Dangerous Behaviors on Social Media Increasing

There is something very alarming about social media users. Their ignorance.

  • 66 percent of adult Facebook users reported they were unaware that privacy controls existed.
  • 24 percent of Americans claim they do not comprehend how to adjust their privacy controls.
  • 15 percent of Americans have not viewed their privacy or security settings.

These are just some of the shocking statistics from studies conducted by MacAfee and Consumer Reports over the years.

It may also be interesting to know that in 2010, the Journal of Adolescent Health reported sex crimes where social media websites served as an accessory lead to 2,332 arrests. This is not the alarming number, especially since any more recent findings should show a much higher amount of arrests. What’s so shocking is what the actual number of sexual predators luring and attacking others on social media websites would be, given that most don’t get caught.

Social Media

Photo: Intel Free Press

Not a believer of that statistic? It was reported in the same study that social media websites were where the “foot in the door” occurred for sex offenders to the size of 29 percent of all Internet sex crimes. Also, 26 percent of sex crimes through the Internet against minors had the offender taking advantage of the minor’s social media content.

You Have to Start Protecting Your Privacy

The point of all this is not to install fear in you. It’s to open your eyes.

You may have made a bit of effort to keep your social media accounts secure, but you likely don’t realize that policies and website features change.

Did you know that in October of 2013, Facebook made the final decision to remove the feature that allowed users to be unsearchable by name? Users that had this setting selected kept the feature until January of 2014. Now…if you haven’t thought to change it, you’re searchable.

Did you know that your privacy settings will not stop your name from showing up for everyone to see when RSVPing for a public event on Facebook?

It’s not just the unexpected policy changes though, because the average person simply does not understand what they should do with their privacy settings.

Facebook Privacy: What You Might Not Have under Control

Facebook is the biggest social media website, so it deserves the attention.

So think about when you first signed up on Facebook. You likely entered your hometown, current city, graduating high school, and college. The whole nine yards. There are a few things that you may not realize about having this information public though.

Having your hometown public could make it easier for someone to gain access into your email and other online accounts. This is because many websites have password recovery questions that are simple, such as what is your hometown. A more common question asks for the hometown of your mother – having your mom listed as such on your Facebook will make it all the more easy for someone to gain access into your other account. The same goes for including other information like your favorite color, musician, and etc.

Of course, you can change the privacy settings to just show this information to your friends. Yet, this only works if you know you can trust every single one of your friends and you don’t have concerns of their accounts getting compromised, which is not as big of an issue. Still, it is possible that you have or will accidentally add someone you don’t know or someone may impersonate someone that you do know. Plus, many use social media to network with strangers anyway.

You also don’t want to let this information inadvertently become public because of an unexpected technical issue, privacy policy change, or anything else that’s out of your control and that may even go unnoticed.

Twitter Privacy: What You May Be Doing Wrong

People see Twitter as being a much more secure website in comparison to Facebook. This is respectable considering the lesser amount of profile information that you have to enter when signing up. Many active Twitter users only give a sentence or two about themselves, if that.

Still, Twitter is also good for keeping everyone up-to-date on your life. This is both good and bad. If you’re a celebrity, it’s a promotional tool. If you’re an everyday person, it’s a challenge for someone to invade your privacy.

You are a libertarian and you are big on keeping your money in a safe at home. You fully believe in owning what you own. Your name gets published as a winner or recipient of a wealthy amount of money. Doing what you always do, you put it into the safe.

Don’t worry if it’s in a good spot or not. Your security system is what will matter. One public Tweet stating you and your family are on your way to some far away island for a week and a pair of thieves have a whole week to search your home for all your possessions.

You can never underestimate criminals. Some people have even had their credit cards duplicated because they Tweeted a picture of their credit card.

What Else Do You Need to Do to Protect Your Social Media Accounts?

Protecting your social media accounts is about a lot more than just stopping the wrong people from knowing about you. It’s about your personal, sensitive data. It’s about keeping people away from your private conversations. The majority of the time, it’s a security precaution to ensure that the dangerous information, whether by the front door or back door, is something that only you can see.

If you’re not doing it already, for crying out loud, use a different password for your other accounts. This should be obvious though, there’s no reason to think that your social media account and your PayPal account should have the same password.

In reality, you just have to use common sense with how you fill in your details, answer questions, post statuses, photos, and videos, send out Tweets, and so on and so forth. It’s not that hard to keep yourself protected as long as you know exactly what people can see and you can make sure that only the right people see what you want to show.