Certainly, the advent of social networking sites allows businesses to connect with consumers in new and innovative ways, but with this increase in social sharing comes an equally greater risk of unintended information sharing. Chances are you’ve seen news stories about potential hires being passed over due to the discovery of impropriety via social networking site, or of employees let go because of a poorly-considered rant delivered on a public forum.
In this digital age, privacy matters. If you’re a part of any social networking site operating today, it’s important to understand the privacy settings that each site offers and take advantage of them to prevent your sensitive information from being unwittingly shared with the public.
Privacy Settings on Facebook
Facebook comes under fire quite often for changing the way it handles its privacy settings without notifying users about the true impact of these changes. And, to be honest, it’s really not a surprise that this controversy exists, as Facebook privacy settings are complicated by the fact that different privacy settings exist for every interaction on the site.
For example, want to share your status updates with everyone, but keep your personal contact information limited to just a few people? Want to enable third party apps to access certain information within your profile, but keep out those annoying Facebook game requests? Each of these set-ups is possible, but both require specific configurations of an already confusing system.
So for the purposes of this article, let’s cover a few of the most common privacy settings you’ll want to set on the site. If you have further questions or want to see if recent updates have been made or if a specific configuration can be set up, check out Facebook’s Basic Privacy Controls Help page.
To start, click on the “Account” menu in the upper right-hand corner, and then select “Privacy Settings” from the drop-down menu. On the privacy settings page, you’ll have the option of setting all of your privacy configurations to a default “Public” or a default “Friends” option. If you don’t want to protect anything, select the first radio button. If you want everything you share to be limited to your friends only, select the second button and you’re all set.
On the other hand, if you want to set specific elements of your profile to public while protecting some elements to share with your friends only, select the “Custom” radio button and choose from the list of categories below to edit specific settings.
In the “How You Connect” section, you’ll be able to change things like how people find you, who is able to post to your wall and who will be able to see information on your wall.
The “How Tags Work” section lets you control who is able to tag you in pictures, who can see pictures you’re tagged in and who is able to tag people in the pictures you post. If you prefer to opt out of the Facebook service that lets other people tag you in at physical locations, this is where you’ll go to change this setting.
The “Apps and Websites” section allows you to grant and revoke permissions for third party apps to interact with your profile. Although these apps can add extra functionality to your Facebook experience, it’s also possible that information shared with these sites could be compromised outside of Facebook’s strict privacy requirements.
If you’re new to Facebook, it’s a good idea to visit each of these menus and learn about the specific options available to you in-depth to be sure your information is secure on this social networking site.
Information Sharing on Twitter
Given the simplicity of communicating on Twitter, it’s no surprise that – compared to Facebook – Twitter’s privacy settings are easy to understand. When you first sign up for a Twitter account, you’ll have the option of making your tweets public or locking them down so that only approved viewers can read what you have to say. If you choose this “protected tweet” feature, other users won’t be able to re-tweet your messages
If you initially decide to make your tweets public but later want to switch to protected status, simply follow these steps:
In addition, Twitter offers the direct message feature, which enables you to send messages directly to Twitter users without the text of the message being visible to all users. If you want your general tweets to be public, but still want to share protected information with certain users, the direct message feature is a good way to achieve this goal.
Getting to Know the Google+ Privacy Settings
To get started, click on the gear icon in the upper right-hand corner of your Google+ account and click on “Google+ settings”. From there, you’ll be able to navigate to a “Profile and privacy” panel which will allow you to change which elements of your Google profile are viewable by others.
If you’re concerned about unintended information sharing, this is the place to lockdown your profile and ensure that only your trusted contacts are able to view your information. If you would prefer that your public profile and the information you share through it not be visible to the search engines, this is the place to adjust that setting as well.
Once you have your profile adjusted to reflect your preferred level of privacy, you’ll want to spend a little time organizing your contacts into circles. This way, when you share status updates in the future, you’ll be able to easily include some circles while leaving others out, effectively managing the privacy of the information you share.
General Social Networking Site Privacy Guidelines
But while it’s important to understand the specific settings each social networking site provides in order to manage your private information, it’s also important to use common sense when sharing information on these sites. Remember to stay up-to-date on any changes to social networking privacy policies, as these revisions may result in previously classified information your profiles from becoming public.
And finally, think of privacy on social networking sites in this way – if you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see it, chances are you probably shouldn’t be sharing it on a worldwide website in the first place! When in doubt – whether you’re conveying sensitive business information, personally-compromising pictures or simply regular status updates on your life – consider finding another venue in which to share your information.