Have you ever wondered who, besides your friends and family, might be seeing that strange selfie you posted on Facebook? Or who knows about your upcoming vacation to London? As much as social media sites try to keep your online information secure, there are no guarantees that your posts are completely private. In fact, people like the following might be trying very hard to find your personal info:
- Identity thieves. Social media offers a great return on investment for cybercriminals. Phone numbers, addresses, names, and other personal information can be harvested easily and used for identity theft.
- Online predators. Are your friends interested in seeing your class schedule or calendar? Criminals could be, too. Knowing your whereabouts makes it easy for someone to victimize you, whether it’s breaking in while you’re gone or attacking you while you’re out.
- Employers. Many employers use social networking sites and search engines to investigate applicants and current employees. Think twice before you upload a compromising picture, engage in a fiery political discussion, or post a controversial status update.
How to Stay Safe
- Don’t post private information online. Don’t post your birthdate, address, phone numbers, or other personal data. And ask your friends to remove sensitive information about you from their posts. Never assume that anything posted is private.
- Use privacy settings and review them regularly. Many sites provide settings that let you restrict public access to your profile. These settings often change over time, so make sure you keep an eye on them.
- Be wary of others. Most social networking sites do not have a rigorous process to verify the identity of their users. Always be cautious when accepting a friend request—it might not be from the person you think.
- Google yourself. Find out what other people can access by doing a search on yourself. Also, set up an automatic search alert to notify you when your name appears online. (You might want to set alerts for your nicknames, phone numbers, and addresses as well.)
- Understand hashtags. Hashtags (#) are a popular way to provide commentary or tag specific pictures. But in many cases, when you apply a hashtag to a post that is otherwise private, anyone who searches for that hashtag can see it.
Remember, what you post online can stay on the internet for a very long time. Practice safe social media networking.