Q: I’m really big into social media, but a lot of my colleagues hound me about privacy concerns. Are they just over paranoid or am I not paranoid enough?
A: Yes, there are a lot of risks when it comes to social networks but most of them can be easily avoided by following one simple rule: saying less is better.
Here are some simple, non-technical things you and your family can do to protect yourselves and your info on social media sites, while still participating:
- Know the privacy guidelines of the site. Many are written by lawyers and are meant to intimidate you. Do some research. Use Google. Take the time to ask questions on forums if you are unclear on what they mean, or even post a question to your friends on Facebook.
- Be smart and limit the information you include in your profiles. Don’t include your birth year, for starters. Part of the fun of social media is getting a ‘happy birthday’ from friends, but you don’t need to include your birth year to get those. Your age is worth something as marketing data. Some experts go as far as to put their birth year as pre-1910, just to keep out of the attractive marketing demographics.
- Make new acquaintances with care. Do a ‘sanity check’ with someone before accepting an invite. One of our colleagues only ‘friends’ people on social networking sites that she’s met in person. Ignore the friend invites that are clearly spam or from strangers. We’ve all gotten at least one fake invitation from a so-called ‘friend’ who could just be an internet troll or a bad guy out to steal money and identities.
- Limit the access to your profile to only friends and acquaintances. Strangers don’t need to know your birthday or where you live. If you prefer a more public profile, limit what details you post! If you don’t want strangers accessing your profile at all, explore privacy settings to restrict access to friends and people you know only.
- Follow all social media policy and guidelines while at work, while using any work equipment and when connected to work networks, as well as all policy regarding the mention of work and work-related topics. If you aren’t sure about policy, please ask!