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There's a lot of talk in the news about social media privacy and data. The best way you can manage your own privacy is to properly manage your social media privacy settings.
On May 25, 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (also known as GDPR) took effect, which means that any companies with customers in the EU have some new rules to follow regarding information security and communication to customers. Essentially they're required to better explain their privacy policies so you know what information they're collecting, why they're collecting it, and how they're using the details.
Recent Facebook Privacy Updates and Notices
On June 7, Facebook released a statement that they found an issue with some posts that should've been private, but was erroneously made public for approximately 14 million people and impacted posts from May 18—May 27:
"We recently found a bug that automatically suggested posting publicly when some people were creating their Facebook posts. We have fixed this issue and starting today we are letting everyone affected know and asking them to review any posts they made during that time. To be clear, this bug did not impact anything people had posted before—and they could still choose their audience just as they always have. We'd like to apologize for this mistake," states Erin Egan, Chief Privacy Officer of Facebook.
If you posted publicly, you are seeing a notification when you log in over the coming days:
Facebook's statement and post on their blog assure users that the problem has been fixed as of May 22. Just follow the instructions via the prompt to review your posts and ensure everything is private if that's your preference.
You've also probably seen Facebook and many other large global companies rolling out new privacy offerings to address the guidelines in the GDPR and you'll likely get notifications from them on what they're doing.
The focus of this notice rolling out in the next few weeks to all Facebook users is on targeted ads and facial recognition, so you can review the latest info and adjust your settings easily from the prompt. You can access this information at anytime as well by following the details below where we outline navigating Facebook's privacy settings.
These are similar to notifications you saw beginning April 9, 2018, when all Facebook users' feeds contained information on "Protecting Your Information" with a link to see what apps you use and what information you have shared with those apps. You can choose to shut off apps individually or turn off third-party access to all of your apps. Also, you can learn more about why apps access your information here on Facebook's website.
Social Media Usage and Privacy Concerns
More Americans than ever are on social media—69% of U.S. adults say they use some kind of social media platform (not including YouTube), according to the Pew Research Center.
The number of social media users and the time spent on social media continues to grow as well. Facebook became the first social network to surpass 1 billion registered accounts and currently sits at 2.2 billion monthly active users, according to a January 2018 study by Statista.
In a 2017 Experian survey, 44% of respondents said they always or often manage their privacy settings for online accounts or mobile apps while 28% rarely or never manage them.
28% of Americans don't regularly manage their privacy settings online.
Americans use social media for various reasons, including keeping tabs on friends and family, reconnecting with old friends, reading the news, and keeping up with information on their hobbies, lifestyle interests and careers.
In doing so, they may be leaving themselves vulnerable to identity thieves, primarily by "oversharing" personal information that identity thieves can use to steal their data. Even data as seemingly simple as your mother's maiden name could be enough personally identifiable information for a criminal to use against you crack your online identity. That's why it's imperative that you monitor and protect what you're sharing online.
Your best social media privacy strategy? Take careful, but concrete action steps to keep your personal information safe when using social networks.
Note: You can also use an online identity protection product like Experian IdentityWorks to monitor social media for you and your family and scan to see if your personal information appears on the dark web.
Protecting Yourself on Social Media
There are plenty of effective ways to protect your personal information when using social media such as using unique, secure passwords and taking advantage of two-factor authentication when possible so that other people can't log in even if they do get hold of your password.
It's also a good idea to not "friend" people who you don't know on personal social networks and even if you use social media for business, you should be a bit selective. Also, if you know you're already a friend with someone and you get another request, it could be a fake account, so check with your friend or family member to make sure it's really them asking to connect.
Many social media users don't read privacy policies on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter—but you should study up on what data is shared, when it is shared and where or with whom it's shared (that goes for any site on which you have an online account, too).
Read more here to learn about protecting your kids on social media.
How to Manage Your Social Media Privacy Settings on Each Social Network
Each of the major social media sites, like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram, offers ways to better protect your privacy, but it's up to you to use and customize them:
Facebook Privacy Settings
1. Log onto Facebook and click on "Settings"
2. Then Select "Privacy Settings"
There, you can change your profile access to control who views your posts and who cannot. You can choose to share your posts and contact information with your Facebook friends, and not the general public (be careful about adding your address, email and phone number on any social media site for public viewing in the first place, unless you have a business you're promoting). That will stop potential identity thieves from viewing your Facebook account.
For most items, you can choose to share items with Everyone, Friends of friends, and Friends. You can control various things, including:
- Who can see your posts (past and future)
- If you want to review anything you're tagged in before it posts
- Limit the audience for things you've previously shared with friends of friends or the public
You can also control in your settings how people find and connect with you, such as:
- Who can send you friend requests
- Who can see your friends list
- Who can look you up using the email you provided
- Who can look you up using the phone number you provided
- If you want search engines outside of Facebook to link to your profile
3. You can also change various Facebook settings in the "Security and Login" section of Settings and monitor your usage. It's a good idea to check this section if you think your account has been hacked, or just to periodically take a peek at things to make sure you don't see anything suspicious.
Here you can select three to five friends who are people you trust completely to act as backups if you are locked out of your account. Be selective here.
Facebook also shows where you're currently logged in—device type and location. This will include any smartphones or tablets you're using where the session may still be active. You'll see additional options if you click on the three dots to the right and from there you can select ‘Not You' if there's a session that isn't you accessing your account. You can also choose to ‘Log Out' from a session listed.
In the Facebook "Security and Login" section, you can also change your password, confirm two-factor authentication, and choose to get alerts when there's an unrecognized login to your account.
4. If you visit the "Apps and Websites" section, you can monitor if and what apps are able to access your Facebook data or information. This is an important section if you've ever used Facebook to login to another website.
If you do have any apps, websites and games connected to Facebook, you will be able to click on the app and see what information is being shared with the app or website and who else can see that information.
If you are sharing information with an app, you should select ‘Only me' to keep it private from other Facebook friends and users:
Facebook also shows you the details of what happens if you turn this setting off:
You can turn this setting off so that no websites can access your Facebook information. If you have used this in the past, you will have to create new accounts with those websites to continue to login on their site. Facebook describes what you can do if you turn the feature on as well:
The Bottom Line on Your Facebook Information
You can access most of your Facebook data by logging into your account and seeing it in your timeline, profile, and settings. Additionally, visit Facebook's site to learn more about accessing your Facebook data.
Twitter Privacy Settings
To update privacy settings on Twitter, log on and click on "Settings and privacy" in the menu below your profile picture in the top navigation bar.
1. In the main "Account" settings, you'll be able to:
- Review your login verification methods (set up two-factor authentication)
- Select if you want to require personal information (email/phone number) for a password change
- Request your Twitter archive
2. The "Privacy and safety settings" in Twitter are where you will be able to allow the general public to view your Tweets or to have your Tweets protected (which means they're private and viewable only to the people you who approve to follow you).
In the Twitter privacy page, just check the box next to "Protect my Tweets" to wall of strangers from your Twitter feed. You can also choose to avoid including your location while Tweeting. That gives you an extra measure of protection if you're traveling or are away from home for an extended length of time.
In general, by switching from a "public" Twitter account to a "private" Twitter account, you can avoid having your Tweets viewed by anyone, and keep those Tweets off of Google and other search engines. If you're using Twitter for business or career purposes, though, and need to stay public, you can just make sure you're not sharing too much personal information when you Tweet.
Here you can also select if you want people to be able to tag you in photos and be able to search for you on Twitter via your email address or phone number.
3. The "Passwords" section in Twitter's settings allows you to change your password.
4. The Twitter "Apps" settings section lets you see what if any apps are connected to your Twitter account and lets you ‘Revoke Access' to any you want to remove.
Read more about safety and security on Twitter here on their site.
LinkedIn Privacy Settings
For business purposes, many LinkedIn users create a profile page, similar to a resume, that includes their address, phone number, email address, and even social media handles. Depending on your industry, role and career objectives, you may want to share or hide certain information.
1. Select "Privacy & Settings" once you're logged into your account. There you'll have access to various settings such as Account, Privacy, Ads, and Communications. Your main "Account" section lets you manage login and security, such as your contact information and setting up two-factor authentication.
2. In "Account" settings, you can also view "Partners and Services" to see who you've shared access to your LinkedIn Account with and who can access your LinkedIn data.
You can click ‘Remove' if you want to stop sharing data with any services or organizations.
3. The "Privacy" settings let you select what others see and how LinkedIn uses your data. You can choose for updates to be seen only by you, your connections, or the general public. You can also download your LinkedIn data here as well.
Instagram Privacy Settings
Instagram, owned by Facebook, enables social media users to post photos and videos up to 60 seconds. You get to your Instagram settings by clicking on the gear in the top right of your profile once you're logged in.
In the Instagram app, just log in and go to your profile. Then click the gear in the top right.
There you can:
- Adjust settings for photos of you: You can automatically add photos others tag you in or manually add them if you want to review them first.
- Adjust Story Settings: You can hide Instagram stories from specific people, allow message replies on your Instagram stories, allow sharing of your stories, and choose to save or share your stories on another social network like Facebook.
- Edit your profile or change your password.
- Set up two-factor authentication to protect others from logging into your account, even if they get your password.
- View any blocked users.
- Make your account private: This means that someone will have to request to follow you and see your Instagram photos and stories you share.
- See what accounts are linked to your Instagram account, such as Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr.
Pinterest Privacy Settings
When you're logged into Pinterest, you access your settings in your profile. First, select the three dots on the top right.
Once you're there you can adjust settings like changing your password or connect to another social network like Facebook. Under "Security", you can "Enable Two-Factor Authentication" and turn on "Require code at log-in."
In the Security settings, you can also click the "Show sessions" button to see any sessions in which you are logged into Pinterest. You can click "End Activity" on any sessions that are still logged in.
YouTube Privacy Settings
When using YouTube, you can control the settings of your profile and individual videos. Videos and playlists can be:
- Public: able to be seen and shared by anyone
- Private: only able to be seen by you and the users you choose
- Unlisted: able to be seen and shared by anyone with the link
For more details on how to change your video and playlist privacy settings, visit the YouTube website here.
Protect Your Personal Data on Social Media Networks
Make no mistake, safeguarding your personal data on social media networks isn't a luxury—it's a necessity. Cyberthieves can take your personal data found on social media sites and use that data to steal your identity or even use that personal information for synthetic identity theft.
Synthetic ID theft is when a criminal creates a fictitious identity using either fabricated or valid elements, such as a Social Security number, name, address, and date of birth. Much of this personal data is captured by fraudsters via data breaches and dark web marketplaces.
Avoid that scenario by applying the tips listed above to better manage your social network settings, and keep cyber-criminals walled off from your data, and your life, while using social media.
Read to learn more about protecting yourself and your family online:
- What Is the Dark Web?
- What Is Dark Web Monitoring?
- How to Protect Yourself against Social Media Scams
- How to Protect Your Child from Identity Theft
Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, or other company, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. All information, including rates and fees, are accurate as of the date of publication.