Taking Control of Your Social Media Privacy

The Internet is home to privacy invasion. You have identity thieves, fraudsters, hackers, and stalkers. Those are all obvious, but you can’t forget about social media websites. Yes, that’s right, social media websites are invading your privacy. You may not feel like a victim since it is nothing compared to having your identity stolen, but you are – you are a victim of privacy invasion.

privacy

Photo: g4ll4is / Flickr

There are two sides to this. First, do you care if you have your privacy invaded? Second, to what extent will you allow your personal data to be available or exploitable? To answer these questions, you must first know the nature of the data, how it’s accessed and how your privacy can be infringed.

What data can someone access through your social media accounts?

The data that someone gets through your social media profile is usually based on what you decide to allow others to access. Most of your data gets gathered and stored through apps after you give them the permission to do so.

Here is just a short list of some of the many pieces of data that may get collected by social media apps.

  • Your basic info – full name, profile picture and other public info
  • Your profile info – bio, interests, likes, relationship status, work history and more
  • Your friends’ profile info – bio, interests, likes, relationship status, work history and more
  • Your content – posts, events, notes, photos and videos
  • Content shared with you – posts, events, notes, photos and videos
  • Your email address
  • Your birthday
  • Your friends’ birthdays

The sad thing is that an app can access all this data if you accept just one permission request from one app. The specific data that an app or user can access will vary by site. These examples are from the data requested for the Kodak Picture Kiosk app.

It’s interesting to note that some apps will also request permission to post on your behalf. This means that they want you to allow them to post as if they were you. Certain apps (like Bitstrips) can justify this due to the nature of the app, but it’s usually just another way to advertise.

Do you want to be the victim?

Pretend you used an app years ago and forgot about it. This app is later hacked or sold for peanuts because it was valueless. The person that gained access has the right to post on behalf of all the app users. You are one of them. You are one of the people that end up posting explicit or offensive content for your family and friends to see.

Do you want to risk that happening to you?

Are you ready to face all the spam e-mails that you will receive if one of these apps is just a data grab for people that sell mailing lists?

It’s your data for a reason. It is great having a world that attempts to tailor everything to the specific person to give them the best they can offer. This is not the way to go about it. This is invasive.

In the end, it’s up to you – but if you want to keep control of what data you give access of and to who, then here’s how you can do just that:

Twitter

Many apps can gain access to your Twitter data. Take a look at the Applications Page to see which apps are currently accessing your Twitter data.

Many times, people will use an app once or maybe not at all and then it just sits there, giving the app owner access to your data. Other times, the app may be part of a company acquisition and it may be in the hands of a new owner with different business practices.

It is usually businesses getting details for marketing purposes, but that’s not always the case. User data is often the data that is also sold out to others that will spam their businesses – or maybe even try to rob you!

Restrict the websites that you give your data access to right down to the few that you know you can trust. Businesses like Wal-Mart, Amazon and your bank may fall into this category. Random, “cool sounding” apps are most likely not that easy to trust.

Keep an eye out for apps that have the permission to “Read and Write”. This means that they can not only read your data, but they can tweet on behalf of you too. Most likely, you don’t want to be a walking, talking, Tweeting advertisement for a company unless it’s your own.

Facebook

This is the big one. This is where so much privacy gets taken away from people. Facebook has worked to make their site as secure as possible, but certain data privacy concerns still exist.

Profile pictures and cover photos have to be visible to the public. Public events you RSVP to will show that you plan to be there or that you were there. That’s just the start of it though. Did you know that your face may get used for Facebook advertisements?

Facebook has a nice little policy on what they can do with their user’s information. It is in the section covering advertisements and other commercial content enhanced by Facebook.

It says Facebook can give businesses and other entities your name, profile picture, content and more. With no compensation of course.

So you may become the poster boy for some product and you may not even realize it until someone around you cracks a joke about it. So it’s time to take back control of your personal data. For some people, policies such as these justify quitting the site for good — but that’s your call.

Go to the Applications page to view a full list of apps you have connected to through Facebook. Go to the “Show all apps” link and then begin deleting any that you do not need. Many people end up with dozens or even hundreds of apps that they no longer use, yet they leave active to collect data on them. Remove as many as you can by clicking the small “x” button and selecting the “Delete all…” box and then pressing the blue Remove button.

Google

Google data issues are like those at Twitter. You can go to the Application Permissions page to see which apps you are allowing to access your data.

You need to ensure that your personal data is out of the hands of spam-ridden businesses and those with malicious intent. So take advantage of the opportunity and start securing the accessibility of your data today.

You can visit MyPermissions.org to make this all easier. They have a list of popular websites that are subject to data access, which usually happens through apps. It is as good idea to check there even if you follow the advice here as there may be other services you use with similar data privacy concerns.