From Facebook to Twitter to LinkedIn to blogs, everyone leaves a digital trail as they browse the web. Most of the time, you don’t realize how much of your information is freely available online until it is too late.
Sites such as Spokeo, MyLife aggregate all your information online and any website where you login with Twitter or Facebook grabs your information upon sign in. Luckily, with a few tricks, you can better protect your information online.
What are the Dangers of Sharing Personal Information Online?
There is much more to practicing internet safety than just using firewall protection. The information you share online can always get into the wrong people, whether or not you’re friends with them online.
Sharing information like your email address, phone number, account numbers, bank account information, and other personal financial information could greatly increase your chances of identity theft from an online hacker.
You might also risk harming your personal online reputation when you overshare online, or accidentally share or post material that might not support a positive online reputation.
Avoiding a Reputation Crisis
Our online reputation is formed by others’ opinions about you. When you overshare information on social media platforms, you might accidentally offend someone, or leave someone questioning whether or not you are a like-able and trustworthy source.
This can even be something as simple as sharing personal information like political views. Sensitive topics are often considered controversial topics, and could easily turn a lighthearted situation into a reputation crisis.
By regularly monitoring your online safety you can spare yourself the risk of a data breach, while keeping your online reputation in check.
A reputation crisis can easily swarm your first page of Google search results, resulting in long term damage for your online presence and reputation as a whole. This can be the cause of oversharing information, someone hacking your profile, or a leak of unwanted information associated with your name.
1. Don’t Use the Same Username on Multiple Sites
We all want to keep things as easy as possible, and since almost every website requires some sort of registration, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of using the same username and password each time you register on a site. Even if you never enter all of your basic information (first name, last name, phone number, email) on every site, people searching services compile all that information based on your username.
For example, if you put your email on one site, phone number on another, and keep the same first name and last initial, Spokeo, MyLife and others realize you’re the same person on all these sites. Since your username is usually made publicly available online, it will appear on search engines. If you don’t watch your privacy settings on every site, your phone number and email may become publicly listed as well. Before you know it, your phone number and email are on all the people look-up sites.
Assignment: Search for Your Email. How good are you at keeping your information private online? Put your email into a search engine and see the results!
2. Watch Your Social Media Privacy Settings
Facebook and Google are the biggest culprits in trying to create a “personalized web browsing experience”. The problem: these sites are tracking who you are and where you go online (and offline if you are signed into these accounts on your phone). If you want to retain any kind of privacy then you should set your privacy settings on these platforms.
Facebook has new privacy settings that force users to opt out of the “personalized browsing experience”. The best way to keep Google from following your activity right now is to be logged out while browsing the web.
Assignment: Check your Targeted Ads while logged onto Facebook, go to a website about a specific topic. Then go back to Facebook and see their ads change to entice you with something about that website. Try the same while logged into Google.
3. Don’t Sign into Websites with Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn
Again, it’s always just easier to sign in with a pre-existing account to save yourself time on the registration process, but this is how these sites access so much information about you. The best way to optimize your privacy is to keep all your information separated. By signing in with these accounts you essentially give all your information to the site you register on. Treat your information with the significance it deserves–don’t pass it out like a bag of cookies!
Assignment: Connecting with Facebook Go to any website that has a Facebook sign in option. Click connect to Facebook, then read all the information the site will have access to. Now think: do you want this site having all this information about you?
Reputation911 Privacy Tip : By constantly logging out of social networking sites and Google and by making different usernames on each site, you will successfully achieve internet privacy and keep your information offline.