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Tips for Safer Social Networking

  • Assume that the personal information and photos you display are available to everyone and anyone, not just to your friends.
  • Do not display your full birth date. Listing month, day, and year makes you an easy target for identity thieves who can potentially gain access to bank and credit card accounts. Show only the month and day, or even better, no birthday at all.
  • To protect children from online predators, do not post a child's name in a photo tag or caption. If someone else does, delete it if you can, or ask the member who owns the photo to remove the name.
  • Do not mention being away from home. Doing so is like putting a, "Nobody's Home," sign on your front door.
  • Restrict searches for your information. Find out what your options are for restricting public searches. At a minimum, you should be able to prevent your information from being searched for by anyone other than your designated online friends.
  • Do not permit youngsters to use social networks unsupervised. If there's a child in your household with a social networking account, an adult in the household should become one of their online friends. Use the adult’s email address as the contact for the account in order to monitor their activities.
  • Think about whom you are allowing to become your online friend. They will have access to a lot of information about you.
  • Be sure to have an up-to-date internet browser, anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-phishing, and firewall software.
  • Adjust your privacy settings to help protect your privacy, and to be aware that they change over time.
  • Make only a slim version of your profile visible to everyone. Reveal the rest of the information only to people you know and trust.
  • Disable unfamiliar options until you understand what they do and have decided that you do need and want them.
  • Join groups and networks cautiously. Assume that all members of a group will be able to see all of your information unless and until you restrict access to it deliberately.
  • Understand what happens when you quit the site. It's usually easy to deactivate your account, but some sites, like Facebook, will retain all your information including pictures, friends, etc. even if you do. Find out how you can delete all of your information. You may have to request that the operators of the site delete it for you. When quitting Facebook, you must submit a deletion request, and that, too, comes with some gotchas. There will be a delay of unspecified length between submitting your delete request and the actual deletion. If you login to Facebook after submitting your request, your deletion request will be cancelled automatically. There's no easy way to confirm that your deletion request has been completed. Even after deletion, copies of your photos may remain on Facebook servers for technical reasons.

Here are some helpful links specific to some of the more popular social networking sites: