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6 Ways Your Facebook Privacy Is Compromised | Sileo Group

One billion people worldwide use Facebook to share the details of their lives with their friends and may be unaware their Facebook Privacy could be compromised. Trouble is, they also might be unintentionally divulging matters they consider private to co-workers, clients and employers.

Worse yet, they may be sharing their privacy with marketing companies and even scammers, competitors and identity thieves. Luckily, with some Facebook privacy tips, you can help protect your account online.

Here are six ways Facebook could be compromising your private information and how to protect yourself:

 

1.  The new Timeline format brings old lapses in judgment back to light. Timeline, introduced in late 2011, makes it easy for people to search back through your old Facebook posts, something that was very difficult to do in the past. That could expose private matters and embarrassing photos that you’ve long since forgotten posting.

What to do: Review every entry on your Facebook timeline. To hide those you do not wish to be public, hold the cursor over the post, click the pencil icon that appears in the upper right corner, select “Edit or remove” then “Hide from timeline.” Being able to “revise” your history gives you a second chance to eliminate over-sharing or posts made in poor taste.

2.  Facebook third-party app providers can harvest personal details about you—even those you specifically told Facebook you wished to be private. Third-party apps are software applications available through Facebook but actually created by other companies. These include games and quizzes popular on Facebook like FarmVille and Words with Friends, plus applications like Skype, TripAdvisor and Yelp. Most Facebook apps are free—the companies that produce them make their money by harvesting personal details about users from their Facebook pages, then selling that information to advertisers. In other words, you are paying for the right to use Facebook using the currency of your personal information.

Many apps collect only fairly innocuous information—things like age, hometown and gender that are probably not secret. But others dig deep into Facebook data, even accessing information specifically designated as private.

Example: A recent study found that several Facebook quiz game apps collected religious affiliations, political leanings and sexual orientations. Many Facebook apps also dig up personal info from our friends’ Facebook pages—even if those friends don’t use the apps. There’s no guarantee that the app providers will sufficiently safeguard our personal information and there are numerous instances where they have done just the opposite.

What to do: Read user agreements and privacy policies carefully to understand what information you are agreeing to share before signing up for any app. The free Internet tool Privacyscore is one way to evaluate the privacy policies of the apps you currently use (www.facebook.com/privacyscore), but remember that it is provided by the very company that is collecting all of your data. You also can tighten privacy settings. In “Facebook Privacy Settings,” scroll down to “Ads, Apps and Websites,” then click “Edit Settings.” Find “Apps You Use” and click “Edit Settings” again to see your privacy options. And be sure to delete any apps you don’t use. While you are in the privacy settings, take a spin around to find out other data you are sharing that might compromise your privacy.

3.  Facebook “like” buttons are spying on you—even when you don’t click them. Each time you click a “like” button on a Web site, you broadcast your interest in a subject not just to your Facebook friends but also to Facebook and its advertising partners.

Example: Repeatedly “like” articles in a publication with a specific political viewpoint, and Facebook advertisers might figure out how you vote.

Not clicking “like” buttons won’t free you from this invasion of privacy. If you’re a Facebook user and you visit a Webpage that has a “like” button, Facebook will record that you visited even if you don’t click “like.” Facebook claims to keep Web browsing habits private, but once information is collected, there’s no guarantee that it won’t get out.

Example: If an insurance company purchases this data, it might discover that someone applying for health coverage has visited Web pages about an expensive-to-treat medical disorder. The insurer might then find an excuse to deny this person coverage, or to raise their rates substantially.

What to do: One way to prevent Facebook from knowing where you go online is to set your Web browser to block all cookies. Each browser has a different procedure for doing this, and it will mean that you will have to re-enter your user ID and password each time you visit certain Web sites.

Another option is to browse the web in “InPrivate Browsing” mode (Internet Explorer), “Incognito” mode (Google Chrome) or “Private Browsing” mode (Firefox and Safari), which seems to be a less intrusive way to raise your privacy levels.

Less conveniently, you could log out of Facebook and select “delete all cookies” from your browser’s privacy settings before visiting Web sites you don’t want Facebook to know about. There are also free plug-ins available to prevent Facebook from tracking you around the Internet, such as Facebook Blocker (webgraph.com/resources/facebookblocker).

4.  Social readers” tell your Facebook friends too much about your reading habits. Some sites, including the Washington Post and England’s The Guardian, offer “Social Reader” Facebook tools. If you sign up for one, it will tell your Facebook friends what articles you read on the site, sparking interesting discussions.

The problem: excessive sharing. The tools don’t share articles with your Facebook friends only when you click a “like” button, they share everything you read on the site. Your Facebook friends likely will feel buried under a flood of shared articles, and you might be embarrassed by what the social reader tells your friends about your reading habits.

What to do: If you’ve signed up for a social reader app, delete it. In Facebook privacy settings, choose “Apps you use,” click “Edit Settings,” locate the social reader app, then click the “X” and follow the directions to delete.

5.  Photo and video tags let others see you in unflattering and unprofessional situations. If you work for a straight-laced employer, work with conservative clients or are in the job market, you may already realize that it’s unwise to post pictures of yourself in unprofessional and possibly embarrassing situations.

But you may fail to consider that pictures other people post of you can also hurt you.

A Facebook feature called photo tags has dramatically increased this risk. The tags make it easy for Facebook users to identify by name the people in photos they post—Facebook even helps make the IDs—then link these photos to the Facebook pages of all Facebook users pictured.

What to do: Untag yourself from unflattering photos by using the “remove” option on these posts. Arrange to review all future photos you’re tagged in before they appear on your Facebook Timeline by selecting “Timeline and Tagging” in Facebook’s Privacy Settings menu, clicking “Edit settings,” then enabling “Review posts friends tag you in before they appear on your timeline”. Better yet, ask your friends and family not to post pictures of you without your permission. Be sure to extend the same courtesy to them by asking whether or not they mind you tagging them in a photo.

6.  Our Facebook friends—and those friends’ friends—offer clues to our own interests and activities. Even if you’re careful not to provide sensitive information about yourself on Facebook, those details could be exposed by the company you keep.

Example: A 2009 MIT study found it was possible to determine with great accuracy whether a man was gay based on factors including the percentage of his Facebook friends who were openly gay—even if this man did not disclose his sexual orientation himself.

Sexual orientation isn’t the only potential privacy issue. If several of your Facebook friends list a potentially risky or unhealthy activity, such as motorcycling, cigar smoking or bar hopping among their interests—or include posts or pictures of themselves pursuing this interest—an insurer, college admissions officer, employer or potential employer might conclude that you likely enjoy this pursuit yourself.

What to do: Take a close look at the interests and activities mentioned by your Facebook friends on their pages. If more than a few of them discuss a dangerous hobby, glory in unprofessional behavior, or are open about matters of sexual orientation or political or religious belief that you consider private, it might be wise to either remove most or all of these people from your friends list, or at least make your friends list private. Click the “Friends” unit under the cover photo on your Facebook page, click “Edit,” then select “Only Me” from the drop-down menu.

Most of all, remember that Facebook and other social networking sites are social by nature, which means that they are designed to share information with others. The responsibility to protect your personal and private information doesn’t just fall on the social networks; it is also up to you.  Following these Facebook privacy tips can help you succeed in keeping your most personal information safe. 

John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.

Some Simple Steps to Social Media Privacy

When was the last time you checked your privacy settings on your social media profiles? Being aware of the information you share is a critical step in securing your online identity. Below we’ve outlined some of the top social media sites and what you can do today to help keep your personal information safe.

FACEBOOK Social Media Privacy

Click the padlock icon in the upper right corner of Facebook, and run a Privacy
Checkup. This will walk you through three simple steps:

  • Who you share status updates with
  • A list of the apps that are connected to your Facebook page
  • How personal information from your profile is shared.

As a rule of thumb, we recommend your Facebook Privacy setting be set to “Friends Only” to avoid sharing your information with strangers. You can confirm that all of your future posts will be visible to “Friends Only” by reselecting the padlock and clicking “Who can see my stuff?” then select “What do other people see on my timeline” and review the differences between your public and friends only profile. Oh, and don’t post anything stupid!

TWITTER Social Media Privacy

Click on your profile picture. Select settings. From here you will see about 15 areas on the left-hand side. It’s worth it to take the time to go through each of them and select what works for you. We especially recommend spending time in the “Security and Privacy” section where you should:

  • Enable login verification. Yes, it’s an extra step to access your account, but it provides increased protection against unauthorized access of your account.
  • Require personal information whenever a password reset request is made. It’s not foolproof, but this setting will at least force a hacker to find out your associated email address or phone number if they attempt to reset your password.
  • Determine how private you want your tweets to be. You can limit who (if anybody) is allowed to tag you in photos and limit your posts to just those you follow.
  • Turn off the option called “Add a location to my Tweets”.
  • Uncheck the options that allow others to find you via email address or phone number.
  • Finally, go to the Apps section and check out which third-party apps you’ve allowed access to your Twitter account (and in some cases, post on your behalf) and revoke access to anything that seems unfamiliar or anything that you know you don’t use anymore.

Oh, and don’t post anything stupid!

INSTAGRAM Social Media Privacy

The default setting on Instagram is public, which means that anyone can see the pictures you post. If you don’t want to share your private photos with everyone, you can easily make your Instagram account private by following the steps below. NOTE: you must use your smartphone to change your profile settings; it does not work from the website.

  • Tap on your profile icon (picture of person), then the gear icon* to the right of your name.
  • Select Private Account. Now only people you approve can see your photos and videos.
  • Spend some time considering which linked accounts you want to keep and who can push notifications to you.

*Icons differ slightly depending on your smartphone. Visit the Instagram site for specifics and for more in depth controls.

Oh, and don’t post anything stupid!

SNAPCHAT Social Media Privacy

Snapchat’s settings are really basic, but there’s one setting that can help a lot: If you don’t want just anybody sending you photos or videos, make sure you’re using the default setting to only accept incoming pictures from “My Friends.”  By default, only users you add to your friends list can send you Snaps. If a Snapchatter you haven’t added as a friend tries to send you a Snap, you’ll receive a notification that they added you, but you will not receive the Snap they sent unless you add them to your friends list.  Here are some other easy tips for this site:

  • If you want to change who can send you snaps or view your story, click the snapchat icon and then the gear (settings) icon in the top right hand corner. Scroll down to the “Who can…” section and make your selections.
  • Like all services, make sure you have a strong and unique password.
  • Remember, there are ways to do a screen capture to save and recover images, so no one should develop a false sense of “security” about that.

In other words, (all together now) don’t post anything stupid!

A Final Tip: The privacy settings for social media sites change frequently. Check in at least once a month to ensure your privacy settings are still as secure as possible and no changes have been made.

John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.

Internet Privacy & Kids: Social Network Monitoring in Schools

librarians-watching computer useSocial network monitoring becomes big business. Fresh off the heels of learning that the NSA has been gleaning data about us using information found on social networking sites comes the news that a school district in California is paying a monitoring service to watch and report on what students are posting on sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Glendale Unified School District is paying $40,000 over the next year to a company called Geo Listening to monitor its students’ social media activity.  This program was introduced after one of their students, 15-year-old Drew Ferraro, committed suicide by jumping from the roof of Crescenta Valley High School.  It started as a pilot project in three schools last year and is now being rolled out to all middle and high schools across the district.

Glendale is not the first school system to use monitoring services.  They are used fairly commonly at the college level.  Louisville and Kentucky use a social media monitoring system with their athletes that flags words for coaches that relate to drugs, sex or alcohol and they also have access to all of the athletes’ photos and videos.  (LSU, Florida, Texas A&M, Texas, Missouri, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Auburn, Baylor and New Mexico are among the other schools that use similar monitoring methods).

 

Mount Wachusett Community College was one of the first schools to monitor social media on a dedicated level and was recognized for being proactive by the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations.  Robin Duncan, vice president for marketing and communication at MWCC says simply, “If you don’t have someone paying attention to your new media … you’re being negligent.”

In Indiana, a high school senior, Austin Carroll, was expelled from Garrett High School and forced to enroll at an alternate school to get his diploma for a profanity-laden tweet that was flagged by his school’s social media monitoring system.  Many schools that don’t pay for a monitoring service still task their administrators with doing it.

So, while it’s nothing new for schools to monitor their students’ communications (I recall having a few notes intercepted and read by my teachers), it begs some questions:

  • Who should be in charge of monitoring our kids?
  • How much privacy should kids be allowed?
  • To what extent should schools be involved?

The answers are not straight-forward.  When daily reports of government surveillance cause a public outcry over privacy issues, we want to extend those same privileges to our kids.  Yet, there are cases like the Ohio school shooter, T.J. Lane, who killed three classmates and wounded others.  Lane had posted chilling comments on Facebook a few months before and tweeted the morning of the shooting that he was bringing a gun to school.  It was right there, publicly posted, yet no one knew to stop him.

It’s easy to blame the schools, to blame the district, to blame someone else, but as parents, WE should be the ones to monitor our kids’ posts…

  • WE need to remind them that all posts are permanent, public and exploitable – forever.
  • WE need to look for warning signs of violent intentions toward self or others, substance abuse, bullying…
  • WE need to get off our own Facebook pages and check in on our kids.
  • We need to have engaging, heart-to-heart conversations with our kids so that they feel we are the ones to reach out to when the dark days come.

The truth, however, is that some (okay-most) parents don’t do it.  As with countless other issues that we have come to expect our schools to teach (sex education, drug resistance, anti-bullying), keeping up with social media is something most parents aren’t comfortable with, don’t understand completely, or just don’t want to deal with. And that unwillingness has disastrous consequences for kids who are troubled, in trouble, or the victim of another troubled child.

Ralph Hicks, superintendent of Ashburnham-Westminster Regional School District in Massachusetts, explains that the legal doctrine “in loco parentis,” which is Latin for “in place of a parent” allows school officials to interfere in the lives of students only in issues involving the school.  More and more, that definition involves anything said about the school (or students and staff) whether the communication occurs on campus or not.

Parents (and students) who think that this monitoring is a violation of their kid’s privacy should remember that EVERYTHING BEING MONITORED IS ALREADY PUBLICSchools aren’t breaking into your child’s Facebook account, they are simply monitoring what everyone else on the Internet can see. And if it saves a life, thwarts a bully, or rescues a child in need, it’s worth it. 

John Sileo is a keynote speaker on Internet Privacy and CEO of  The Sileo Group, a think tank that trains organizations to harness the power of their digital footprint. Sileo’s clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security and businesses looking to protect the information that makes them profitable.

Summer School for Parents: Protecting Your Kids' Social Media Privacy

girls phones summerSchool is out for the summer and the tasks that often fall upon the shoulders of your local schools are now sitting squarely on yours.   In addition to making sure your kids practice their math facts, read regularly and get plenty of exercise, you’ll want to watch out for how they spend their free time when it comes to using Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and other sites that can expose their social media privacy.

Social Media refers to web-based and mobile applications that allow individuals and organizations to create, engage, and share new user-generated or existing content in digital environments through multi-way communication.  Okay, that’s too technical. Social media is the use of Internet tools to communicate with a broader group. Some of the most common examples are listed above.  If you have elementary aged children, they may use more secure, school-controlled forms such as Schoology, Edmodo or Club Penguin, but if your kids are older, I can almost guarantee they’re into Social Media sites whether you know if or not.

Statistics show that 73% of online adolescents visit social networking sites daily and two billion video clips are watched daily on YouTube.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recently conducted a study that found that 22 percent of teenagers log onto their favorite social media sites more than 10 times a day, and that 75 percent own cell phones.

So, how do you battle such a time-consuming, captivating influence over your children?  You don’t, because you won’t win!  Instead you look at social media privacy best practices that schools implement and do the same at home.

  • Expect the Internet to be used appropriately and responsibly and set agreements and consequences with your children if it is not.  The Family Online Safety Institute can guide your discussion and even provide a contract.
  • Expand your typical discussions about strangers to include social media
    • Don’t accept unknown friend requests
    • Don’t give out personal info – specifically: last name, phone number, address, birthdate, pictures, password, location
  • Warn kids about the dangers of clicking on pop-up ads or links with tempting offers, fun contests, or interesting questionnaires, even if they’re sent from a friend.  They may really want that free iPad being offered, but chances are it’s just a way for someone to glean their personal information.
  • Monitor the information your kids give out and their use of sites; let your children know they should have no expectation of privacy.  (Make that part of your contract.)  You can also install filtering software to monitor their social media use and even their cell phones.  A few popular ones are Net Nanny and PureSight PC to help keep your child safe online and My Mobile Watchdog to help with monitoring their cell phones.
  • Check your privacy settings for all Internet sites and make sure they are set to the strictest levels.
  • Remind your child that once it’s published, social media is public, permanent, and exploitable forever- even when “deleted”
  • If your children are not 13, keep them off of Facebook since that is their stated age limit. There are plenty of reasons, not the least of which involves the emotional repercussions of being “unfriended” or cyber bullied.  When they are ready, have your children read and study the actual Facebook user agreement and privacy policy and discuss it with them.
  • Set limits on social networking time and cell phone time, just as you would for TV hours. Many families limit total screen time, which includes everything from computers, iPads, smartphones, and video games to our old fashioned notion of television.
  • Be a good example yourself.  Monitor your own amount of time spent online and seek to find a balance of activities. When you are on you iPhone at dinner, you are letting your kids know that this is acceptable behavior.
  • Monitor your child’s activities and try to stay educated about the latest platforms!

Social Media can be a positive way for kids to continue to develop friendships while they’re home for the summer and to feel like they’re connected to a community that matters more to them than anything.  But there are risks that come with it and it’s your job as a parent to protect them from those risks just as surely as you keep them from taking candy from a stranger

Social networking has an addictive component because dopamine (a natural feel-good drug produced by the body) is released anytime we talk about ourselves. And what is social networking if not a constant exposé of what is happening in our lives? Just make sure you know what is happening in your child’s life, even in the more relaxed months of summer.

John Sileo is an online privacy expert and professional speaker on social media privacy. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer, Visa, and Homeland Security. See his recent media appearances on 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper and Fox Business.