Ctrl Shift VFX Nav Logo
Contact us

We'd love to hear from you!

Thank you! Your submission has been received!

Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form :(

Find us

Kirk Loftin

Protecting Yourself on Social Media

 As Facebook’s founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, testifies before congress about various security issues on the social media platform, questions are being raised about online security. Along with the news of the Cambridge Analytica controversy, the knowledge that multi-billion dollar companies take our private data and either fail to protect it or outright sell it for profit makes users wonder, what can they do as an individual to protect themselves and their privacy? There are countless articles with different tips on how to protect yourself online. This article will serve as a brief overview of the how (and why) of social media protection, and five steps you can take immediately. 

              The simplest (if unrealistic) solution is total abstinence, because no one can steal or harvest data that was never posted. However, in 2018, this is becoming increasingly unlikely to be a workable solution, seeing as how connected our modern world is, to the point where some companies want your social media participation as a marketing tool. So, unless you’re able to completely “unplug,” you need to be protecting yourself and your data. 

              Step one: Be okay with inconvenience. We constantly give up our privacy in the name of convenience. It’s super convenient to connect Facebook Messenger to our texting app to have all our communications in one place, but surprise, if you’re an Android user, Facebook used a security loophole in Android’s software to collect all of your call and text data. Be wary when apps offer ease of accessibility by allowing “permissions” or by “linking” accounts. Often, we take these steps because it can save us a step or help us log in quickly, but we’re sacrificing the compartmentalization of our separate accounts and creating a Frankenstein monster of our private data that any part involved is able to see the whole (and that’s not even thinking about data breaches of companies with our data). Here’s a handing guide for handling app permissions from Popular Science. 

              Also, make unique and complex passwords for each separate account (and change them often). It’s so easy to have the same password for ten accounts, because who can remember all those different passwords? Putting up with a little inconvenience of having multiple complicated passwords can greatly protect our privacy. If your bank has a breach and your password is stolen, and it’s the same email/password combination that logs into your Facebook and email and even your “patient portal” for your medical center, you can unwittingly give out terrifying amounts of info with a single breach. When those companies make you change your password because of a possible breach, we often don’t make the connection that we need to change the login for other accounts we have using the same credentials. 

              Step Two: Delete anything and everything you don’t won’t everyone to see. This seems like common sense, but the recent axiom of “once it’s on the internet, it’s there forever” is coming back to haunt people as companies check applicant’s social media accounts, or politicians have to explain posts. So, maybe it’s not the worst idea to go back and delete past posts that you may not want the world to see. Although there’s no guarantee someone hasn’t archived it already, deleting it may help avoid problems in the future, and of course, think before you post from now on. Does the world really need to hear you call your boss most of the four-letter words? 

              There’s also a second part to this step, and that is to delete old accounts. Too often, we start an account on a social media platform or blog, post content, and abandon it. Maybe we didn’t have time to keep up with our angry political blog, or we got a new phone and just never put Instagram on it. No matter the why, the fact is that all of that content and data is out there. Go back and delete those blog posts, delete your unused Instagram account. It’s easy to keep in mind what your active Twitter or Facebook posts are, but those accounts you never use anymore? Who knows what future tragedy is waiting for you in the depths of your own past internet use. 

              Step Three: Turn off geotagging (geocaching/geotracking). This is something people notice (“How did Google know I’m in Dunkin’s Donuts?”) but rarely look into. The bottom line is, those crazy long terms and conditions none of us read (yet still agree to) give a terrifying amount of power to these companies. One of the legal permissions we give is the ability to use our device’s GPS technology to track our every movement. This can be useful, as we can program in our home address and work address and get quick directions without having to type in the physical address each time, and can even be used for things like finding your car in a parking lot. However, there is a dark side. Companies are using geo-tracking as a marketing tool, or in the case of Apple and Google, keeping records of where you go at all times. Turning it off for various apps can greatly improve your personal privacy in unexpectant ways (not to mention extend your battery life). For instance, did you know every picture you post on social media has the latitude/longitude coordinates of where the picture was taken? So, that picture of your meal you posted also gives the world your exact current location. Yikes. 

              Step Four: Limit your connections and interactions. Too often, people have 1,000 Facebook “friends,” or try to collect Twitter followers (“I’ve got 25,000 followers!”). The thing is, when you post something, every single one of those people have access. Whether it’s a picture showing a little more skin than usual or an angry post about your girlfriend making you mad, you are broadcasting your personal life to multitudes of people, mostly strangers. An easy fix for this is to greatly limit your connections and interactions. Don’t add co-workers, because they can see when you post about faking being sick to get out of work. Don’t add your extended family, who just post racist memes and spy on your friend’s pictures leaving creepy comments. Don’t add someone just because you took a class in high school with them eleven years ago. Social media can be controlled in this way, to only share with those you actually know (privacy settings help keep the posts from being shared outside of your approved audiences). 

              This can get complicated when you’re in a position of using social media to market yourself or your goods. For instance, if you’re a small business owner or an artist, protecting your privacy becomes a very difficult process when you’re simultaneously trying to purposely get more followers, more connections, more patrons on Patreon. Some people keep separate accounts, one for personal use (friends and family) and another for their business/art. When having these kind of public marketing accounts, it’s important to stay focused on what you’re putting out there, because there is no way of knowing who is looking (especially since the idea is to get as many eyeballs to see your content as possible). Yes, you have genuine fans and supporters, but there’s also Russian bot accounts and creepers and trolls galore peeping at all of your posts. 

              Step Five: Think of your social media as a whole, not as separate entities. When I was younger, I really loved a certain animated comedy show on TV. There was a very dedicated fan base that ran a forum (messaging board) for fans to talk about not only the show, but all aspects of life, whether personal, political, or completely unimportant banter. I was always very careful about what I posted, not wanting to give away any kind of real personal info. I went by a username, never giving my real name. I gave my state (Texas), but never my city. I gave my age and gender, but that was it. One day, in talking to someone on the site, he mentioned there was a cool thing happening in my city, which I had never said. I panicked and asked how he knew where I was located. I had told him my state, and in a completely different interaction mentioned how long a drive took to get to a certain beach. Knowing the area (or being able to google it), he was able to quickly deduce which city I lived in. He also found my Facebook account, because I once posted a link to a fundraiser I was involved with, which had my name attached. He knew my name and city, and then was able to find my social media. Luckily, he was not a bad person, and never used this information for nefarious purposes, but the incident opened my eyes to how seemingly unconnected posts over a long period of time can be connected by a person seeing them. 

              We tend to think about our Facebook and our Twitter and our Snapchat and our Instagram (etc.) as separate entities, separate venues for our various postings, but if someone has access (“follows”) you on multiple platforms, you can give away a staggering amount of information. The picture of your cat being a dork you shared on Facebook gave the coordinates to your home, your Instagram accounts shows you’re on vacation in Hawaii, and your funny tweet about never remembering if you locked the back door when you left for vacation all add up to a neatly wrapped gift for someone who wants to steal that brand new TV you showed off on Snapchat last month. 

              What all these steps boil down are two main points: First, be aware of what you’re posting, where it’s posted, and who is seeing it. Second, educate yourself on the complexities of the permissions and terms and conditions we so freely give to massive companies. It’s often quoted that “If you’re not paying for it, you are the product.” Keep that in mind and protect yourself, so we can hopefully feel completely safe posting Spongebob memes to our hearts’ content.

OTHER blogs

Check Out More Posts

Don't Be a Jerk or: Ethics in the Workplace

It can be tricky sometimes to navigate the business world and stay completely ethical. Maybe you found out a piece of information no one else knows that you can use to your advantage. Maybe you don’t correct your boss’s incorrect assumption about a co-worker who’s also up for a promotion you’re trying to get. Maybe you stay on the clock after you’re done with work to answer Facebook messages. Keeping a strong sense of personal ethics is more than just not stealing from the company (which is also a no-no), it’s about being honest and doing what’s right in all aspects of business.

The Universal Appeal of Video

What makes video such a powerful medium? Why is it that even small toddlers natively understand videos? Why are “how-to” videos more popular than “how-to” books? Why are movies and television more popular than radio or novels? They’re easy for any human to comprehend, even children that can barely talk seem to just absorb Elmo videos (over and over and over and over again). Every single day, 1 billion hours of video are watched on YouTube.

The Why of Marketing

If there’s one universal truth about marketers, it’s this: we’re all trying to sell something. It might be a shiny new product, a service to a business, or a political candidate, but it’s all about sales, right? Not quite, because marketers need to understand it’s not just about selling something. Understanding what your audiences really want is vital to your success. 

Avoiding Some Common Writing Mistakes

Not everyone in the business world studied English in college. In fact, I think it’s safe to assume most didn’t. Unless you’re a writer, editor, or just have a random passion for grammar, it’s likely that once you slogged your way through Macbeth and To Kill a Mockingbird (or at least watched the movie versions or skimmed the Sparknotes), you felt free. Because of this, the professional world is rife with grammatical errors, misspellings, and other things that make English teachers’ brains twitch.

Welcoming New Employees

Adding a new employee to a company can be an awesome, exciting event. It can also be an awkward nightmare. There’s a fine line between a good and bad experience for a new hire, and balance is absolutely vital to welcoming the newcomer while not scaring them away either.

Staying Healthy While at Work

Celebrities love to post pictures of their healthy meals and videos of them working out with their personal trainers in the middle of the day on Instagram. It’s easier to stay healthy when you have the time and resources of a celebrity. But what about the rest of us? How do we stay healthy while typing on our computers for hours and sitting through way too long meetings? How do you maintain a healthy lifestyle in an office?

Dressing for Success at Work

Keeping up with the latest and greatest fashion trends is exhausting (not to mention prohibitively expensive for those of us that don’t have our own line of rocket ships). Luckily, in a workplace setting, we’re not being judged on the same level as if we’re walking a runway in Milan. Still though, you don’t want to be known as the office slob, so here are some super easy, basic tips for dressing professionally and looking good at work.

From Research to Release

Usually, when people hear the word “animation,’ they think of cartoons. When we talk about animations, especially for businesses, we mean so much more than just cartoons. Animation can be 2D, 3D, a blend of both 2D/3D, or things like motion graphics. Animations can be used to announce products or services, explain complicated processes, tell stories, or even just to make a fun, lively showcase for whatever message you’re trying to share with the world.

The Password is...Safe

With the increases in identity theft, cyber crime, and hacking these days, it’s best to keep yourself as protected as possible. Although sentences like these are usually followed by ads for expensive anti-virus or online protection services,

Increasing Your Productivity

You may have heard the oft-quoted statistic that when Google made their doodle a playable version of Pac-Man, the US economy lost an estimated $120 million in productivity (although that number has been criticized). That’s a loss of productivity on a massive scale. How do you address your own productivity, and make it better?

The Importance of Letting Go

At work we’re surrounded by people we may not have necessarily chosen to be around, which makes it easy to feel like we lose control of our environment. The good news is that we do have control over how we respond to it.

Personal Finances and Work

When it comes to our personal finances, other than our paychecks, we often consider it a completely separate issue from our work. However, it’s not that simple. Your personal finances and professional life at work...

Marketing the Unmarketable

Imagine Don Draper standing in his office. He was just shown the film Spring Breakers. He downs his scotch and thinks, “how am I supposed to market this?” Although this is a silly hypothetical ...

Meme, Inc.: When Businesses Try to Meme

It’s pretty apparent that the majority of 21st century marketing has been taken over by social media . As consumers get younger and younger, marketing tactics need to reflect this demographic change.

How to Treat Partner Companies

It’s hard to fathom a business that won’t at least occasionally work with other businesses. It’s an inevitable, sometimes stressful part of professional life.

Avoiding Burnout

Burnout isn’t just a great Green Day song, it’s increasingly a real problem in the professional world. While American workers’ productivity climbs, so does the prevalence of burnout. More than just being tired, burnout is a condition of feeling emptied, exhausted beyond function.

Honesty in Advertising or: Those Lying Movie Trailers

Ads need to be honest. Of course, ads tend to be selective (making the good sound great while ignoring the downsides), but unless you want to get hit with negative buzz about “false advertising” (or possible lawsuits), you must ensure that you’re being honest in your ads.

Giving Back

I don’t think anyone would deny the importance of giving back, whether to your local community, an important cause, or to those who really need it. The question is how, as companies and employees, we can best serve others alongside our regular work.

Implementing Video Into Your Marketing Strategy

There are serious benefits to adding video to your marketing campaigns. 1 billion hours of video are watched on YouTube daily. Executives say they are 59% more likely to watch a video than read an article.

The Importance of Cultivating Your Passions

It’s unlikely that as a kid when asked what you wanted to do when you grow up, you proudly proclaimed, “I want to work in data entry at a mid level industrial supply company!” For the luckiest among us, our jobs are our personal passions...