Since the dawn of social networking in the early 2000s, new opportunities for people to connect have blossomed more than ever before. Companies can also have profiles on sites such as Facebook and Twitter to advertise and maintain a dialogue with the consumer.
Then there is the more nefarious reason of identity thieves looking for easy information to use to their benefit. Others may also use these sites to harass others for personal vendettas.
Fortunately, social networking sites have numerous privacy settings for your benefit. It’s also wise to withhold certain critical information to protect yourself and your identity using steps such as these:
1. Don’t include your exact birth date on any social networking sites. This info could be used by identity thieves to make your life more difficult.
2. Withhold your work place and home addresses if possible. If they are displayed for the world to see this could cause trouble for you and your identity. People with vendettas may harass and stalk you.
3. Be careful about tagging yourself in locations. If you are somewhere that you wouldn’t want a stranger to know about, then don’t tag yourself. On Facebook you can enable settings to approve tagging that others may use on you before they are posted.
4. Consider creating ‘groups’ on Facebook where you can decide who sees what posts. At that same time you should set it so those who are not your Facebook friends can’t see any of your information at all. You can also do the same with Twitter.
5. Don’t post pictures of your driver’s license, credit cards, birth records or anything of that sort. It may seem like obvious advice, but as social networking is a relatively new component of our lives it can be easy to forget the simplest of things. For example, someone may post a picture of their IDs to show off their DMV picture but that can give away crucial information. More than enough for someone to steal your identity.
6. Even if your important information can only be seen by your trusted friends, keep in mind that their friends or family may share computers or tablets with them. You probably aren’t on a trustworthy basis with such an extended social sphere so that’s something to keep in mind.
7. Facebook has extensive functionality for reporting posts that are harmful and people who may be harassing you. Use these options liberally.
8. The blocking function on Facebook essentially makes you invisible to others that trouble you. Use that as well as the reporting function at the first sight of suspicious activity. This will help prevent trouble in the future.
9. There is a function on Facebook which enables device registration. When trying to log in from a new phone, tablet or computer you are asked to name it and a copy of that name as well as the rough location and IP address of the registration is emailed to you. This way, if anyone besides you tries to log in from a device that is not yours, you will know very quickly. This is vital for securing your account and comes highly recommended. You can turn this on by going into security settings and checking the boxes for email and/or text login notifications.
10. Don’t post anything on Facebook and Twitter which you wouldn’t want reposted or retweeted at any time. Treat social networks like public places because they are.
Mari J. Frank, Esq CIPP is an attorney/ mediator and privacy expert. She is the radio host of Privacy Piracy on KUCI 88.9 FM in Irvine www.kuci.org and author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Recovering from Identity Theft. She is chair of the Privacy Subcommittee of the Executive Committee of Law Practice Management & Technology Section for the State Bar of California. She is a member of the 3M Visual Privacy Advisory Council. See www.kuci.org/privacypiracy and www.identitytheft.org, or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org