Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post from Renee of The Life Lushious.
We love social media. It helps us stay connected to family, friends, acquaintances, brands, and companies. We use it to market our businesses and ourselves to the masses. But what about keeping our personal information safe?
I’m going to give you the minimalist approach to enjoying your social networking/media sites without sacrificing your personal info to the world. This means the less available to the least amount of people the better. This tutorial assumes that you have at least one of the following accounts: Facebook, Twitter, or Google+. It also assumes you want to limit your complete online exposure to certain types of people. Let’s get started.
Facebook is great for sharing all the little moments in out lives via snappy statuses, pictures and photo albums, and groups. But we don’t want to share all of our personal deets with just anyone. Thankfully Facebook makes it super easy to set security filters for practically everything. To keep your personal info personal, you can follow these guidelines:
- Only provide the minimum amount of information necessary to open/maintain your account. Make sure the info you do provide is something that wouldn’t hurt you if it got out. Your name and birthday aren’t that big a deal, but your address and phone number are things that would make lead generators laugh gleefully as they added you to their lists of (usually) pilfered leads.
- If you want to share your address and phone number to friends only, then you can set it to show only to those people that you are friends with. This means friends of friends, groups, and pages will not have access to this info. If you allow subscribers they will only ever be able to see publicly available information, so you don’t really have to worry much about them.
- Pictures and photo albums are a little different because you can set the privacy settings for each album differently or just choose to make them all friends only. Keep in mind, however, that anyone tagged in your photos, even if they are tagged by your friends but aren’t friends of yours, will see that particular photo. To manage this, change your settings to ask you to approve new tags on your photos or disallow them altogether. This puts you back in control.
- When it comes to friends, be discriminating! I don’t know anyone that needs over 1000 friends, and I’m sure you don’t, either. If you are wanting to promote yourself or your business, do not use your personal Facebook account to do it. Create a fan page instead and provide contact information (such as a business email or toll free number) that people can use. On the other side of the coin, it is wise to never friend someone that is using their personal account for business. It is against Facebook’s policies to use a personal account for business and you might also be opening up your personal info to attack (SPAM)!
- To manage the friends that you have, make lists. You can make one for friends you’ve made online, coworkers, teammates, and so forth. This is one of the easiest ways to manage who can see what updates you make. It is wise to make these lists and filter new friends into them right away. You might not mind family talking about your digestive problems, but your coworkers don’t need to know about that particular malady. Keeping these lists updated will mean your updates can be shown to those you want to see them and hidden from those you don’t. You can change who sees what at the time of posting your status and later after it is posted by going to that status and clicking the icon under it that tells who can see it.
- While you could specify a specific person or persons as able to see a particular status (one that is specific and providing/asking for information) it is better to use messages and/or chat to communicate. Just trust me on this one. Not having to worry about someone glancing on your Facebook page and seeing something that personal will save you a lot of headaches.
- Finally, you want to limit what is shown to non-friends and logged-out users. It’s important to make sure that people can tell that it is actually you without having to display personal information. The easiest way is to have a very clear and easily identifiable photo as a user picture. Another is to use your real and full name. It’s up to you what is shown beyond that but I suggest the least the better.
There is always more in the case of Facebook and I’m sure as it continues to evolve more and more security measures will be added to keep information safe.
- Twitter is one of those networks that requires very little information – just a name and email address – to set up. But the privacy principle still applies in this instance, as well.
- Keep your follow list to those people that you talk or ‘tweet’ to on a regular basis. For me, this list is different than those I’d have on Facebook. I keep this list down to those friends I’ve made online, like other bloggers and so on. Make sure this is a manageable amount of people. Again, you don’t need to follow 1000 people on Twitter!
- If there are people, such as celebrities or public accounts (some blogs have accounts to announce new posts, offer wisdom, and retweet awesome things to their readers), make a list for them and add them to it without following them. This will keep your follow list free of the sometimes spammy updates of celebs and news websites so you can zero in on the content you want to see.
- Finally, keep your bio free of personal information. Talk about your interest or put nothing at all, but don’t add email addresses, phone numbers, or physical addresses to it. If you must add something, either link to your website if you have one or point to a public account that will give people necessary information.
- To keep it all strictly private, go to your settings and make all of your tweets private. No one that you haven’t followed explicitly will be able to see your tweets. People can still request to follow your account, but they must be approved before their request is allowed.
Google + is currently one of the grey areas of the Internet. It is hard to determine how to use it effectively because most people only have one or two friends that use it regularly. I personally have no friends that use it to the same extent that they use Facebook and Twitter. Not being able to auto post from your blog or rss feeds is another drawback. But I do have and use one, so I’ll share how I keep my info private.
- Go to your G+ settings and remove any information that isn’t necessary for Google. Also edit the information that can be disclosed to third parties (basically, anyone that isn’t you and Google).
- Don’t link any other accounts to your profile. It might sound silly, but anyone viewing your G+ profile will be able to see them if you don’t explicitly edit their visibility on your profile.
- The same thing for Facebook pages applies here. Don’t use your personal G+ profile for business. It is best to keep your personal and business lives separate, even if you have branded yourself. A G+ page for businesses is the way to go to promote your website, company, or brand.
- Instead of lists, Google gives you “circles”. You should make some circles relevant to your interests and filter all of your G+ contacts into them. Like Facebook, this allows you to specify who you wish to share each update with. You can choose to make your update public or only just viewable to one or more circles.
- Since not many people use G+ for personal networking (that I’ve seen, at least) it isn’t as much of a big deal in comparison to networks like Facebook and Twitter. Keep in mind that later additions in functionality might make your neglected G+ page a target of lead generators, so take care now to either regulate the information offered or disable your profile altogether until a time comes when you want to use it more regularly.
The most important aspect of the privacy principle is to keep your employers and/or clients from getting your personal feelings about work or whatever and using it against you. The same goes for photos of you out on the town or drinking the night away. If an employer wants to be your friend on Facebook or use it as a ruler for judging you, refuse (politely) and let them know that you don’t like to mix business with your personal life. Let them know that you are more than willing to give them any information they ‘require’ but your personal social accounts aren’t part of the bargain. Same goes for Twitter and Google+.
I hope this information is helpful in keeping your personal information safe. I hope it also inspires you to take care with the people you befriend online. Avoiding persons or companies that might use your information for I’ll just makes sense!
Renee is a freelance designer who runs The Life Lushious, a fabulous lifestyle and design blog with a minimalist twist. She is also one of my oldest and dearest friends. If you like One Parade, go give The Life Lushious a warm welcome into the blogging world!
Image credit: Jess LC (background image), Life Tree Creative (icons)