Privacy and Security Issues When Using Social Networks

networkQ: I liked your post about staying safe when shopping online. Do you have any advice for security relating to social networking sites? Friends of mine have told me some horror stories!

When you’re using social networks like Facebook and Twitter, you’ll want to be careful what you post because your words can quickly become much more public than you may have intended. In addition, be aware of unscrupulous individuals who try to take advantage of you. This post will share a few specific tips you’ll want to keep in mind.

Understand the privacy issues at stake on Facebook and Twitter

• Although Facebook and Twitter might feel like a secure space just for friends, be aware that anything you post could become public. Don’t post anything that you aren’t comfortable sharing with the world, and don’t expect to be able to completely erase something later. In most cases, it still can be found.

• Social networking services are free because your personal information is collected and used to deliver targeted ads from third-parties. (This is especially the case with Facebook, which is now a public company with a responsibility to its shareholders to increase profits.) Read the terms of service to see if you feel comfortable giving up some privacy in exchange for using the website.

Watch out for rogue applications and hackers

• If you’re going to play a game, take a quiz or install another app, read exactly how much account access you’re granting. Some apps will post for you frequently without your knowing, which might annoy friends. Others might harvest your contacts and send spam, which will definitely annoy them and may put their computers in danger.

• If you see a post or message from a friend that doesn’t sound like them, such as an invitation for a free iPad, be aware that they’ve probably been hacked. Do not follow any links they send you, as they could lead to websites hosting malware.

• Don’t accept friends you don’t personally know, as they could be stealth marketers pushing products or services or even identity thieves after your personal data.

andrew walshAndrew Walsh is the owner and editor of Social Web Q and A. He is a freelance writer, academic librarian and web entrepreneur. Check out his book Savvy for the Social Web.

Photo credit: spekulator


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  1. I like the article! Truly that Online community services are sometimes considered as a social network service, though in a broader sense, social network service usually means an individual-centered service whereas online community services are group-centered. Social networking sites allow users to share ideas, activities, events, and interests within their individual networks. 🙂

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