As we connect through social media more each year, it becomes increasingly important to maintain privacy online. Without careful management of personal information, it’s all too easy to let strangers into our lives. By following these simple tips, you can keep your information private on any of the major social media platforms.
Screen Friend Requests
Image via Flickr by Kai
It’s tempting to grow your friends list by accepting every request that comes through, but not everybody who tries to connect with you has good intentions. It’s easy to spot an unwanted presence on your friends list by looking for these common red flags:
- Reject social media requests from people you don’t know. If someone’s a total stranger and doesn’t have connections to anyone else you know, they’re probably more interested in your private info than socializing.
- Spam or scam profiles tend to be sparse or obviously don’t belong to a real person. If someone tries to connect with you online but their social media profile seems incomplete or doesn’t have much real-person activity, reject their request.
- Sometimes a real friend’s account can get hacked. Don’t automatically click links or accept requests from friends. It’s okay to be suspicious if something comes from a friend’s profile but it seems fishy somehow.
Don’t Provide Your Primary Email Address
Whenever you sign up for a new social media account, newsletter, or other online service, don’t offer your real email address first. Use a free webmail program to create a separate email account, or “dummy,” you can use to make sure you won’t receive any spam or lose any personal information to any new service. Once you confirm that the new service is safe and above-board, feel free to use your primary email address to set up an account. And remember: don’t use your real name or any other true, personal information in your dummy account.
Common Webmail Services
- Yahoo Mail
Secure Your Wireless Connection
If you’re using a Wi-Fi connection service, such as Clear Wireless, make sure you keep your connection password-protected and encrypted. All modern wireless routers have security settings you can activate and a strong password will make sure that hackers have a hard time hopping on your connection. For both your Wi-Fi connection and your social media accounts, create passwords that are long and use a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols.
Protect Your Browser
When you’re online, there are a lot of things happening behind the scenes in your web browser. It may store personal information, passwords, and preferences without notifying you. It may also have unwanted “cookies,” which are small programs that can do a variety of things with your online data.
All browsers have cookies that are essential for smooth surfing, but it’s easy for an unfamiliar link on a social media page to lead to a site that secretly installs other cookies on your system that look for personal information. Get to know how your browser works, including how to set your preferences and keep malicious cookies out of your browser.
Good social media security is all about being careful. Pay close attention to what you share, how you share it, and who you share it with to stay safe online.