Most of us cherish our privacy. We don’t want to be read like an open book by just anyone. When we were kids, we took to heart our mothers’ warnings not to talk to strangers. But in a time when we’re all connected, thanks to the proliferation of social apps, are you still adhering to your mom’s advice?
It’s so easy to be sociable nowadays. Social apps let you share anything with a click of a mouse. Hit “send” and the world knows what you had for dinner at your favorite restaurant, that you just had coffee with your best friend, or that you’re about to take a two-week vacation to Hawaii.
“It’s interesting how much you are willing to tell people when you’re not face-to-face with them,” says Matt Shaffer, BendBroadband’s information security officer. “But once you share that information, you can’t get it back.”
Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and a host of other social apps are great tools to keep in touch with people near and far. Maybe you use them to let family and friends know what you’re up to. What’s the risk? We live in a perfectly safe place, right?
Shaffer points out that your geographical location has nothing to do with your online safety.
“You may feel safe because of where you live — the crime rate is low and you don’t have to worry about walking down the street at night,” Shaffer says. “But if you are connected, you run the same risk as somebody who lives in a big-city environment.”
It is easy to reverse-engineer a person from digital chatter. Start with a name, and it’s amazing what a little online sleuthing will turn up.
“It’s not your inner secrets either,” Shaffer says. “People can look at your LinkedIn profile and see your entire education and vocational history. Someone can figure out a lot of ways to exploit your life with that information in hand.”
Luckily, you can rein in the amount of information you share by being aware of how your social apps share your life’s highs and lows. It all comes down to fine-tuning the security settings in your apps.
“When you download a free social app, most security settings are set to the lowest denominator by default,” Shaffer says. “The best way to use a new app is to immediately go in and check all the privacy and content settings. ”
When you make an upgrade or agree to a change in user terms, make sure that those settings are still in place.
“Social media companies give you so much, but you have to agree to the end user agreement in order to use the app,” Shaffer says. “Companies can reset your privacy settings, as long as they notify you — and honestly, who has time to read the fine print?”
“It comes down to due diligence,” Shaffer says. “It is a personal responsibility to make sure that your life is as private as you want it to be. Privacy is not a five-things-to-do list that you check off to save yourself from future anguish. You need to be mindful of the kind of protection you give yourself.”