Protecting our privacy on social media

You are concerned about how the use of online social media is eroding your privacy. What measures can you take? Here are a few possibilities. You can choose more than one.

  1. Stop using online social media: you will enjoy none of the benefits of social media and suffer none of the drawbacks.
  2. Use social media that is built for privacy. There exists at least one social network (Diaspora– I do not endorse it) that claims to have such aims. I once came across a write-up that said that users of Facebook would be willing to pay a sum to use it rather than have advertisements served to them. The problem is that a subscription will automatically limit the number of users to the network. The value of the network (to users and to the owners) increases in proportion to the number of users. Any entry barrier is value reducing. It works only if you have a close-knit group who are accepting of the desire to share things merely among themselves.
  3. Lock down your privacy controls. See these posts on network-specific information on Facebook and LinkedIn.
  4. Avoid putting any information that you do not want your grandmother to read – the golden rule of social media. You do not have control of what your connections do with information that you have uploaded. Even if a post is privacy restricted, your connections are free to quote you or take screenshots of your posts and post them elsewhere. Do not display your date of birth and other private information that may be used as identity verification measures at banks and such.
  5. Separate social media and other browsing. Log in to your social media using one browser. Do all other browsing using another browser. Set your browser to automatically clear the browser cache each time you close it. The social network will have slightly less knowledge about what you do and are interested in and is unlikely to serve you advertisements for that vacation that you are planning to Bali in a few weeks. Note that if you click on any links within the social network, it will know.
  6. Reconsider the use of phone apps. Look at all the permissions that the app requests when you install it on your phone and consider whether you can indeed tolerate them. It can be hard to not use some apps as most of our social media usage may be on the phone. At the same time, if we do not use the app on our phones, the network has no access to the information in our phones. I have been most concerned about this when using LinkedIn and have (for now) removed the app. Given how much I use it, removing the Facebook app is unthinkable for me at the moment.
  7. Stop posting new things; just use it for getting information about other people. This would put you in the creepy or inactive person category. Some people may not accept connections from people who have no activity, particularly on Facebook.

Also see my previous post: Why do we have so many privacy concerns regarding the internet?