8 ways to protect your privacy on social media

Follow these helpful tips and reminders to keep your information, your brand, and yourself safe from prying eyes.


For people concerned about their privacy, social media is challenging. By its nature, it encourages people to engage and share in ways that give us little control over our private information and interactions.

To have more control over your privacy on social media, you need to learn about and understand the permissions you give social sites. Remember, social media keeps a permanent record of your interactions.

Here are eight tips to help you keep your social media profiles private.

1. Manually adjust privacy settings for each platform. There’s a tradeoff between privacy and social media interaction. If you allow a social media platform to access your account, you can compromise your data, friends list, addresses and other information. Be careful when you grant apps permission to access your account.

2. Use strong passwords and change them regularly. Employ a combination of letters, numbers and symbols for your password. Avoid obvious passwords like family members’ names, birthdays, and social security numbers. Don’t use dictionary words, but do use a separate password for each account.

These recommendations may make it difficult to keep track of your passwords, so use some common sense. If your passwords are too complex to remember, try not to write them down in unsecure locations, like on a Post-it on your computer screen or desk.

3. Have separate email addresses for business and personal use. Create a separate email account for any personal communication separate from business exchanges. Do this even if you have a small business. Regardless of your organization’s guidelines, don’t use your business email for your personal social media interactions.

4. Log off social sites and lock electronic devices when you’re not using them. This may seem like an extra step, but it keeps prying eyes away from your information. With a password on your portable devices, a stranger can’t scan through your content if you walk away.

5. Assume anything posted on social media can go public. You never know when a social network will change its privacy policy. This is especially true for Facebook. Despite the best intentions of everyone involved, your information and content can become public.

6. Consider what your mother, partner, kids or current/future employer would think if they saw your content. My mother’s saying about how sweets spend a moment on the lips and a lifetime on the hips holds true for social media. The Internet never forgets.

7. Don’t collect contacts on social media. Know the people behind the social media invitations you accept.

8. Be careful when you check-in on location-based services. Check-ins tell everyone where you are and where you’re not. If you use a social network to connect with someone at a conference or other live event, review your settings afterward.

It’s important to be careful about your privacy on social media, but it’s impossible to keep all your information under your control. Someone who’s motivated will find a way to access information you don’t want public. This is especially true since it’s not just about what you post, but what others share as well.

Are there any additional secrets you have to protect your privacy on social media?

Heidi Cohen is president of Riverside Marketing Strategies. Follow her on Twitter @heidicohen.

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