Ever since the emergence of the internet, hackers have been around to try and steal user data. And while you may assume that password protections and verification codes are protecting your private data, that’s not enough to stop online criminals. With over half of the global population inhabiting digital space, every user should take steps to ensure their private data stays private.
Are Social Media Platforms Using Your Data?
Even if your social media profiles use stringent privacy settings and you have a limited circle of friends, you may still be at risk for data breaches. Most social media platforms use your data in a variety of ways, from targeting advertisements to promoting site features.
Social Media Data Usage
While only 21 percent of survey recipients agreed that companies handled their personal data with care, consumers are surprisingly complacent when it comes to protecting themselves. For example, Facebook users rely on privacy and security features that the platform offers.
However, Facebook openly admits that it collects and uses consumer data for its own purposes. When you sign up for Facebook, you must enter your name, gender, date of birth, and an email address or phone number. But as you interact with the platform, Facebook tracks your ad clicks, engagement activity, IP addresses, friends, location, and more.
Third-party apps like Candy Crush or Uber that let users log in via Facebook also glean information from your account. Unfortunately, you’ll need to read the fine print on every user agreement to decipher exactly what information they take and how they plan to use it.
Plus, Facebook isn’t the only platform that takes advantage of consumers’ desire to stay connected. Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and more all skim user data for at least their own interests, if not for sale or other use, too.
Data Breaches and Hacks
Beyond social media giants’ use of your information, there’s also the potential for security breaches to expose those details to hackers. In fact, at least three million users fell victim to a data breech by a third-party app on Facebook.
That came after another app siphoned around 87 million users’ information from Facebook, Fox News reported. Some apps extract data and repackage it for businesses seeking demographic information on consumers.
Hackers may also target consumer information to sell to interested parties. Fortune reported that a data firm found that Facebook logins and PayPal credentials were for sale on the dark web. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect your information online.
How to Protect Your Private Data
Short of shutting down all your social media accounts, there is no true way to protect against all types of security risks. However, there are ways to ensure that your private data isn’t being used without your permission.
Lock Down Privacy Settings
Most platforms and applications have basic privacy settings that users can adjust. The first step in making your social media accounts secure is to use each platform’s menu options. While many of the settings limit what other users can see on your profile or page, there are also settings for advertisements and information sharing.
The specifics will vary by application, but Facebook, for example, has a settings section where you can edit which third-party apps have access to your information. You can go through these manually or shut off the ability to connect to third-party apps at all.
Turn Off Location Settings
Most social media platforms allow users to tag a location when they make a post. You can turn off location options on each app on your smartphone, but the farther-reaching way to solve the problem is to shut off the location settings on your phone. This way, each app must prompt you for permission to share your location.
Desktop and laptop computers also have location settings, although many websites will prompt you for your permission before accessing your location. Check your settings to be sure that you have the location off if that’s what you choose.
Avoid Public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi hotspots can be used to harvest your personal data. When signing up to a free hotspot you are often consenting for companies to use your private details and in some cases, even access content on your phone. If you feel using them is unavoidable, consider using a throwaway email to sign up and using a cheap VPN to protect your data.
Read the Fine Print
Any time you use a website or join a social media platform, read the fine print first. It’s a whole lot of legal speak, but if you worry about who will have access to your information and what they can do with it, this is a necessary step.
Reading through the site’s policies will also give you an idea of what the company does to protect its users’ information. Whether or not the platform allows third-party access, for example, can indicate how secure it is.
Ultimately, there is a tradeoff between giving up some personal information and using a free service, but only you as the consumer can decide whether it’s worth the potential risk. Using social media wisely can offer rewarding experiences and help maintain relationships, but it can also put you at risk if you don’t share carefully.
PixelPrivacy.com is all about making the world of online security accessible to everyone. We pride ourselves on writing guides that we’re certain even our own mothers could understand! Be sure to head over to our blog if you’re interested in keeping your private information just that: Private!