Privacy and Social Networks

October 19, 2013 § Leave a comment

Imagine you got late at night, all alone you have to traverse a sketchy street. What do you do? Become alert, try finding some other safer street and take all sorts of security measures to arrive safely at your destination. But why won’t you act similarly with your data on social media?

Péa and I often discuss of me being paranoid about my data and visibility on Facebook (that’s the only social networking site I use). I always try to prove my rational fears but Péa is never convinced. So naturally I had to publish a post on this blog to prove my point. And, the following video on TED by Alessandro Acquisti makes my task a lot easier.

As remarked in the video and in this article about the future of facial recognition, it is very easy to find sensitive information about just anyone on internet and social networks using few basic data that is put up willingly without any measures to secure it. How many of you share photos publicly or with friends of friends on Facebook? How many times you check in with a group of friends and are later tagged in photos which most of the times is accessible to public and often found easily on Google?

Web is changing at the speed of light and it is hard to keep up with ever-changing Facebook and its privacy policies. But we need to take charge and get responsible with what we are putting out there. Here are a few measures that I take to make sure my online life doesn’t fall in wrong hands (again these are only for Facebook, I am sure you can find similar articles for other social networks):

  1. Start by using the tool of “limit audience for past posts” which is found under privacy settings on Facebook. This setting automatically changes the visibility of all your old public posts to friends only.
  2. Do not post anything for public audience. Cover photos on Facebook are public but you need not put anything which reveals your location or human faces, you can also choose not to have a cover photo. When you change your profile picture, it is automatically set to for public audience, always remember to change it to a more private setting.
  3.  Use the option of tag approval on photos or posts by your friends such that at least you are aware of your profile being linked elsewhere and you can always decline being tagged.
  4. Try keeping an organized list of online friends. Out of hundreds or so friends you have on Facebook not all necessarily have to see each and everything you post. In my case only ten percent of my Facebook friends can see hundred percent of my Facebook activity. You can use already available lists like Close Friends, Acquaintances, Restricted etc. or create your own customized lists. It might take some time to organize your friends but it’s worth your privacy and security.
  5. Look carefully at what Facebook applications and games are asking you to give them access to. Most of the time you can restrict the data generated by such apps to be only visible to you.
  6. The easiest advice would be not to put up your address, phone number and email ids on Facebook. In general your profile details should not be visible to public.

These are a few things that I follow religiously on Facebook. While I can’t restrict access to Facebook and governmental organizations but at least I am trying my best and I am fully conscious of what’s at stake here.

Take control of what you share on Internet

Take control of what you share on Internet

I hope by this post I can make few people more responsible about their online lives. LinkedIn is exemplary to have a privacy policy that values its members the most. We need many more such accountable companies.

Caution is a most valuable asset in fishing, especially if you are the fish.” – Anonymous


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