Becoming Professional: A Blog

How to Protect Your Privacy Online.

Posted on: June 30, 2010

A bank of computers

by izzymunchted

Lately Facebook came under fire for changing privacy settings and sharing user data with companies. There is even a new social network in the wings, Diaspora, ready to go head-to-head with Facebook over privacy and user-data control. This points to more than just Facebook messing up, however. This is a chronic issue with social networking. We’re putting our entire lives online. I like to tell my friends that their lovely privacy controls won’t keep out the FBI. They won’t even keep out a dedicated hacker. Witness the Twitter hacker in France getting in to President Obama’s Twitter profile (he got off light, by the way).

So how do you protect yourself? Obviously I’m not going to advise that you quit social media. But I am going to suggest that you watch what you put online very carefully. Let’s start with general tactics, and if I get a good response to this post I’ll go more in depth with each popular social network.

  1. Know what you are putting online and be consistent. For instance, don’t go around announcing your middle name if your middle name is a security question for your bank. Same thing for the name of your pets, a common security question.
  2. Use Strong Passwords. Most people don’t do this, so here’s an easy way to have a strong password that you won’t even have to remember. Go here (disclaimer, this is my father’s website).
  3. Don’t Click on Things You Don’t Know. Be very aware of what you click on and have a good anti-virus. Even messages from within Facebook can have a virus or cookie attached.
  4. Don’t be a Phish. Phishing scams are scams where someone attempts to get you to give them your passwords, generally by pretending to be a company you are working with. For example, if you receive an e-mail that seems to be your bank asking for your log in information, that’s a Phishing scam. But it’s not just financial institutions. Phishers pose as social media sites, too.
  5. Don’t Broadcast Your Location Constantly. Geolocation games are fun. I play Foursqure. But I watch who I make my friend in the app very carefully, and I don’t broadcast where I am constantly. I don’t check in to home or work, so my regular habits are a secret. This includes Tweeting or posting Facebook updates about where you are, not just using geolocation services. Consider this: burglaries happen frequently during the day, when the home owners are at work.
  6. Know Your Friends. How well do you know all your Facebook Friends? Use lists. Not only is this good for your personal branding, but it will help you maintain your privacy.
  7. Don’t Publish Your Address or Phone Number. I always wondered how the spammers got my phone number. Turns out I had it on my Facebook Profile. It could have easily been on my blog, too, if I hadn’t edited my resume. Be mindful of what you copy/paste.
  8. There Are No Take-Backs. Once it’s out there, it’s out there. There’s a digital log of everything posted anywhere on the internet. So think
    Cat on a Computer

    by dougwoods

    about everything you postbefore pressing that Send button.

  9. You Are Talking to a Cat. Online, no one knows you’re a cat. We warn children that their chatting buddies may not be other kids but rather creeps out to get them. Just because you’re chatting with someone who seems like a professional contact doesn’t mean she is. She could be a he out to scam you (or worse). Or she could be a cat.
  10. Be Yourself. Odd as it sounds, this is a safety tip. Don’t do online what you wouldn’t do in person. Great for personal branding and helps keep your reputation out of the gutter. For example, if you generally wouldn’t flaunt your body, don’t put sexy pictures online. Those pictures are asking for attention you really don’t want, even if your friends think those pictures are fun and have them up to. Do you want a creepo after you?

Do you have any great tips? How do you stay safe online?

*Great tips and inspiration from: Social Media Explorer and the Federal Trade Commission


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Who Am I?

I am a Digital Native who is trying to puzzle out what exactly that means. I share my thoughts on social media, digital business models, and PR here on this blog.

I am currently getting my Masters in Digital Marketing from Hult International Business School, having gotten my B.S. in Marketing from Arizona State University. Everything is on track and I am making headway towards my dream: World Domination... or being a productive, helpful citizen and marketer. Whichever comes first.

Don't hesitate to get in touch. I Tweet daily at @KateDavids and also have a science fiction and fantasy blog ( and Twitter (@Masked_Geek).

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