Tips for guarding your personal information and online privacy

A January 2012 report from comScore – an internet technology company that measures what people do as they navigate the digital world – found that 100% of universities and colleges are now using some form of social media. Ninety-eighty percent of schools are using Facebook, while 86% use YouTube and 84% use Twitter.

Social media use accounts for 19% of all time spent online, a 13% increase from the 6% reported in 2007. As social media becomes more of an integral part of modern society, it is important keep your personal privacy and online safety in mind.

The following five safety tips from the Department of Homeland Security’s United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) provide insights into how to stay safe while embracing the new age of modern technology and communications.

Social media safety tips
• Limit the amount of personal information you post online.
• Remember that the Internet is a public resource.
• Be cautious of strangers.
• Evaluate your account settings.
• Check privacy policies

Limit the amount of personal information you post online
Do not post information that makes you vulnerable, including your address or information about your schedule. Also be sure that your friends do not post information about you that you are not comfortable with or could impair your safety in any way. If you wouldn’t post it, they shouldn’t.

Remember that the Internet is a public resource
Only post information and photos that you are comfortable with anyone seeing.

Be cautious of strangers
The Internet makes it easy for anyone to misrepresent their identities and motives.

Evaluate your account settings
Take advantage of a social media site’s privacy settings to guard yourself. The default settings for most social network sites – including Google – generally allow anyone to see your profile. Fortunately you can customize your settings to restrict access to certain people or groups of people.

Check privacy policies
Some social media sites share information such as e-mail addresses or user preferences with third-party companies. In most cases you can set your account to block such sharing. However, in some cases, this is not an option and comes as a cost of using certain social media networks. As an emerging market, social media sites may change their privacy policies more frequently, often resetting your preferences, so stay aware of these changes to maintain optimum privacy. If you are uncomfortable with these policies, some sites offer a way to suspend or terminate your profile.

In service,
Shawn Cisna, M.A.

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