This post has been modified to reflect new information since its original publication.
Social media platforms have enabled us to communicate effortlessly with people around the world in a way that we couldn’t have imagined only a few decades ago. Unfortunately, this new way of engaging has also opened the door to a host of problems, including a significant loss of personal privacy.
Read on to learn why you need to protect your privacy on social media, how oversharing can affect your children, and what you can do to avoid sharing too much personal information.
Why you need to protect your privacy on social media
It’s hard to deny the enormous power and reach of social media platforms. For example, the biggest social network, Facebook (Meta), now has nearly 3 billion active monthly users. This means over one-third of the world’s population is on the platform.
Consequently, the things you do and say on Facebook—and all social platforms—could potentially reach an extremely large audience. But, what’s the harm in that?
There are several reasons to be concerned about your privacy on social media:
- Exposed personal details make you vulnerable to threats—Social engineers and other scammers use sensitive personal information, like what you do for fun, the names of your friends and family, your favorite stores to visit, and so on to gain your trust. Then, they trick you into performing an unsafe action, like clicking on a link or sharing your account credentials. Hackers use your personal data to take over or impersonate your social accounts. Stalkers and other criminals can also use the data you share on social media to track your daily routine and plan the best time and place for a physical confrontation or robbery.
- People judge you by what they find about you online—Employers, colleges, insurance companies, loan companies, and others routinely search social media profiles making decisions about you. And, if they don’t like what they see, then you might not get that new job or lock in the low interest rate you were hoping for.
- Companies use your personal information to target you—Data brokers and people-search companies scrape social media for details about you. They combine this data with online public records to create extensive profiles about you, which they package and sell to advertising firms and anyone else who can pay. The more these companies know about you, the more they will target you with unwanted online ads, junk mail, and phone calls.
- Lawyers can use your account activity in court—Lawyers commonly use personal data gathered from social networks to use as evidence in court. Though you might be comfortable with your level of online privacy for daily interactions, you may find that you’re revealing too much when relationships turn sour. Lawyers might still be able to access your account and use your personal data against you, especially if you’ve shared information with another person, or in a public setting like Twitter or Pinterest.
How oversharing affects your kids
Proud parents are often eager to share information about their children on social media, including photos and status updates. However, there are implications for both parents and children for doing so.
It’s important for parents to remember that some things should be kept private. If you post a photo of your child’s birthday party or mention your child’s name, age, school, nickname, hobbies, interests, or the names of his or her friends, you could be providing a malicious stranger with enough information to gain your child’s trust.
Parents should also consider the fact that when they post about their children, they’re essentially creating an online history for them without their consent or input. Although those baby photos taken in the bathtub might be cute, they could prove to be very embarrassing for a child as he or she grows older. They can also serve as ammunition to attack your child as part of a cyberbullying campaign.
Children, and unfortunately even some adults, can be quite bold and cruel online, primarily due to the anonymous nature of the internet. If you simply must share some photos of your child online, choose only those that are appropriate. Avoid any photos that could be embarrassing or those that simply provide too much information. After all, when you post a photo online, you give up all control over how that photo could be used by those viewing it.
How to prevent oversharing on social media
Social media platforms are designed to get you to share the mundane details of your daily life, like how you celebrated your birthday or your kids’ first day of school. However, this kind of information is precisely what you need to keep private if you want to avoid the negative consequences mentioned earlier in this article.
Here are some best practices to protect your privacy whenever you interact on a social network:
- Lock down your privacy settings—Make sure your account information and posts are only visible to the smallest possible group of people you are comfortable sharing with.
- Do the bare minimum—It’s OK to leave nonessential fields blank when filling out social profiles. Threat actors can easily use details like your hometown, birthday, and siblings’ names to get around password reset security questions and hack your accounts. As such, you should avoid posting these items on any social profile (or anywhere else online).
- Consider who might read your posts—Are you posting something you wouldn’t want certain individuals to see? If so, that’s probably not something you should post on social media. A good rule of thumb is to avoid sharing anything your grandmother might disapprove of.
- Double-check all photos before posting—You might unwittingly be sharing compromising information, like your street address, the name of your kids’ school, or a flight itinerary, in the background of your pictures.
- Ask others not to tag you—This way, you have more control over what pictures and posts you appear in online.
- Don’t share other people’s information—Especially when it comes to your children or other minors, do not post anything that might be remotely considered compromising or embarrassing, and don’t share plans that can let others find them.
- Don’t talk about upcoming or ongoing trips—You never want to post information that tells people when you will be away from home for an extended period. There have been many instances of stalkers using this information to confront victims or burglars using it to break into homes. Save your vacation posts for when you return.
If you’d like to learn more about protecting your online privacy, feel free to give us a call. Our online privacy experts are happy to provide a complimentary consultation regarding your specific situation.
You can also find privacy information in the following articles: