Social media privacy ASAP: 7 quick ways to improve your social media privacy
Social media was designed to make our personal lives more accessible. However, such widespread accessibility has led to decreased social media privacy over time.
Like other forms of internet privacy, the concept of privacy on social media has become increasingly more muddled. Maintaining privacy no longer comes down to restricting what you post. You also need to understand who — outside your group of friends and connections — has access to your personal information.
This includes the companies behind the social media platforms you use, as well as their advertisers, partners, and connected apps. By monitoring your profile and social media activity, these companies can gather your personal details, including information on your interests, habits, and occupation, and use it in ways you may not be comfortable with.
Here’s the good news, though: You don’t have to quit social media to preserve your privacy. There are several steps you can take to improve your privacy on the different platforms you use:
Limit the personal information you share
Close unused accounts
Customize your privacy settings
Unsync outside accounts
Restrict your location sharing
Install tracker blockers
Consider how these seven easy tips can help you restore your social media privacy fast.
The types of personal information collected
The purpose of collecting the personal information
Where the information is stored
How the information is shared or used
Reading handfuls of privacy policies may seem like a tedious task, but taking the time to understand your social media privacy rights can help you make more informed choices about which platforms you frequent and what types of information you provide.
2. Limit the personal information you share
One of the easiest ways to enhance your social media privacy is to limit the amount of personal information you share. Consider leaving “About Me” fields blank, and exercise caution when sharing sensitive details like your birthday and phone number.
Of course, each social media platform has a different purpose, so it’s helpful to consider how you interact with your favorite platforms before removing or editing your personal information. For example, if you use LinkedIn to find new work opportunities, it’s smart to include your email address and education details on your profile, though you probably don’t need to provide your birthday. Or, if you use Facebook strictly to connect with friends, consider deleting the email address, occupation, and hometown fields.
What you choose to share is up to you. You shouldn’t feel obligated to get rid of all personal details on your social media accounts, but removing sensitive information can help protect you in case of a data breach.
3. Use a tracker blocker
Another simple way to improve your social media privacy is to download a privacy app that has a tracker blocker. This type of tool prevents websites and third parties from monitoring your movements on social media. It works by hiding your digital activity from companies and advertisers, giving you more privacy and freedom from tracking and targeted ads.
4. Close unused accounts
According to a 2018 survey from the Pew Research Center, 69% of American adults said they use at least one social media platform — and many people use several. It’s common to have accounts on each of the four big platforms: Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.
While you may have multiple accounts open, though, you may not use each platform regularly or at all. And each separate account you maintain, whether or not you’re active on it, contains a wealth of personal information companies can collect and use for monetary gain.
If you haven’t used a particular social media platform in a long time, consider deleting your account to protect your social media privacy. This cuts down on the amount of personal information you have on the web, making it more difficult for companies to misuse that information.
5. Customize your privacy settings
When you create a social media account, you’re automatically assigned the platform’s default privacy settings. Unfortunately, these settings tend to be loose, setting you up for less privacy than you might want.
To guarantee yourself more privacy, make a point to review and adjust your privacy settings on each social media platform. On Facebook, for example, you can limit who sees your posts, prohibit people from searching for you using your email address or phone number, stop Facebook from sending you certain ads, and prevent search engines from linking to your profile.
Changing your privacy settings can help you exercise more control over who sees your personal information, prevent third parties from tracking your digital activity, and cut down on unwanted ads.
Keep in mind, though, that not every social media privacy setting is clearly marked as “Privacy.” Certain settings that affect privacy are labeled as “Ads,” “Tagging,” or “Apps” instead, so it’s a good idea to check each setting one by one.
6. Unsync outside accounts
It’s common to sign into online accounts using your Facebook or LinkedIn profiles. Syncing one of your social media accounts with an outside account — like an e-commerce store or newspaper subscription — makes logging in easier, but it also spreads your personal information further across the web. When two accounts are synced, both companies can access the personal information contained on either platform, limiting your social media privacy. At best, this can increase the number of targeted ads you receive; at worst, it can leave you more vulnerable to data breaches.
That’s why it’s crucial to check which accounts are synced to your social media profiles, then unsync them if necessary. You can usually find this information under your settings. On Facebook, for example, you can visit “Settings,” then click “Apps and Websites” to see a list of apps and sites you’ve used Facebook to log into. From there, you can either remove or edit these apps and accounts, then create new accounts separate from your social media profile.
7. Limit location sharing
Most social media platforms demand access to your location information, in part to connect you with more people and opportunities in your area. Sharing your location can be helpful when you’re searching for furniture on Facebook’s Marketplace, for example, or tagging a photo on Instagram.
However, you can’t guarantee how social media companies will use your location. Many companies use location information to create digital personas, send targeted ads, and tailor newsfeed content. Others sell location information to third parties. In fact, a 2018 report from The New York Times found at least 25 companies that sold users’ location information to businesses for targeted advertising reasons.
Reviewing and adjusting your location settings can help boost your social media privacy. You can typically find this information under “Settings” or “Privacy Settings.” You can also check the settings on your phone to disable location sharing on the mobile apps for your social media platforms.
Put privacy back in your hands
There’s always a slight privacy risk when you share your personal information on social media, but you shouldn’t have to settle for less than stellar social media privacy. Tools that give you more control over your personal information can help.
FigLeaf is an all-in-one privacy app that lets you choose your level of privacy on every social media platform you use. Not only can you discover what types of personal information you have scattered online, you can also prevent third parties from tracking your activity if you want to. The best part, though, is that you can browse, share, and connect on your terms.