6 Steps to Secure Your Privacy on Top Social Media Platforms

smartphone screen displaying Instagram, Facebook, Twitter app icons

In the complex labyrinth of the digital world, we often find ourselves on paths that seem secure but can lead us to unforeseen challenges.

Take the case of Emily, an entrepreneur who used social media extensively to promote her business. One day, she discovered her business account had been hacked, exposing sensitive customer data.

The realisation was a harsh wake-up call, emphasising the urgent need for robust online privacy measures.

Here at Your Online Choices, we recognise the potential pitfalls hidden in the digital landscape.

Our dedicated blog is a steadfast guide to safeguarding your online privacy, arming you with the knowledge and tools necessary to protect your digital lives.

Whether it’s advice on managing internet history or assistance in permanently deleting social media accounts like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, we’re committed to helping you navigate the challenges of online privacy.

Emily’s situation is not an isolated incident but a challenge many internet users face. Like her, we all need to understand the importance of securing our online privacy.

That’s why we strive to offer practical guidance to address these pressing issues.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take you through:

  • How to adjust privacy settings to protect sensitive information
  • The importance of caution when downloading apps
  • Ways to be careful when clicking on links
  • Methods to meticulously review app permissions before downloading

With our assistance, Emily managed to secure her business account and enhance her overall online privacy. Her interactions on digital platforms transformed from concern into a secure and confident experience.

Are you ready to take control of your online presence just as Emily did? Let’s embark on this empowering journey together.

1 – Review Your Current Privacy Settings

We all want to feel safe on social media and have control over how much of our personal information is shared.

Reviewing your privacy settings is a vital step to take to ensure you remain in charge. It’s important to discuss boundaries with friends, family, and colleagues before jumping online.

Having an understanding of what’s appropriate will help you make informed choices when it comes to data ethics and internet safety.

To get started, look through the settings for each platform you use and get familiar with the options.

You can decide who has access to you or your content by:

  •  Choosing between public (visible to everyone) or private (visible only to approved followers) accounts. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram allow you to switch your account from public to private mode in the settings.
  • Approving your followers individually. This implies that people who would like to follow you will need your approval before viewing your content, giving you control over who can view your posts. 
  • Restricting users. Some platforms, like Instagram, provide options to restrict your followers. They can see your posts and profile but won’t receive notifications when you post or directly interact with you.

Expert Tip: Ensure that targeted ads are turned off so companies don’t gain access to your personal information; this will also help keep ads that may be inappropriate or irrelevant from popping up.

Securing your online privacy from targeted ads is an essential task, and doing so is fairly straightforward once you know where to look.

Let’s break down these steps with more specific examples and details from various social media platforms to illustrate how you can navigate these settings.

Step 1 – Navigate to Your Account Settings

  • Facebook: Click on the profile icon at the top right corner of the page, then select “Settings & Privacy” followed by “Settings.”
  • Twitter: Click “More” on the left sidebar, then “Settings and Support”, then click “Settings and privacy.”
  • Instagram: Go to your profile, tap the three horizontal lines at the top right, then tap “Settings.”
  • LinkedIn: Click on your profile picture at the top right, then select “Settings & Privacy.”
  • YouTube: Click on your profile picture at the top right, then select “Your data in YouTube.”

Step 2 – Look for Ad Preferences

  • Facebook: In the “Settings” page, click on “Ads” on the left sidebar.
  • Twitter: In “Settings and privacy,” click on “Privacy and safety,” then “Ad preferences.”
  • Instagram: In “Settings,” select “Ads” and then “Ad Preferences.”
  • LinkedIn: Under “Settings & Privacy,” navigate to “Ads” and then “Ad preferences.”
  • Google (for YouTube): Visit “Ad Settings” on your Google Account to control ads across Google products, including YouTube.

Step 3 – Disable Ad Targeting

  • Facebook: In “Ad Settings,” you can change the settings for “Ads based on data from partners” and “Ads based on your activity on Facebook Company Products.”
  • Twitter: Under “Ad preferences,” disable “Personalised ads.”
  • Instagram: In “Ad Preferences,” choose “Data About Your Activity From Partners” and turn off the option.
  • LinkedIn: Under “Ad preferences,” you can manage how LinkedIn uses your data for personalised ads.
  • Google (for YouTube): In “Ad Settings,” you can turn off ad personalization.

Step 4 – Confirm Your Changes

On various social media platforms, the process of saving changes to ad preferences varies.

With platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter, adjustments to settings are typically saved automatically

However, to ensure that the modifications have been properly applied, ensure you refresh the page or navigate to a different section and then revisit the settings.

On Google, particularly for YouTube’s “Ad Settings,” you might encounter a confirmation prompt after making your changes. If so, it’s essential to click on the confirmation message.

For all platforms, if there’s an explicit “Save changes” button available, always click it to confirm any modifications. 

Different platforms might have unique ways of confirming settings changes, so be observant and ensure your preferences are correctly saved.

Remember, these steps may vary slightly depending on the device you’re using (mobile, tablet, desktop) or any updates to the platform interfaces.

Regularly checking and understanding these settings across different platforms will empower you to take control over how your personal information is used.

Also, keep in mind that these aforementioned steps won’t completely remove ads from your online experience, but they’ll constrain the extent to which companies can utilise your personal information for targeted advertising.

This action serves as a method for reasserting control over your personal data and bolstering the privacy of your online interactions.

2 – Limit the Amount of Personal Information You Share

person with Facebook open on their laptop and smartphone phone

One of the easiest ways to compromise your privacy online is by revealing too much personal information.

The details of our lives can sometimes be exposed unknowingly, and as harmless as it may seem, it’s a treasure trove for cybercriminals. 

Therefore, adopting a “less is more” approach when sharing personal data online is vital.

Learn More: Why Is It Important To Keep Personal Information Private? A Guide

Let us look at how you can protect yourself.

Tip 1 – Construct Secure Barriers Using Strong Passwords

Imagine your password as the lock to your online house. If it’s weak, intruders can easily break in.

To fortify your online platforms, you must create robust passwords that serve as sturdy locks, keeping unwanted guests out.

For instance, consider integrating an array of elements, including uppercase and lowercase letters, digits, and unique symbols.

A security code such as “FluffyBunny123!” will greatly surpass the protection level of a simple “fluffybunny.”

Check out how to craft an unbreakable password aligned with the standards the Microsoft support team recommend below:

  • Length equals strength: Strive to create a password that is at least 12 characters long, but a length of 14 or more characters provides even better security.
  • Diversify with a mix: Incorporate a combination of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. This mixture adds complexity and makes your password harder to guess.
  • Avoid common and identifiable words: Create a password that does not include words found in a dictionary or any names of people, characters, products, or organisations. Such common elements can be more easily cracked.
  • Keep your password fresh: Ensure your new password is significantly different from your previous one. Repeating or only slightly altering passwords can leave you vulnerable.

Remember: Updating your passwords regularly is like changing the locks on your doors periodically; it helps keep potential digital thieves guessing and protects you from possible identity theft attempts.

Tip 2 – Guard Your Personally Identifiable Information

Think of your personally identifiable information (PII), such as your home address, contact number, or birth date, as pieces of a unique puzzle that forms your identity.

Once you share these details online on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram, you may be giving cybercriminals a roadmap to your identity; therefore, keeping these pieces guarded is essential.

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of how to protect your PII:

The Less You Share, The Safer You Are

It is tempting to share significant milestones or personal details online, but remember, the more information you share, the easier it is for someone to impersonate you or gain unauthorised access to your accounts.

For example, if you post a celebratory picture holding your new driver’s licence, anyone can zoom in to see your address, full name, and other sensitive details.

So, think twice before posting such information, even in seemingly harmless contexts.

Verify Then Trust

Be cautious when asked for your personal information online, whether through social media, email, or a website. Make sure you know and trust the entity requesting it.

If a website seems sketchy or if an email looks like a phishing attempt, don’t give out your personal details.

Here’s how to verify if you are dealing with a legitimate social media account:

  • Check for verification badges: Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram provide verification badges to authentic profiles. Look for these badges if the request comes from a business or celebrity account.
  • Review mutual connections: Look for mutual friends or connections. If you recognize some of the people connected to the requester, it might increase their credibility.
  • Read comments and reviews: Read many comments and reviews, especially on business pages. Other social media users’ experiences and comments can provide insight into the account’s legitimacy.

Consider a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) enhances online security by encrypting your data and masking your IP address. This makes it more challenging for hackers to track your activities or gather personal information.

A VPN works by scrambling your data so that it’s comprehensible only to authorised parties, while simultaneously hiding your actual IP address, which protects your location and identity.

For instance, if you’re using free Wi-Fi at an airport to check your bank account, without a VPN, a savvy hacker on the same network could intercept your login credentials. 

But with a VPN in place, your information would be encrypted, rendering it meaningless to prying eyes.

Incorporating a VPN into your online security strategy, especially when using public Wi-Fi networks, adds an essential layer of protection

When choosing a VPN, select a trustworthy provider to ensure optimal security.

We Have You Covered: Remember to check out our VPN Reviews page where we provide a comprehensive guide of some of the best VPNs you’ll find in the market, such as ZenMate, Windscribe, and Kaspersky.

3 – Double Down on Social Media Security

We understand how important it is to keep our online accounts secure, especially when it comes to the top social media platforms.

Using two-factor authentication can significantly strengthen your online security and greatly reduce the chances of hackers accessing your accounts.

This extra layer of security requires a user to verify their identity using a code sent over SMS, via email, or a mobile app every time they log in.

Understanding the different types of security risks associated with social media sites is key to protecting yourself.

Some of these risks include:

  • Phishing scams:  Fraudulent schemes, such as deceptive emails, messages, or websites, that appear legitimate yet are designed to deceive online users into providing sensitive information like personal data, financial details, and passwords. 
  • Malware attacks: Entail the distribution of malicious software (malware) with the intent of causing harm to a user’s device, data, or network. 

Malware can take various forms, including viruses, and trojans. Once it infects a system, it can steal information, disrupt operations, or even grant unauthorised access to cybercriminals, posing significant risks to your personal privacy and digital security.

It’s also important to practise data safety by only sharing personal information with trusted sites and monitoring account activity for any suspicious behaviour.

Two-factor authentication adds an additional layer of protection by requiring you to provide more than just a username and password when logging in.

For example, if someone tries to access your account, without the code sent directly to you, they would not be able to gain access even if they had your correct login credentials.

It’s essential you take steps towards protecting your privacy on social media sites which is why implementing two-factor authentication should be part of everyone’s routine security measures.

This makes it harder for hackers to gain access and also helps increase users’ confidence that their data is safe from unauthorised users and potential cyber threats.

By utilising two-factor authentication, you can ensure that your information stays out of the wrong hands while giving you peace of mind knowing that your accounts are secure from potential cybercriminals looking to exploit any vulnerabilities in your systems.

Taking these precautions will help you stay safe while enjoying all the benefits of using top social media platforms.

4 – Reject Unsolicited Messages and Friend Requests From Unfamiliar Accounts

In the vast labyrinth of the internet, unsolicited messages can feel like unknown trails; they might lead to enlightening content or, unfortunately, potential threats

These could range from malicious content and phishing links, to deceptive viruses that compromise your digital wellbeing.

With the rise in social media scams, maintaining a level of vigilance in our online interactions has never been more crucial.

So, how can you guard yourself against these threats?

Keep a Watchful Eye on Newsfeeds and Inboxes

Always examine unexpected messages or emails before opening them, especially on platforms like Facebook or Twitter.

A suspicious link or attachment from an unknown source might lead to malware or phishing sites. 

For example, an email pretending to be from Instagram support could actually be an attempt to steal your login credentials.

Regularly follow trusted tech news sources or community forums to stay updated about common hoaxes or frauds circulating on social media.

To Get You Started: TechCrunch and Engadget are great sources of the latest in tech.

Be Discerning With Friend Requests and Private Messages

On platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn, it’s not uncommon to receive friend or connection requests from strangers.

If a request comes without context or a clear introduction, think twice. For instance, a LinkedIn request from a supposed recruiter without any mutual connections or verifiable details might be a phishing attempt.

Sometimes, it’s wise to decline or investigate further before accepting a friend request.

Monitor Network Activity Regularly

Stay abreast of who interacts with your posts or views your stories. Regular monitoring can help identify potential security threats and provide a safer social media experience.

Ultimately, navigating the social media landscape requires a healthy balance of openness and caution.

Being wary of unsolicited messages is a significant step towards safeguarding your online privacy while still enjoying the boundless opportunities for connection that the digital world offers.

5 – Navigate Every Social Media Platform With Care

social media icons, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook

With a solid understanding of how to handle unsolicited messages under your belts, it’s time to delve into another critical aspect of your digital life—mobile applications, which facilitate everything from social connections to shopping, learning to gaming.

However, each new app you add to your devices presents a potential breach point for data intruders, highlighting the importance of careful downloading.

So how can you safely navigate this vast app ocean?

Defend Yourself Against Deception

Before downloading a new app or plugin, such as a third-party Snapchat filter or a Facebook game, take a moment to investigate. Look at the app’s origin, read user reviews, and check its credibility.

For example, a new Instagram photo-editing app with very few reviews and a suspicious developer might not be trustworthy.

Research online for any negative reports or security concerns associated with the app to make an informed decision.

Top signs that might indicate a suspicious developer for an app or a plugin include:

  • A generic or unprofessional website: Check if the website is poorly designed and lacks clear information about the developer’s products, services, or contact details.
  • Requests for unnecessary permissions: Be wary if the app asks for excessive permissions that seem unrelated to its functionality, as this could indicate the app is trying to access your data.
  • Limited or fake user interaction: If an app has very few legitimate interactions, such as likes, shares, or user comments, it might be an indicator of low usage or fake engagement.

Ensure That Your Data Is Encrypted

When using apps or platforms that require sensitive information, such as mobile banking apps linked to your Facebook or Google account, verify that your data is encrypted.

For instance, using encrypted messaging apps like WhatsApp provides an added layer of security for your personal conversations.

Champion Digital Literacy

Become a guiding influence within your social circles about app security, especially when it comes to platforms like TikTok or Twitter, where sharing links to third-party apps is common.

Educate your friends and followers about the importance of being discerning with the information they share and the apps they download.

Share resources or articles that promote digital literacy and responsible app usage.

6 – Decipher Social Media App Permissions

Take the time to review app permissions before downloading or installing any application on your device.

It’s important to be aware of what access control an app may have over your data, as well as their data-sharing policies. This will help you protect your privacy and keep your personal information secure.

You should also pay attention to the targeted ads that some apps may show you; this can offer insight into exactly how much personal information these companies are collecting from you.

Opting out of these ads can minimise the amount of data they collect from you.

Additionally, making sure that all sensitive data is encrypted can prevent hackers from accessing it, even if it were to get into the wrong hands.

It’s also essential to be mindful of what kind of access you are granted when downloading an app, as some apps require more than just basic permission access and could potentially violate your privacy rights by collecting a lot more information than necessary.

Knowing which permissions to grant an app is one way for you to maintain control over your online activity and private information.

Furthermore, consider checking if there are opt-out options available once the application has been downloaded onto your device.

While opting out won’t necessarily erase all traces of collected information, it at least offers a way to try limiting what kind of data third parties or other entities have access to.

Summary: Reviewing app permissions is one step you can take towards protecting yourself online and safeguarding your privacy rights while using social media platforms and applications on mobile devices or computers.

Safeguard Your Digital Haven for a Seamless Online Experience

Safeguarding your privacy on social media is not a matter to be taken lightly. The risks may seem distant, but the consequences of negligence can be severe.

The table below offers a comparative overview of some of the most popular social media platforms, shedding light on their user bases, privacy features, and common privacy concerns, helping you make informed choices to secure your online presence.

PlatformUser Base (Millions)Privacy Concerns
Facebook2,800Data breaches, tracking
Instagram1,200Data breaches, privacy settings
Twitter400Phishing, harassment
LinkedIn774Data privacy, job scams
Snapchat360Privacy settings, content exposure

By following the steps we’ve discussed above, you’re building a strong defence against potential threats.

But why stop there? If you’re ready to take your online security to the next level, we are here to help.

Our comprehensive blog offers invaluable insights on maintaining your online privacy, including a step-by-step guide on installing and using a VPN, the ultimate tool to secure your internet experience.

So don’t leave your privacy to chance—empower yourself with knowledge and the right tools to navigate the digital world safely and improve your social cybersecurity.

With this, you’ll enjoy an unparalleled and secure digital experience.

Dale Williams

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