Perhaps you already know this. Perhaps you keep your privacy settings tuned and never overshare on social media. How about your friends? If they’re careless about their own privacy, their heedlessness can slop over and affect you. Show them this article—post it on your virtual walls! Maybe they’ll shape up.
CIRCLES OF FRIENDS
Social media sites like Facebook and Instagram are designed to let you share your thoughts, interests, and pictures with your friends. Unless you’re a Kardashian, you don’t want to share your every brain-blip with everyone in the world, so privacy settings are important. Maybe you feel you have nothing to hide: Consider the fact that if you don’t control access to your posts, they’re fully available to advertisers, spammers, cyber-stalkers, and other undesirables.
Unfortunately, your privacy isn’t a priority for social media companies. After all, they make money by selling ads and personal information about their members. Proper privacy can interfere with a social media company’s ability to monetize the time you spend on its site. You need to put yourself in charge of your social media privacy.
You want the “Goldilocks” settings—private enough to keep out the hoi polloi but not so private that you can’t share with friends. Just how you achieve that balance depends on which platform you’re using. And bear in mind that on any platform, the implementation of privacy settings can change. What you need to do is walk through the options offered by the platform and use some common sense.
Unless you’re a Kardashian, you don’t want to share your every brain-blip with everyone in the world.
The most important privacy setting is the default audience for your posts. If this is set to public, you have zero privacy. Configure it so only your friends can see what you post. You may be able to fine-tune the audience even further: For example, you might limit access to a subset of your friends or exclude specific friends. These options are all typically available on a per-post basis, so if you want to defy the default for an individual post, you can.
Shutting down the firehose that’s spewing your posts out to the world is a good first step, but there’s more to consider. Who can see your friends list—just friends, friends of friends, or anybody? Who can tag you in photos or posts? If Cousin Eddie tags you as a photo of a blobfish, do you get a chance to veto the tag? Who can share your posts? That last one’s especially important if you have impulsive friends with poor security habits.
Your social media provider may offer privacy help. It’s a win for the company, really. Its press releases can tout its commitment to privacy, while in the back room they know that not many people will take advantage of privacy help. You can tighten your Facebook privacy using the company’s Privacy Checkup and Off-Facebook Activity tools, for example, and Twitter’s Privacy Center offers videos on privacy.
You don’t have to worry about the privacy of your Google+ account anymore, since the service shut down in 2019. Chances are good that you interact with Google in many other ways, though. While you’re thinking about social media, checking the privacy of your Google account couldn’t hurt.
Even when you’re confident you’ve got the perfect balance of sharing and privacy, don’t rest on your laurels. Make a quick pass through the settings now and then, in case the provider has made an unexpected change.
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