Online Safety Tips by Deb Lee
Hello, my name is Deb and I’m addicted to technology. That may sound like a joke — and it is — but it’s also true! I love my smartphone and apps, though I must admit that I’m fickle as well. I always seem to be in search of the next great app that will help me be more productive or make running my company a little easier. As a small business owner and someone who teaches other entrepreneurs about small business tech tools, my addiction to tech has been very helpful.
Did I also mention that I’m nuts about social media? Social networks can help entrepreneurs and start ups gain needed exposure at a very low (or no) cost. And, there really is only way to learn about the ins and outs of any social network — you have to jump right in! You really do need to immerse yourself and get your feet wet to learn the lay of the land.
While all this online social activity can be great for your small business, it can be a bit of a double-edged sword. Not only can it be time consuming (even if you use Hootsuite or another automated service), but it can also come with a some unwanted attention from unsavory types who don’t have your best interest in mind. Does that mean you should stop using social media to promote your company? No, it doesn’t, but there are four specific things you can do to keep your personal information secure and be safer while being social online.
1. Keep your personal information under wraps.
When you’re at a networking event and you meet someone in person for the first time, you probably don’t share your financial details or tax identification number or where you live with turn-by-turn directions. This rule of thumb holds true with your online interactions as well. Don’t keep your date of birth and full mailing address visible on your online profiles. Some social networks give you the option of checking a box to show or hide this info, so have a look at your accounts to make sure you’re not sharing more than you should be.
2. Be selective about your check ins.
If you travel for work or have regular speaking engagements, you might use Foursquare or Facebook Places to “check in” to your location. Doing this lets the people you’re connected with on those networks know what you’re up to and where you are (by tagging your geographical location). Unfortunately, this is also the drawback. By announcing your whereabouts, you also give others a peek into your life as well as the places you like to visit (especially, if you check in to non-work places).
You might also be sharing your precise location, not only with your friends, but with a larger (unknown) audience. That may seem harmless, but if your geotagging network is connected to your Twitter* or Facebook account, you could be sharing lots of sensitive information about yourself. That, coupled with your exact whereabouts, is not what you want to have in the hands of people you don’t know and trust. So, think about unlinking Foursquare from both Twitter and Facebook.
While you’re at it, consider disconnecting Twitter from Facebook, too. That way, you’ll won’t share the same exact content on both channels (varied content means you can have happy followers on both networks), and you won’t connect what you do on Twitter with your personal Facebook page. To unlink your Twitter account from Facebook, head on over to https://www.facebook.com/ (you’ll need to log in using your Facebook user name and password). If your accounts are linked, click on the “Unlink from Twitter” button to disconnect them.
*Note: the geotagging feature (known as Tweet Location) is off by default on Twitter, but you should double check your settings to be sure.
3. Remove geotags from photos.
When you use photo sharing sites like Flickr and Instagram, your photos can be tagged with your location. Both services offer a photo map feature which means that each time you take a picture, it will be added to a map that pinpoints the place you took that picture. And, by default, anyone can view them. Consider adjusting your privacy settings so that only your approved connections can see those snapshots. You can also add another layer of privacy by removing your photos from Google search (see this help document).
If sharing photos is integral your business (photography, food bloggers, fashion, etc.), you might want to create a separate business account so you can keep your personal stuff private. You can still remove the geotags and share to your heart’s content.
Also, each time you take a photo with the camera on your smartphone, a geotag is included (not on the actual picture…it hangs about behind the scenes in the metadata). So, when you share it online, that bit of information gets passed along, too. Though you can’t see it, there are ways to extract it. Keep in mind that there are other apps on your smartphone that can share your location as well. You can turn off location services altogether or you can allow it for certain apps only. Check your the settings on your smartphone (iPhone users, see below) to make the necessary adjustments.
4. Limit who sees what on your social networks.
As I mentioned before, when your social networks are connected, you might be sharing a lot more information than you realize and with more people than you intend. So, take a minute to update your privacy settings for all the networks that you use. If you’re a Facebook user, consider limiting access to your personal profile, images, and status updates to friends only (or friends of friends, if you’re comfortable with that). Facebook also allows you to limit who can see your past posts. That said, the one gray area here is when people tag you or you tag them in photos and updates. Unless they have adjusted their privacy settings, those photos and updates will be visible to their friends, even the ones that are not mutual connections.
You can also make your Twitter profile private and manually approve each person who wants to connect with you. Doing this, however, can limit your ability to share valuable information with your followers and interact with influencers (because they won’t be able to follow you). Instead, consider using the blocking feature to weed out spammers and stop them from following you.