Start using a “handle” instead of your real name, when posting and sharing.
It’s a sad state of affairs when we have to take steps backward in order to move forward. When I first started blogging back in the late 90’s, using your real name when sharing online was unheard of. People were more afraid then than they are now, to reveal who they were. Back then, before there were massive companies like Facebook harvesting your personal data and profiles, users were more afraid of stalkers than social networks. Finally we get to a point where social networking has become ubiquitous and people feel a false sense of safety. EVERYONE has a profile, EVERYONE has entered their birthday, EVERYONE shows where they went to High School, EVERYONE is checking in where they are having lunch. Even your grandmother is doing it! So it MUST be ok! Yet the same laws that protect us from getting snooped on in the privacy of our homes do nothing to protect us virtually. Most people think they are somehow protected. The sad truth is that there is really nothing you can do to protect yourself from being profiled or your data from being accessed if you have already agreed to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policies of any of the major social networks or third party applications. What you can do is be a Jane Doe. Or a SuperNerd763. At least then, even when it’s you, it’s not.
Google yourself. It’s not just for egomaniacs anymore.
What used to be reserved for fame whores and egomaniacs is now a very important tool for the everyman. You should set up a Google alert that lets you know when there is a new mention that includes your name. Or at the very least, regularly search for your own name and check out what shows up. Make sure you view the images too. You might be startled at what you find. What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but don’t be shocked if the pictures show up on Google. Or Bing. Or whatever else. Search them all! And then LEARN SOMETHING from what you find! Stuff from back in the Friendster era is still showing up now. Go ahead and “Express Yourself“, but just be mindful, people. That’s all I ask.
Check your preferences!
Your email address and contact info is likely saved in your web browsers Preferences panel. Check out what is shared by default and consider using an alias here as well. Use a fake address and phone number. Same goes for the preferences on your computer. There is no reason to save this information, just so you can auto-fill forms on the rare occasion you actually WANT to share your information.
Beware of Catfishes!
One of the coolest things about social networking is that we can now connect with people from all over the world. Exchange enough emails, tweets, or updates with someone and you might start to really befriend them. And that’s is AWESOME. All the same, use common sense… and video… to confirm that someone is real. Practically daily there is some new scam revealed. A random dude somewhere is pretending to be 23 year old Jenny from the block and you can’t believe someone so gorgeous and perfect wants YOU! People lying and saying they have cancer when they don’t, looking to scam the empathetic and naiive out of money. Nigerian Princes that have inherited millions but can only access this money with your help. The list goes on and on. If it smells fishy, it probably is. Throw it back in.
Regularly scan your social spaces with MyPermissions! AND Install our web browser extension and know when your stuff is being accessed in real time.
Come on, you knew this was coming. But seriously – you didn’t really read the TOS of all those sites, did you? Of the 3rd party apps you’ve connected to your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc…. And even if you did, they are constantly changing. Did you know that the Privacy section of Facebooks TOS alone is longer, word for word, than the US Constitution? They have lawyers and experts constantly rewriting and rewording these things regularly. You need to be diligently on top of all of this to truly see what’s coming and to really do this would be a full time job. And what about the plethora of third party apps you’re using? Scan regularly and you will see if that silly Farm game is harvesting more than corn, ya dig? Delete anyone right away that isn’t complying with YOUR standards, right there in the interface without searching for the relevant page on whatever network. Because those pages are in a new place every time you look, aren’t they? It’s almost like they don’t want you to find it. What a thought!