Using Social Media
What you choose to share on social media is always your decision, but what others choose to do with your information may not always be in your control. Consider taking the following personal safety precautions with these social media safety tips.
Personalize your privacy settings. Adjust your privacy settings on the site to your comfort level and select options that limit who can view your information. Think about non-traditional social media as well, such as your public transactions on Venmo or music activity on Spotify. These site-specific security pages can help you get started.
- Pause before you post. Before you post, ask yourself if you are comfortable sharing this information with everyone who might see it. Content that contains personal information or your whereabouts could pose a safety risk. Even content that is deleted can sometimes be accessed by the website or through screenshots of the original post and could be used maliciously.
- Turn off geolocation. Many social media sites or apps will request to access your location, but in most cases this isn’t necessary. You can still get the most out of your social media experience without sharing where you are while you’re there. If sharing where you are is important to you, consider waiting to tag the location until you leave. In addition to this, some sites may automatically make geotagged information public. When you “check in” on Facebook, update your Instagram story, or add a geotag to a Snapchat, these sites may share your exact location with people you may or may not trust with it. Take a look at the privacy settings on the sites listed above, or others you use regularly, to see what your location settings are and consider updating them.
- Use a private Internet connection. Avoid public Wi-Fi connections, like those offered at coffee shops or airports, when using a website that asks for a password. Limit your social media usage to personal or private Wi-Fi networks, while using cellular data on your phone, or under the protection of a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
- Talk to your friends about public posts. Let your friends know where you stand on sharing content that may include personally identifying information, like your location, school, job, or a photo of you or your home. Respect each other’s wishes about deleting posts that may be embarrassing or uncomfortable. Always ask permission before you post something about another person, whether it mentions them indirectly, by name, or in a picture. To help keep track of your online presence, you can change your settings so that tagged photos of you will only appear on your profile—but won’t be shared publicly on your timeline—if you have approved the post on Facebook or other social media accounts.
- Report harassment or inappropriate content. If someone is making you feel uncomfortable online, you can report the interaction to the host site, often anonymously. You can use the “report” button near the chat window, flag a post as inappropriate, or submit a screenshot of the interaction directly to the host site. If you do experience harassment or abuse through social media, consider taking screenshots immediately and saving them in case the content is deleted or removed from your view. To collect evidence of harassment on Facebook, you can download your full Facebook history through the Download Your Information (DYI)
- Look before you click. If you get a suspicious sounding message or link from a friend through social media, it’s best not to automatically click it. Your friend’s account may have been hacked, which could cause everyone in their contacts list to receive spam. If you’re not sure it’s spam, try contacting that person another way to ask if they meant to send you a link recently.
- Pick strong passwords and update them frequently. This can help protect against someone who may be trying to sign on to your account for negative reasons like posting spam, impersonating you, or stalking. In addition to choosing strong passwords and updating them, remember to keep your passwords in a secure location.
- Make privacy a habit by doing a regular social media privacy check-up. Once you’ve gone through the privacy settings in your social media accounts, set a reminder on your calendar to revisit them in three or six months. Companies may change policies or update their platforms which could affect how you would like to share your information online.