Social services such as Facebook, Google +, Twitter, YouTube and more, all have one purpose, right? They exist to connect you with people with whom you share interests and with whom you want to share ideas, right? Wrong.
While supporting you in making all kinds of social and business connections, social media networks are constantly collecting information about you, compiling it, and using it to create profiles for marketing purposes. That’s why they are free to us, but are highly profitable investments to their owners. Before you scream, you consented to this when you clicked the “agree” button on the sign up form — whether or not you read it.
So what can you do? Know what information you’re giving away.
- Go to your account settings and read what you’re telling the Internet. Do this for each service you use.
- On services where you have authorized third-party applications — particularly on Facebook and Twitter — go to the appropriate settings page and make sure you still want all those apps authorized to have access to your information. Delete or de-authorize those you no longer use (you may find some you never knew you used).
- Do an inventory of apps on your smart phone or iPod to ensure you’re only giving away information to companies you want to have it. Every app has access to a lot of information from your phone, but each made you aware of what they wanted when you installed the app.
- Do a thorough walk through of your privacy settings on each account. Ask yourself, if I post this status update as “public” or “friends of friends” am I comfortable with it coming up for the world to see? Public posts are captured by search engines. Who are your friend’s friends with anyway? What about your photos? Should the world see them? All the friends of all your friends?
- Lastly, regularly change your password. Use something unique. Use a different something unique for every single site. If you have trouble remembering them and don’t save them in your browser because that file can easily be compromised or deleted (hint, hint), use a good password management program.
I go through this process about once each year; more often if there are changes to the site (such as recently on Facebook).
There are no secrets on the internet. Everything is traceable. Sometimes that’s a-couple-of-clicks simple, while sometimes it takes legal action. The bottom line is this: People use social media for the price of information. It’s a mutual agreement, but you can spend your capital wisely.