Oversharing quickly became the norm after the rise of social media.
We tend to share intimate details over social networks and websites without considering who’s seeing our posts or what effect it could have on us (or others) in the future. We worry about what other people think and desire to be noticed by the larger world so much that it lulls us into sharing attention-grabbing information. We give away far more information than we should.
So how can we maintain a sense of privacy? Is it even possible these days?
1. Resist the urge to overshare on social networking sites.
Identity thieves are skilled at making the most of information people post on their profiles. If you post too much personal information about yourself (or your family and friends), bad guys can use it to answer “challenge” questions on your accounts to get access to your money and personal information. Never post your full name (or maiden name), national identification number, physical address, phone number, or account numbers in publicly accessible sites. Only your close family and friends needs to know these things and chances are they already do. You should also refrain from sharing information that could harm your professional career and future.
You should also keep travel plans private, as this can alert thieves to times when your house will be abandoned. It’s better to wait until you come back to post those awesome photos.
2. Control who can find you via search.
Some social media sites, like Facebook, allow you to control who can find you using the site’s search tool. The options for this can generally be found in your account’s privacy settings. You can make your profile completely private, hidden from anyone who is not already friends with you. If you enjoy networking or are on a job hunt, it’s probably not a good idea for you to make your profile completely hidden from searches, but you’ll need to be extra vigilant to keep any personally identifiable information on your profile to a bare minimum.
3. Control who can see certain information on your profile.
This is a vital step to securing your online presence, the key to enjoying social networking while keeping prying eyes out. If you need help decoding privacy settings for the major social networks, check out this helpful post from Binary Tattoo. Make sure only friends and trusted followers can view personal information on your profile. Even if you have already set up your privacy settings the way you want, you’ll need to go back in every now and then to make sure things are still in order as site updates roll out.
Choose wisely what pieces of information you share with whom or make public; as mentioned above, criminal hackers, identity thieves, social engineers, and stalkers all know how to make a complete profile of you from small pieces of info that you might not even realize you’re sharing!
4. Stop sharing unnecessary personal information with unknown applications.
Once you authorize an application on your mobile device, you’re telling it that it has permission to access any information associated with your account that it requires to work at any time that it wants to grab it. Does a flashlight app really have to access your address book or location? NO! If an app is asking for more permissions than it requires to operate, it’s likely malware and you don’t need it. You should also make sure to delete any apps you aren’t using any more.
5. Encrypt your data.
If you’re more tech-savvy, you can guard your online transactions by using encryption software that scrambles information you send over the internet. Before you send personal or financial information online, look for a “lock” icon on the status bar of your internet browser telling you your information will be safe when it’s transmitted.
It all comes down to common sense, pausing to think before you impulsively send out that tweet. Think about how you would feel if a malicious criminal saw it, or if that photo ended up in your grandma’s hands. Remember, the internet is still public, no matter how good you think your privacy settings are. Do not give malicious hackers the chance to swipe personal information!