you pick and choose which to get rid of.
Don’t mix work and play. When you’re signing up with a social network, use your personal email not your work email, and make sure only you have access to it (see Use protection)
Report abuse. Always be aware that you don’t have to be polite if someone is making you uncomfortable. Warn them, and if they continue, block away! Think of your needs first and don’t engage bullies or trolls, they like the attention. If someone is harassing you or creating fake profiles, do report it to Facebook, and for local intervention contact SL CERT -(Tel: +94 11 269 1692 / 269 5749 / 267 9888) or http://www.cert.gov.lk
A moment’s indiscretion can have lasting effects. The internet never forgets – you may think you’ve deleted or taken down a post, but it could easily have been saved, copied, or cached; believe me when I say it will come back to haunt you.