Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Google+, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Tinder, LinkedIn and other social networks have become an integral part of daily lives. At the click of a mouse, you can make friends, support social causes and send photos, however, the impulse to share can cause us to inadvertently expose ourselves in ways that can compromise our safety and security, and possibly our reputations.

“Social media makes it easier for someone to locate and track a potential victim's every move. Seemingly innocuous personal tidbits collected over time often add up to a picture of who you are, where you work, live and socialise, and what your habits are - all valuable information,” says 1st for Women Insurance’s Executive Head, Robyn Farrell. “It’s very important to be careful how much personal information you divulge on social media or it can make you bait for criminals or stalkers.”

Damaging your professional reputation is another danger. If you’re not careful of what you say or cautious about the pictures you post online, you could pay a hefty price.

“According to recent research on, 62% of employers use the Internet to discover additional information about a job candidate.  With this in mind, always think before you tweet or post pictures and information,” says Farrell.

The best way to protect yourself is to not make yourself vulnerable in the first place.  1st for Women offers these guidelines to staying safe online:

  • There’s no such thing as private. Everything you post or share endures in the online environment. Even if it's deleted immediately afterwards, it has the potential to be captured by someone without your knowledge. Anything you put up can potentially be copied -- not to mention hacked by thieves.
  • Learn about and use the privacy and security settings on social networks. They’re there to help you control and limit who sees what you post and manage your online experience.
  • Be cautious about geo-location services, apps, Foursquare, or anything which shares where you are. Your home address can also be tagged unknowingly so check all your settings.
  • Consider different social networking accounts for your professional and personal life.
  • Never share the year in which you were born. It provides an opportunity for identity theft.
  • Keep track of your privacy settings and check them on a regular basis or at least monthly. Don’t assume that default settings will keep you safe.
  • Make sure your privacy settings enable you to review content in which friends have tagged you before they appear publicly on your page.
  • If a friend posts something about you that makes you uncomfortable or you think is inappropriate, let them know.
  • Don’t allow online games and other entertainment apps unfettered access to your information.
  • Never accept a friend request from someone you don't know--even when someone appears as a mutual friend of a friend or several friends.
  • Use a secure password that’s different from the one for you email when you open a new account. Change it frequently and don’t enable auto-log in.
  • Never allow an app to access to your contacts in your mail or on your phone.

Farrell concludes, “Don't be lulled into a false sense of security when it comes to protecting your personal information. The goal of social networking sites is to generate revenue. Though the service may be free, there's the hidden cost of your privacy. It's up to you to limit your exposure and protect yourself. Social networking is meant to be fun. Keep it that way by staying safe online!”

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