Use social networks safely
It's important to adequately protect yourself in the online environment. These tips are by no means exhaustive – there are many useful resources to help you implement effective internet security, therefore we have also included some links for further reading and recommendations on how to stay informed.
We encourage you to share any internet security tips of your own in The Shed Online discussions to help other members stay up-to-date.
Use social networks safely
Social networks are a great way to stay in touch with family and friends as well as meet new people and discover information.
The introduction of social networks and the internet has meant, however, that there is a possibility your online information can be discovered by anyone, anywhere in the world.
When joining any type of social network, it is important to think carefully about what information you choose to include on your profile and post to the network.
For more information on what a social network is, read our previous article about social networking.
- What happens to your information once you post to the social network?
- Is the social network public or private?
Some social networks have privacy settings that you can control so that your information is only viewable by those whom you choose (i.e. invited friends and family), whilst others are designed to be more of a public broadcasting space.
Below are examples of each to give you an idea:
- Private networks: The following social networks have settings built-in to allow you to restrict others from seeing your information: Facebook, LinkdIn, Flickr. N.B. These networks also can be set-up so that your profile is completely public, so be careful!
- Public networks (broadcast platforms): Most forums that you post to are public, as well as social networks like Twitter, Flickr, Pinterest or Blogs. This means that your posts will appear to anyone in the world and be indexed by search engines.
- Unsolicited, unwanted material that is sent to your email address is known as “spam”. Be aware of sites that may use your personal details to spam you or may provide your details to other spammers.
- Be wary of sites that want access your contact list for automatic referrals. You don’t want to put your friends and family at risk of spammers.
The Shed Online is a forum and therefore a public space. If you haven’t already, become familiar with The Shed Online’s:
2. Review privacy settings regularly
Social networks are always updating their feature list as well as their privacy settings and not all of them will notify you when they have done this.
It is important to regularly review your privacy settings. For example, you may have set your privacy settings to stop certain people from seeing photos or posts. A social network may make an update which could then allow this information to be displayed to others without warning.
Another example is if a social network implements a new feature like “geo-tagging”. This feature notifies others of your location when making a post. Often a feature like this is included by default and you have to actually disable it.
3. Limit the amount of personal information that you post online
Limit the amount and type of information about your identity that you post on social networking sites. Don’t put sensitive, private or confidential information on your public profile.
For example, think twice including addresses, phone numbers or birthdays. This puts you at greater risk of identity theft, stalking or harassment.
When creating your profile, stop and ask yourself:
- Do I want to use my full name?
- Is the information I am putting in my profile of a personal nature? (e.g. Do I really want my phone number or birth date to be accessed by everyone?)
Once you post in one of these public environments the information will be indexed by a search engine, e.g. Google, which makes it easy for others to search for and find.
4. Be careful of what you post or share online
Once you have posted information online, it can be difficult to remove. Websites and search engines “cache” information – which means that information you may have removed remains accessible for a period of time after you remove it, like a kind of internet archive.
Before you post information, ask yourself:
- Do you want a stranger to see what you are posting?
- Would you be happy for a prospective employer to come across your post?
- Do you want a friend or family member to see your post?
5. Don’t put friends or family members at risk
Always ask permission before you post photos or details of your friends and family in a public space. You don’t want to put them at risk or upset them if they don’t want their information to be available online.
6. Be careful when sharing your opinion online
Posting online is often permanent, if you change your mind down the track, you may find it difficult to remove what you have originally said.
It is difficult to gauge how others will respond to your post online. If you offend someone, you won’t have the opportunity to talk through the issue as you would discussing it with them face-to face.
Posting derogatory or offensive comments about another person or business can have consequences and your comments may even be used as legal evidence.
7. Stranger danger - be cautious of strangers
Don’t share your personal details with a stranger online.
There are professional identity theft scammers on the internet. Identity theft is a type of fraud which involves the scammer benefiting by pretending to be someone else e.g. accessing your bank account, obtaining credit cards or loans in your name or claiming welfare benefits.
Try to limit the number of people you accept as online friends.
If you have decided to connect with people that you do not know, be very careful about the amount of information that you reveal to them. Never disclose sensitive personal details, and be wary of agreeing to meet them in person.
8. Other considerations
- Use strong passwords and consider using different passwords for different purposes. We will post a separate activity on this at a later date.
- Do not click on suspicious links – even if they come from a friend or family member. The message may have been infected by a virus that is sending out automated links to their contact list. By clicking on this link you could be infected with the virus as well.
Online identity activity
- Try entering your own name into a search engine like Google (www.google.com). What comes up? Are there any surprises? Is there any information online about yourself that you would prefer wasn’t there?
- Repeat the above step using Google image search (www.google.com.au/images) – are there any images of you online that you didn’t know about?
- Make a list of all the social networks that you are part of.
- For each social network that you are a member of, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is my profile public or private?
- Is the information on my profile of a personal nature?
Download and print our social networking checklist to help get you started with this activity.
Stay Smart Online (www.staysmartonline.gov.au)
How to keep informed
Other useful websites/resources
- Facebook security guide
Page last updated: 3/7/2012