Social media privacy: Taking control of your data

There are a number of social networking sites and tools available online, and most of us use at least one. While what you share on social media is your decision, what others choose to do with your information — once they have it — is out of your control.

Social media can leave a trail of personal information that you may not want to share with advertisers, analytics companies or people other than your connections. What you share online can leave you vulnerable and make stealing your identity easy!

Take charge of your personal safety with the following social media safety tips.

Things you should never share

Social networking means opening up and sharing information online with others, but to protect yourself from identity theft there are some things you should never share.

  • Your social security number (even just the last 4 digits)
  • Your birth date
  • Home address
  • Home phone number
  • And, protect all of your passwords, PIN numbers, bank account and credit card information

Customize privacy options

Do not simply accept the site’s default privacy settings. Take a look at what they are and explore options that best suit your needs. For example, do you want the entire Internet to see all of the pictures you post to the site, or only the people you choose to friend or connect with?

Social media sites are giving users more control over their privacy settings. Check out the settings, configuration and privacy sections to see what options you have to limit who and what groups can see various aspects of your personal information.

Search is a new area where users are gaining control of what others are allowed to see. Some sites let you set limits on who can see search results about you. Whether you’ve just joined, or have been a user for a while, make sure to log onto your account and view and adjust your privacy settings. And check periodically, since new settings are often added over time.

Choose your apps wisely

Many social media services offer apps—games, quizzes, etc. Use them wisely! In many cases, you agree to share personal information in exchange for access. You may not read the whole agreement, but make sure to take a look at what information the app collects and how it will be used. For example, does it require access to your social media history and account information? Does it share your information with others?

Limit work history details

Putting your full resume online is risky. Identity thieves can use the information to fill out loan applications, guess a password security question or attempt to gain access into your company’s network. If you feel you need the added information to help you find a job, expand the details only during the job search. After you’ve secured a job, remove the detailed information. Leave highlights of your resume online to entice recruiters for future positions.

Avoid accidentally sharing personal details

Try not to give too many details on what you are doing and where you are going. There are many features in social media sites that tell users where you are and what you are doing on any specific date and time. Like a Facebook Check In for example. Be aware of what information you put out there which others could use to piece together your habits and personal information, such as favorite places you visit. The more personal information an identity thief compiles about you, the easier it is to make you a victim.

Search yourself

Search your name and see what comes up. Check out your profile and see what others are seeing. Be aware of what shows up, what information is available to readers and then adjust your profile and settings to make sure you are only sharing what you want to. Should you find your name unexpectedly in locations you don’t frequent, it could indicate that someone else is using your identity online. Set up a search engine alert with your name, which emails you when your name is found in a new place online.

Understand how sites could use your information

Social networking sites are typically free. They collect information about you and share your information with marketers who target you to sell you products. Make sure you review the site’s privacy policy and watch closely over the privacy settings you can control.


© 2022/2018 The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company. All rights reserved. This article is for informational purposes only and does not modify or invalidate any of the provisions, exclusions, terms or conditions of the applicable policy and endorsements. For specific terms and conditions, please refer to the applicable coverage form.

Monique Ferraro

Monique is counsel in Munich Re’s US Cyber Practice at HSB. Previously, she was principal at a digital forensics, e-discovery and information security consulting firm and owner of a law firm. Ms. Ferraro is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional.


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