You probably don’t know many people who aren’t on at least one social media platform. Statista predicts that there will be 2.77 billion global social media users by 2019, up from 2.46 billion in 2017.
It’s not hard to understand social media’s popularity: These networks keep us connected to new people we meet, and allow us to easily stay in touch with old friends and faraway family members. But because of the vast amount of information we share on social media, many users are rightfully concerned about privacy and who can access and view their personal data.
Between the now-infamous Cambridge Analytica scandal and a recently reported Facebook bug that temporarily unblocked people on 800,000 accounts, people are realizing that their information could be spreading much further than they intended.
The best way to lock down your social media data is to take advantage of built-in privacy functions offered by each platform. Here are a few basic privacy settings and best practices for five of the most common social networks:
Facebook provides a wealth of privacy options to limit who can access your posts, tagged photos and posts, and profile information. You can share your content with specific groups of your friends, restrict certain users from viewing your content, and customize the audience for each individual profile element and post you share. You can learn more on this Facebook help page.
By simply setting your tweets to “protected” (rather than the default, “unprotected” public tweets), you can instantly make your account less visible. When your tweets are protected, only your approved followers can find and see your tweets, see your tweets appear under hashtag feeds, and view your Twitter activity. Twitter reminds users that authorizing a third-party application to view your Twitter may give that app access to your protected tweets, so it’s a good idea to avoid those if you wish to keep your content private.
Like Twitter, Instagram’s main privacy setting is its private vs. public account option. A private Instagram account functions in the same way as Twitter’s protected tweets. However, it’s important to note that if you share your private Instagram post to Facebook or Twitter, anyone with the direct URL can publicly view the photo. Third-party app authorizations may also allow search engines to index your photos. This Instagram help page provides more information and answers to privacy FAQs.
Pinterest allows you to make your account more private in several ways. You can hide your pins from search engines, create “Secret” boards to keep other users from finding your pins, disable posting to other social networks, unfollow Facebook friends, and disable cookie-based personalization. Learn more about how to implement each of these settings on Pinterest.
By default, LinkedIn broadcasts any changes to your profile, displays your activity feed and connections publicly, and tells other users when you’ve looked at their profile. You can (and should) change all of these settings in your Settings & Privacy page. LinkedIn explains how to do it, as well as other account settings you can adjust.
Regardless of which sites you belong to, it’s wise to run frequent “check-ups” on your privacy settings to make sure your content is seen only by the audience you want. What we post on social media can reveal a lot about us; if the wrong people gain access to that information, it’s easier than you think for them to steal your identity and wreak havoc on your digital and real life.