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We all like to share our thoughts, ideas, photos, and inspirations with our family and friends, and social media has become the biggest platform to do so with the ease and convenience that “like”, “follow”, “share”, and “repost” buttons offer. With just a click, your contacts can easily see your new apartment, meet your friends, or perhaps comment on how your belt should match the color of your shoes. Social media is also a great way to connect with your long lost childhood best friend, your college roommate, your boss and your significant and also avenues to meet people. The information you share with your online contacts allows you to keep in touch without much effort. But who else is looking at that information? And how are they going to use it? Let’s use Facebook as a case study, there are so many different cases of identity theft, most times we’ve come across posts by friends reporting their account being hacked and a second malicious account opened in their name with their pictures and then warning us not to accept a second friend request from them, or you would have seen, a reputable friend you know suddenly posting pornographic content on their timeline. Also, there have been cases of people meeting people online, who later turned out to be dangerous, leading to cases of kidnapping, deaths and all the lot. Because of the very nature of social media, maintaining privacy on social media platforms is not an easy thing to achieve. You can only do so much to limit the reach of your online presence and this is due to certain policies that govern these social networking sites. The moment you sign up, you automatically allow them to display a chunk of your persona to networks in and out of your circle. The question then is how can I ensure the safety and privacy of my online content? Below are 15 tips to help make your online content safe.
  1. Don’t give away specifics. Don’t post your address, date of birth, kids’ names, pets’ names, phone numbers, or any account numbers or financial information of any kind. You really shouldn’t even post children’s photos online.
  2. Before you post anything online, think about what a hacker, stalker, employer, or potential employer could do with that data.
  3. Do not tell the world you are going on vacation! Or if you’re just going to dinner or the beach and won’t be at your house for several hours, why would you let potential burglars know that you’re away?
  4. Take advantage of privacy settings and lock down your profile, so that only those who you approve can view everything, also change your settings so that only those you approve of can tag you on a post.
  5. Before posting pictures or videos, consider what a criminal or potential employer might see. Could they be used against you in any way?
  6. If you let your kids use social media, you must monitor every aspect of their internet activities. Pick up a family protection software and take control of your children’s internet use. Also, talk to them.
  7. Search yourself. It’s a good idea to search your name on Google and check out your profile as others see it on social networks. Understand where you show up and what information is available to you, and then adjust your profile, settings and habits appropriately. If you unexpectedly see your name in locations you don’t frequent, it could give you a heads up someone else is using your identity online.
  8. Use caution when you click links that you receive in messages from your friends on your social website. Treat links in messages on these sites as you would treat links in e-mail messages.
  9. Know what you’ve posted about yourself. A common way that hackers break into financial or other accounts is by clicking the “Forgot your password?” link on the account login page. To break into your account, they search for the answers to your security questions, such as your birthday, hometown, high school class, father’s middle name, on your social networking site. If the site allows, make up your own password questions, and don’t draw them from material anyone could find with a quick search.
  10. Use alphanumeric passwords. They provide better combinations than only numerics or alpha passwords can offer.
  11. Don’t trust that a message really is from whom it says it’s from. Hackers can break into accounts and send messages that look like they’re from your friends, but aren’t. If you suspect that a message is fraudulent, use an alternate method to contact your friend to find out. This includes invitations to join new social networks.
  12. Type the address of your social networking site directly into your browser or use your personal bookmarks. If you click a link to your site through e-mail or another website, you might be entering your account name and password into a fake site where your personal information could be stolen.
  13. Be selective about who you accept as a friend on a social network. Identity thieves might create fake profiles in order to get information from you.
  14. Assume that everything you put on a social networking site is permanent. Even if you can delete your account, anyone on the internet can easily print photos or text or save images and videos to a computer.
  15. Be careful about installing extras on your site. Many social networking sites allow you to download third-party applications that let you do more with your personal page. Criminals sometimes use these applications to steal your personal information. To download and use third-party applications safely, take the same safety precautions that you take with any other program or file you download from the web.

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This article was first published on 28th March 2016


Muna is a software programmer and developer with a passion for technology.

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