Privacy and Security in online social media

Social media is not a new term for us. Our daily life is incomplete or we can say we human beings survive on food, water, air and social media. We are dependent to such an extent that we tend to share every bit of information about us on social platform. But stop for a minute and think, Are we really Secure? Do we have any Privacy?

No, we are living in an illusion that we share so much information on social media and we still are secure and have a private life. Do we actually bother that before even signing the Terms and Condition agreement on any social media platform we don’t even care to read the Agreement. Some of us are so obsessed of showing off our life that we even share posts like:

“At NH-8 enjoying rain with family”

Seriously? What is the need to tell everyone that you are out with your family on NH-8. You are actually sending a direct invite to all the thieves out there, that we are not home, please do whatever you want.

Why we are so eager to have so much interference in our life’s. There is no end to these questions. But we seriously need to think and start taking the command in our hand. First thing we need to do is to go to settings section on our social media page and analyse the privacy and security settings that are enabled by default. This will give you an insight into your profiles privacy settings.

I hope most of you are aware till now that the main revenue source for the social media applications is by selling advertisements but this is not the only way. For example if we take example of Facebook. Facebook does user profiling on the basis of demographics, on the basis of brands you like, movies you see etc and show you the relevant advertisements, links for apps of your interest and so on.

Facebook even keeps a track of all the activities that you do in offline world, that are not even shared on the platform. The only best solution I can think of after jotting down these cons is to completely isolate yourself from social media, delete all the social media accounts. But, in today’s time where we are so much dependent on social media for being in touch with our friends and family, we cannot afford to delete these accounts.

For helping you out to maintain a certain level of privacy on social media sites, here are some tips:

  1. Please read Terms and Conditions carefully. I know its bit difficult and time consuming task but at least have a look.
  2. Go through privacy settings in your account. Don’t rely on default settings.
  3. Please stop clicking on useless posts like “Check your death day”, “Find which celebrity do you look like” and so on.
  4. Install a good antivirus software in your laptop and phone.
  5. Turn off your location. Some sites even keep track of you activities in offline world, but turning off location will at least do the least possible loss.
  6. Don’t forget to setup Security Answers.
  7. Never leave your account logged in. You are in a way inviting cyber criminals to hack your account or act as an impostor.
  8. Always Check and Analyse your post before posting. Try not to put too much revealing photos online. For example, I have once seen a person posting his daughter’s photo online where the school name was clearly visible on the bus. Thus, giving personal and private information to everyone. Try to blur such minor but important details before posting a photo.
  9. Always try to create strong password for a site and try to change it in regular interval of time. Never ever set same passwords for multiple sites.

After having such a detailed discussion on Privacy issues in Online Social Media, let’s have a look on security issues as well. As discussed it’s important for every person joining a social network to look beyond default settings. Default setting are least secure.

Below is the list of few security threats that we might face in social media accounts:

  1. Most social networking sites have information like Birthday or Email address. Hacker can hack your email account by using social information and can have access to all the information he/she wants. You don’t need to hide all information. You just need to take following precautions:

    • Always set strong passwords. Don’t go for the easy passwords built using your Birthday or child’s name etc. i.e. from the information that is easily accessible from the social media account.
    • Don’t reveal too much information in a posts. Be careful with what you posts online. For example if I write “Happy Mother’s Day Mumma Richa Sahani”. Now you see one can guess an answer to one of my security question “What is you Mother’s Maiden Name?”. This how it works for the thieves to get information by just analyzing your posts. They get so much information that they can even compromise your account.
    • Don’t reveal your location. Try to keep the location section either blank or set it to a false location.
    • Do not use social media accounts from untrusted devices and networks in hotels, cafes, hospitals etc.
    • Do not elect to remember passwords/passphrases for social media accounts when offered by web browsers.
  2. With the advent of Social Media like Twitter there comes URL Shorteners in picture. Twitter allows a post to be maximum of 280 characters. Thus limiting the size and amount of information that can be shared. Shortened URL’s can trick users into visiting harmful sites since full URL’s are not visible.
    It is best to keep following points in mind before clicking on shortened URL to avoid being hacked.

    • Before clicking a link, place the cursor on the shortened URL. This will show the complete URL and will give you an idea about where the full URL actually points.
    • Check the shortened URL using the services that are available online like Sucuri to check whether the link is secure or not.
    • Use services like URLVoid or MyWOT to check the safety status of the link.
  3. Avoid posting too much details online. Will you ever stand in the middle of the crowd and shout that you are going on a vacation to so and so place? So why you post all the details of your trip on social media, with every second detail like “Traveling to London, United Kingdom from Air India Business Lounge New Delhi”. You are clearly giving your house keys to burglars. Try to take following precautions while posting any information online:
    • Avoid posting specific travel plans and itinerary. Never mention exact date and time.
    • Never post photos during the trip. Try to post photos after your return home from the vacation.
    • Try to stay offline during vacation.
    • Use highest privacy controls to let only selective groups like family, selected friends to view your status updates and photos.
  4. Have you ever wondered how we see a product on Flipkart and when we open another site, it will show the advertisement related to the product that we earlier searched on Flipkart. Every time we visit a website, it put invisible marker which we call Cookies in technical terms in our computer. Job of these cookies is to track the user activity as we navigate from one site to another. This is the reason we are able to see the advertisements of our interest on the new page that we open. Cookies are the major loophole in the entire secure scenario. Most sites provide a option to opt out of the Tracking feature, but if you don’t get that option, Please be careful to clear the cache and the cookies on your browser regularly.

I hope after having such a detailed discussion on Privacy and Security in Social Media, you will surely try to implement these steps and Try to achieve a Private and Secure Social Media Account.



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