How To Maintain Privacy On Social Networks

Outside of the Internet, we will not share our personal details with just anyone. I mean, surely we do not share how much we earn, problems at work or at home, for example, with an acquaintance or person whom we have just met. It’d be super weird and inappropriate sharing our life story with someone you barely know.

However, that changes with the proliferation of social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, et cetera. Nothing is quite personal anymore in the world of social media. Today, people living on the other side of the world whom we may have never met in our life seemingly can be friends too – even if we barely even know them personally.

The concept of relationship categories, like family, friends, or acquaintances, does not exist on these platforms. It is not by choice, though. It was how these platforms are built. But never mind how the platforms are built. Because, it is us who have forgotten that relationships DO have categories, or “level” if you will and as such we never hesitate to post photos of our houses, children, and pets – moments which only family and friends will only get to see – on social media. We do not want to dig into the rationale behind this avid sharing of personal lives.

That said, privacy is pretty much a unicorn in the age of social media and that is what we are going to address in this article. In this article, we want to talk about how we can maintain at least some level of privacy when using social media and when using the Internet in general.

A Way To Stay Anonymous On Social Media

There are times we want to remain anonymous when visiting websites or reading something online. But here’s the thing: unless you use a VPN service, you can never be anonymous online. And even if you use a VPN, some websites require you to log in to access the content. In such instances, you are no longer anonymous, VPN or not.

One good example is Stories on Instagram and Facebook. When you watch a story, the service counts views and displays a list of those who watched the video or photo – that’s not to mention you ought to be logged in to be able to see all the content posted on Instagram.

Fortunately, there is a way to see IG Stories anonymously for free and without the need to be registered – thanks to services like the Inflact web resource. All you need to do is to hit up the Inflact website, enter the nickname of the account you are interested in, and you can view Instagram stories relating to that account.

Apparently, it is completely legal with no hacking involved and it is most certainly nothing sinister! There’s a catch though: you can only watch stories available on public profiles. If the account is closed or private, Inflact will not work but that is a good thing because this means this has nothing to do with hacking or anything illegal.

Another Important Privacy Considerations

The protection of personal data on social networks implies the removal of all personal information of the user from the resource’s servers if a user has deleted his or her account. This is one of the main provisions of the privacy policy of many social networks. But is it really the case? Perhaps not because social network platforms do store the information for a certain period.

Though this is not for nefarious intentions or anything like that; it is a provision to allow for recovery of the account in the event users change their minds after deletion within a time. Even if the data is successfully removed from the social media platform’s server, these data may remain cached by search engines and other resources. This means the data can still be extracted by a person with the knowledge to do so.

The most common mistake made by users, which is actively exploited by attackers, is a simple password that is being used to access all their accounts. It is usually very easy to hack. Another exploit that is gaining popularity is social engineering. Despite the many reports in the news, many people still fell victim to this exploit.

In social engineering, attackers exploit the human vulnerability through social interaction such as impersonating a friend you know in distress with the aim of getting you to send money to them. Or posing as an authority in order to gain access to your user ID and password to certain accounts. As you can see, protection while on social networks is, to some extent, requires the need for a skeptical attitude to any actions when people with ill-intention try to get some information from you – if that makes any sense.

How To Protect Personal Data In Social Networks?

Using social networks is not just about sharing your email, first name, and last name with the service during registration. Whatever you posted on your page matters too. You can unwittingly provide compromising information or information that can be used to harm you or your loved ones. There are intellectual properties to consider as well – especially for those who love to share content created by other people. There may be repercussions down the road, such as copyright lawsuits and whatnot. So, you may want to think twice the next time you retweet, reshare a meme.

Back to the topic about personal data… all social media security rules about personal data can be found in the “Privacy Policy” section. Privacy Policy usually lays out the following:

•   what information you will need to provide the resource,
•   how it will be used,
•   how are measures taken to protect it?
•   what should be done and where to contact in case of violation of confidentiality (account hacking).

While there is no doubt social network platforms try to protect users’ data but we should not rest on our laurels, thinking all’s good. Instead, everyone should proactively take additional measures to protect themselves when online. For example, when registering for public resources, avoid using an email address associated with work and financial services.

Ideally, it is best to set a different username/user ID and password for each registration. Additionally, simple passwords should be avoided. When recovering or confirming your password, use your mobile phone number instead of email. Think twice before sharing personal information on social media and do consider the consequences of posting any information publicly.

Do not add strangers as friends, and do not click all the links that appear on your social network platforms, emails, and even text messages. Exercise your own judgments to prevent becoming a victim of phishing scams. Furthermore, avoid posting photos of important documents on social networks, such as contracts, redacted or not, and whatnot. We do not need to explain why. That is a no-brainer.

Finally, be sure to enable two-factor authentication if available. This point also relates to the above point of using a mobile phone number for verification as opposed to email.

Featured image: Pexels (cottonbro).

Article co-authored by Mikeshouts.