Last month, a whistleblower revealed something big.
A data analytics firm harvested 50 million Facebook profiles — without users’ permission — making this one of the social media giant’s biggest-ever data breaches.
The firm responsible, Cambridge Analytica, used these profiles to build a software program that predicts the outcome of government elections.
The controversy surrounding this data breach spearheaded a wider debate about online security and how Facebook users, sometimes unknowingly, share information with third parties.
If this has you worried, you’re not alone. Here are three tips on how to better protect your personal information on social media.
Don’t reveal everything to everyone
Just because Facebook or Twitter asks for information, doesn’t mean you have to provide it.
The security firm, Norton Antivirus, recommends you treat the “about me” fields as optional and says to carefully analyze the information you decide to share with other people. This could safeguard you against cybercriminals.
“Facebook gives you the option to fill in a great deal of information about yourself, from your date of birth to where you went to high school. Just because these fields are offered, however, doesn’t mean you must fill them out.” — Norton Antivirus
If you want to protect your online security, leave some fields blank and be selective with the information you share.
Check your data privacy settings
Whether you use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or all three, regularly check your social media security settings. You can usually control what information you share with your friends, followers, and the general public.
On Facebook, for example, you can choose to share status updates and photos with only your friends and family. And on Twitter and Instagram, you can send sensitive information via direct message.
Since its recent data breach, Facebook announced that it would work to simplify its privacy settings page. Until those changes are implemented, however, just be on alert. And again … carefully consider what information you share with others.
“Social media is here to stay,” says Forbes magazine. “The important thing for job seekers to remember is to keep your personal life separate on all social media platforms.”
Don’t know someone? Don’t befriend them.
You’ve probably received a friend request from someone you’ve never met before. And if you’re like most people, then there’s a high likelihood you heavily debated accepting that request.
However, accepting the mysterious invitation to connect would be a mistake.
You never know what someone’s intentions are, so it’s best to be skeptical and preserve your privacy.
“Don’t accept friend or follow requests from people you don’t know, even if it looks like you have friends in common,” says the Canadian government’s Get Cyber Safe. “They could be fake accounts from cybercriminals, bots or just ordinary creeps. Either way, they don’t need to see the personal stuff you share with real friends and family.”
Millions of people check their social media profiles every day. As of fall 2017, Facebook alone had 2.2 billion monthly active users. Many users, however, are completely unaware that the information they share on these platforms could end up in the wrong hands. If you want to increase your security online, follow the three steps above. Stay safe!