Don’t Take It Personally: Tips for Making Social Media Sites Secure Places

Don’t Take It Personally: Tips for Making Social Media Sites Secure Places

Facebook Bad Attitude

I've been in a snit for the last several days, which by definition is "a state of agitated irritation." I don't really have any precise reason for this agitated irritation. I just am. In fact, I'm even irritated about being irritated. This state of mind makes me a lousy parent and spouse, and causes me to want to label these last few days with #fail. For you non-Twitter tweeps, # is Twitterese for the subject of your tweet. However, while in this snit, it's best if I stay a safe distance from any social media sites. I certainly would not want to say anything that I would regret or was just plain rude just because I happen to be in this state of agitated irritation.

I try to be kind, supportive and informative in all my social media interactions (and in other circumstance too). I believe my energy is better spent being that kind of person on the social networking sites rather than being crabby, argumentative, up on a soapbox or poking fun at someone or something. So, clearly I better steer clear of social networking until I get out from under this bad attitude.

Think Before You Click: Tips

Unfortunately, there are many who don't think before they hit enter and end up saying something they didn't mean, or worse, saying something they did mean and shouldn't have posted for all to see. If you use any of the social networking sites to connect with friends, co-workers, family, friends of friends or even strangers, there are a number of considerations to review before you strike out on the wide open road of the information super highway: security settings; the nature of what you are posting; who can see what you are posting; and how it can be used.

Some of these tips probably go without saying, but are still worth a reminding:

  1. Check your security settings. Make sure they are at the level you desire and you are clear on what that level means;
  2. On that note, be sure you understand the social media policy of the networking site you are using, and check the frequent changes in policy;
  3. Carefully consider what contact and personal information you put on your page, even if you think it's in an area that is confidential or seen only by your "friends";
  4. Never put your phone number, address, Social Security number, credit card information or other sensitive information on your profile or in any post;
  5. Never disparage anyone online. It's rude and it could come back to bite you;
  6. Post as if someone you don't know and/or have not "friended" is lurking, watching what you are posting;
  7. Never post information about being out of town or your location. This leaves you and your home vulnerable to break-ins, etc.;
  8. Check your facts and news sources before posting links to information;
  9. Don't trust strangers; it may sound trite to say, but it's true. You don't know who is truly behind the avatar and profile.
  10. It's probably best not to tweet and drink or to tweet in the heat of the moment; even if you delete your tweet or post, others have seen it and may have shared it;
  11. Be choosy about what you click; it could be spam even if it comes from a "trusted friend";
  12. Create smart and tough passwords;
  13. Check any apps you choose to use with your smart phone or on your computer by Googling it before downloading and providing passwords for it;
  14. Use prudence when posting photos of yourself and others, especially your children;
  15. Don't post information about your children that they will regret; and
  16. Don't leave your kids vulnerable to identity theft by posting their full names, birthdates, birth location, etc.


Big Brother

As I pointed out in Monday's post, at least two courts have ruled that social networking site passwords and information found on a person's profile and page(s) are discoverable and are not confidential or private. This question will continue to come before the courts as our laws and court procedures get caught up with our technologically savvy world, and those courts will be looking at the precedent set by the New York and Pennsylvania courts, as well as others.

Other government agencies are using the social networking sites for their own purposes. According to an article by Jaikumar Vijayan on Computer World, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit has been filed against the IRS, Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense, CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence because there's evidence that these agencies are using social networking sites for their investigations. "The goal in getting the government to disclose its policies related to such practices is to foster a dialogue on the appropriate use of social networking sites in criminal investigations," said Shane Witnov, a law student and spokesman for the lawsuit at the Samuelson Law, Technology and Public Policy Clinic.

Local law enforcement agencies also use social media to track down fugitives on the lam, sexual predators, scammers, etc. Certainly it's a good thing for persons committing crimes to be caught or those crimes thwarted by law enforcement's stealthy investigations, but it's quite another if the IRS is quietly gathering information to be used against a taxpayer even though its own policy forbids it.

Witnov went on to say, "There is a balance between privacy and protecting ourselves from crime… There are instances where the seriousness of a crime might override privacy rights. But there need to be guidelines on when and how information from social networking sites can be collected."

Of course, government agencies aren't the only ones collecting information: advertisers, third party software developers, identity thieves, and other online criminals also troll social media sites for personal information.


The Scoop

The trick is to always be conscious that it's a safe guess that you and the person you are conversing with on one of the social network sites are not the only two seeing this conversation. Be prudent and a bit paranoid about what you post, both in words and in photos. And be kind. Just because you can't see and may never actually meet the person you are talking to or about, that doesn't give you or anyone else license to bully, threaten or hurt feelings. That's not the purpose of social media. The point is to bring people together; to network; to build and/or maintain relationships; to discuss ideas and information. On Friday, I will post a bit of Motherly Advice. Over and out…


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