Social media and privacy issues: A little less scare mongering, a little more common sense please

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[tweetmeme]There’s been a lot of buzz around the privacy issues attached to social media this week with the launch of It’s supposed to be a joke website, but with a serious message that’s got people in a bit of a tizz. It takes information from social media streams about where users are (or where they’re not, and in particular when they’re not at home) and tells robbers where to hit.

I’ve read countless posts on the dangers associated with this, but it appears a few people are missing something here.  Yes, jumping into social media networks without the appropriate privacy settings can put you at risk. But here’s the rub. YOU are in control of what information you share and who you share it with.

I use Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Foursquare and countless other tools. Am I worried about Of course not,  I have my privacy settings in place and am careful what I share and where I share it. The only platform that you can’t control who views your updates is Twitter, so apply a bit of common sense and only send tweets you’re willing to share with the world.  And for goodness sake don’t share Foursquare/Gowalla etc checkins there (to be honest, I’m not a fan of this anyway. I really don’t need to see where the people I’m following are in my Twitter stream. For that, I go to Foursquare – surely that’s the point?).

Foursquare came back with a measured response to the issue yesterday, which you can read here. I do think social networks could help allay fears by improving privacy controls and making it more obvious how important they are and how to set them up when users join . Hopefully the pleaserobme site will prompt more action on this. In the meantime, here’s some advice on privacy settings for those worried about it:

Google Buzz has an issue with contact lists becoming public when people first start using it. This is less about sharing location based information, but more about sharing your contact list (which opens a Pandoras Box of problems for those already using Google Mail). Detail here. How to change your settings here.

Facebook privacy settings. This is REALLY important. Make sure you change your settings otherwise a heck of a lot of stuff can be viewed outside of your friends. Advice on what to change here. In simple terms, click on account, privacy settings, ensure everything is set to be viewed by your friends only (there is a lot to go through, but stick with it). *Update* This post from Mashable just crossed my Twitter stream, thought I’d add that here too.

Foursquare. As you’ll see from Foursquare’s response, you can control who sees your updates. My advice is to not share it to Twitter as you have no control who views it. If you’re hell bent on sharing your location, share it to Facebook (once you’ve sorted your privacy settings there of course). You can change all this under Settings. Here’s a couple of pics of my settings as a guide (note, no mobile number shared). Although I have Facebook and Twitter linked, Im not automatically sharing anything to either (click pics to enlarge).

Gowalla.  I have an account here, but don’t use it as much as Foursquare. However, here’s a screen shot of the privacy page. If you’re using it, have a read and pop the privacy passport on.

Linked In. The privacy settings can be found at the top of your profile. Again, mine looks like this. But have a good read of each option and select what’s right for you.

As I use Linked In to network with professionals, I want my profile to be easily found and viewed. So again, I apply common sense and never share anything on Linked In that’s private. Im not an advocate of oversharing my status on Linked In as I don’t feel it’s appropriate for that platform. If I do share anything from Twitter, it’s likely to be useful advice rather than private information.

Twitter does have a privacy setting (the protect tweets option), however I don’t recommend this. For me Twitter is a tool to engage with others and this setting puts people off. As stated earlier, everyone can view your stream so be a little careful what you share. If you’re worried about sharing your location (or any other info). Don’t share it.

The general message here is: apply common sense. But I guess I’m also saying take responsibility for your social media profiles. They may seem light and fun, but if you don’t take them seriously when it comes to your privacy settings, you could come unstuck. Also be selective who becomes your friend, fan, connection etc. If you accept everyone and anyone without understanding who they are and if you should connect with them, you’re putting yourself at risk.

I hope that helps, but please let me know if I’ve missed anything. I’d love to know your thoughts.

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  1. DanielleJPhilly says:

    Nice work. Common sense is the key.

  2. Gemma Went says:

    Absolutely, but so often overlooked. Thanks Danielle

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