Social Media Privacy? You Can Protect Yourself

To participate in social media means a willing loss of some level of personal privacy in exchange for enhancing the online equity of yourself or your business. Some social media sites allow other users to diminish your social media privacy by enabling them to post images or location information directly to your profile. Facebook and Foursquare are the worst offenders in this regard. Fortunately, you can take steps to limit this loss of social media privacy.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s well-publicized dismissal of social media privacy as being a outmoded idea has translated into a long series of moves that pushes more and more of what appears in Facebook profiles into the public sphere. This becomes especially problematic when others can “tag” you in a photo or “check-in” with you at an event or place. These “tags” and “check-ins” typically appear to all of your friends, telling them where you are, regardless of whether you planned to share that information.

Facebook has also designed the platform to make it impossible to opt-out of tagging or check-ins. You can take steps to limit how much exposure these get on your profile. Under privacy settings, accessed by clicking the gear shaped icon in the upper right corner of your Facebook profile, you can adjust who can add or view posts and tags on your timeline. At first, these settings should probably be set to only me or friends.


Foursquare is location-based by design, meaning it gives away your location if you check-in on the application. The social media privacy breakdown with Foursquare comes up with friends performing a check-in for you, essentially broadcasting your location and companions. Unlike Facebook, however, Foursquare uses a simple opt-out feature. You can turn off the feature that allows friends to check-in for you under setting. The setting typically defaults to off, which means you must manually approve or deny friend’s attempts to check you in somewhere.

Social media participation does compromise your privacy, but those compromises can be limited. The benefit of social media is that it provides ways to engage with customers and peers in real-time. Pay special attention to what you share. The old adage “Don’t say anything you wouldn’t want published on the front of the NY Times” becomes, “Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want the NSA to hear.”

Featured image courtesy of Flickr user g4ll4is