In today’s digital age, it seems as though everyone is on social media and that anything goes. From videos of Grandma’s dog to that great party you went to last weekend, it can all be found on social media. It’s just a matter of looking.
Though it seems like the Wild West in cyberspace, you have to be careful. More and more people on social media means more identity theft, more ways potential colleges and job prospects could be looking at you, and even many more ways to be caught should you break the law. This article goes through how to protect yourself on social media, and what is legal and illegal on these platforms.
Protect Your Identity
What does it mean to have your identity stolen? It usually means that someone is opening bank accounts, obtaining credit cards, and buying things using credit in your name. With about 2.65 billion people around the world using social media including 400 million people on Facebook every day, prowling these platforms has become very appealing to identity thieves. In a matter of a few short weeks, an identity thief can ruin your reputation, destroy your credit, and put you thousands of dollars in debt. What can you do to protect yourself?
It may seem obvious, but some people are still doing it: do not give out your social security number, driver’s license number, or credit card numbers. Other info to avoid sharing online is your place of birth and your birthdate. The more info you give identity thieves, the better chances are they will be able to forge identifying documents such as passports, and once they do that, they can cause major trouble.
Make sure to also use the privacy settings on your social media accounts. Know who is looking at your information, do not “friend” people you don’t know, and be careful when it comes to all of those social media quizzes. Maybe you want to know what comic book character you are, but even the info you give on those quizzes, such as your favorite color or the name of your pet, could be information that a hacker can use to figure out passwords on your credit card accounts or financial institutions.
Protect Your Reputation
You may use your social media platforms to keep in touch with friends, share news, and post cool pictures, but they are not the only ones you’re sharing your info with. More and more schools and potential employers are using social media as a way of screening potential candidates and getting to know them prior to making an offer. Nearly 68% of colleges have said they would screen applicants using social media. In addition, in 2018, a full 70% of job recruiters used social media with 57% claiming that the info they found online prevented them from hiring a candidate. So, what can you do to make sure you place yourself in the best light possible?
Make sure you have a professional-looking profile picture, and that the pictures on your social media account are in good taste. Recruiters and employers are looking for negative info. Do you complain about your current employer, bad-mouth people, or are shown in images that others might find inappropriate? Then it shouldn’t be on your account. Also remember, it’s best to avoid things you’d regret rather than delete them. Nothing placed on the Internet truly goes away if you have a person who knows what they’re doing trying to find info.
Another thing to avoid on your social media accounts is fake news. You have to always keep in mind that because of the nature of social media, anyone can post anything online, and the juicier the better. Be wary of personal accounts that people give; you never know if they are real. In addition, if the headline is purposely written to evoke an emotional response, that’s a sign that something is awry. Be curious and use an investigative mind to research items on your feed, and do not allow anything on your feed that invokes an emotional response that others may view differently.
Protect Your Ethics
So you found a cute picture on Facebook and want to repost it on your personal page. Be careful. Just because you find something online doesn’t mean that it is legal for you to pass it on. You could be breaking copyright infringement laws. The owner of the image still has legal rights to the picture, and you could be breaking the law by reposting it. This is particularly true on Pinterest, where the owner of a pin can ask for the picture to be removed from your account. If this happens too many times, Pinterest will disable your account.
Another reason to be careful with what you post online is more and more attorneys are using info found on social media accounts as evidence in court, even if the info has previously been deleted. As mentioned before, nothing on the Internet disappears completely, and if the right forensic investigator gets involved, they can bring up things that you thought were gone forever. These days, when a crime takes place, one of the first places that attorneys and the police look for evidence is on the defendant’s social media accounts. If what they find is damming, it is becoming admissible in court.
Even though this is true, it is still a slippery slope for attorneys. Is using such info a breach in the defendant’s confidentiality? Was the information gained ethically? Did the lawyer break confidentially rules by things he posted on his own social media account? These are issues that are often decided on a case-by-case basis, but the rule of thumb for you should be this: if you don’t want the public to know, don’t post it on social media.
Even though social media is the way to stay connected with friends and family in this digital age and it doesn’t seem, on the surface, to have many rules, that is just a facade. Remember that anyone can see what you post and be careful; you never know who may be watching.