What Does Your Online Profile Reveal About You and How to Protect It Yourself?

Social Media Privacy

A lot of people seem willing to argue that, largely thanks to social media, the concept of privacy is now well and truly dead. Some of these people share their views on their Facebook and Twitter profiles right alongside their bathroom selfies, their family photos, or the embarrassing pictures from last night's party. You can probably see the irony here.

It's easy to blame Facebook and Google for the fact that they sometimes have problems properly handling our data. It's easier to blame marketers for trying to monetize our information by selling us things we may or may not need. Like it or not, you have to accept that this is how social networks work these days, and if you're concerned that they present a threat to your privacy, you'll need to start asking yourself some questions.

What sort of information can my social media profiles reveal about me?

Here's a scenario: you're trying to find a job, and you've invested a huge amount of time tailoring your LinkedIn profile so that it looks right. All your professional skills are listed, your profile picture is presentable, and you've carefully edited the content you've liked and shared.

Prospective employers come across your profile and are interested in what they see. They want to learn a bit more about you, however, which is why they google your name, and some of the first things they see are your Facebook and Twitter profiles, which, unfortunately for you, are not quite as heavily curated. There are, for example, some posts about how unpleasant it is to go to work on a Monday with what you describe as "the mother and father of all hangovers." There's also a post in which you use a number of not very pleasant words to vent your anger at a former boss. After seeing those, your prospective employers won't be too keen on getting in touch with you.

The previous scenario, of course, is just one example. Some people seem obsessed about sharing where they are, who they're with, and what they eat, and they forget that their social networking profile is becoming a treasure trove for stalkers.

How to protect your private data on social media websites?

Social networks exist because users want to share, among other things, a photo of the salad they're about to enjoy. And there's nothing wrong with sharing stuff. You need to think about who you're sharing stuff with, though.

While the social networks themselves are the ones responsible for storing your data securely, there are a few things you can do to ensure that people who aren't supposed to see your photos and posts don't do it. The first one is quite simple – go through the lists of people you're connected to.

The good thing about social media is that it gives you a convenient way of connecting to a lot of people. You don't want to be connected to all the people all the time, however, which is why when you see a friend request from a person you've never met, your best bet is to ignore it. This also minimizes the chances of falling for a clever scam.

Removing strangers from the list of friends or followers will stop them from communicating with you, but it might not stop them from seeing what you post. That's why it's crucial to review your privacy settings. These settings let you choose what people from the outside world can and can't see.

Facebook users can do it from here.
Twitter users can do it from here.
LinkedIn users can do it from here.

Is privacy really dead, and are the social media websites responsible for its demise? Everybody is entitled to their opinion. When forming your own, however, you should be aware of the fact that social networks do give us some tools that help us protect our private data.

May 14, 2018

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