What is Social Media?
Connecting with Family, Friends and Clients
- Posting photos on social media sites or on photo sites like flickr provides access to everyone without sending out photos by e-mail.
- Families can use Google Calendar or similar products to keep their schedules organized.
Building New Relationships
It also provides a way for you to build a relationship with those you don't yet know:
- Businesses can connect with their customers and build brand loyalty.
- Emerging writers and musicians can generate a fan base than may lead to publication or a recording deal.
However, this relationship is one-dimensional and missing the voice intonations and body language clues offered by face-to-face relationships.
Viral Growth in Virtual Communities
It can lead to viral growth in attendance at real or "virtual" events or can create widespread brand awareness:
- When people re-post your product or service announcements this can be a powerful word-of-mouth recommendation.
- People are busy. Post short, frequent updates to increase attendance at events such as book signings, workshops and fundraisers.
- Physical events that are posted only in "virtual" social media are becoming more frequent and successful.
However, consider The Limitations of ‘Like’ when assessing your popularity.
You Need to Participate in the Community
Success in these areas requires that you (or a dedicated employee) spend significant time interacting in these environments. Much of that activity may not look work-related, but is necessary to create the atmosphere of socialization that these sites are based upon. Think of it in the same manner as you would a traditional "social" for your clients where you provide food and drinks in a relaxed atmosphere.
If you are not prepared to spend the time, you will not likely enjoy much success and should probably look to other means regardless of what many social media evangelists are telling you.
Are You Sharing Too Much?
However, inappropriate postings can lead to abuses of privacy and embarrassing leaks like you see in the media and on the Web.
We now share publicly many things we'd never have done only a couple of decades ago. For example one person noted the surprising number of people reporting details about the loss of their virginity on social media sites — virtually in real time.
Employers and potential dating partners or spouses check for information about your past.
What message would a video or photo of you doing stupid things send to these folks? Something that seemed funny at the time, might cost you that prized promotion or your dream girl one day by portraying you as immature and irresponsible. If it is re-posted elsewhere you might lose the ability to remove it later.
- Social Networking Privacy reports by EPIC.
- Identity Theft Resource Center: Social Networking and Identity Theft.
- Safe and Savvy — Protecting the Irreplaceable — is a blog sponsored by F-Secure which posts great information about remaining safe on social media sites.
Check Your Account Settings
Minimize the amount of information that you are sharing by changing the privacy settings to provide information only to trusted friends and family:
- Your 2000 "friends" on Facebook are not really your friends — they are potential leaks.
- Most social networking sites allow you to create multiple groups, each with different privacy settings.
- Don't share vital information that could be used for identity theft such as your birth date, place of birth, mother's maiden name, etc.
- Minimize what can be searched by anyone or included in search engines like Google or Bing.
- Watch for inappropriate postings about you but posted by others. Take steps to have them removed.
- If you click on a scam and it creates a posting on your wall, remove it by going to your Profile. Hovering over a posting shows an arrow on the right that gives several options, including "remove post."
- Norton Safe Web is a free Facebook app that will scan your newsfeeds for the Lifejacking scam and other fake links.
Read the Terms of Service
The terms of service are a legally-binding contract on the users of a social media site, just as they are with software or other places where electronic agreements are used. These are often complex and change constantly.
However, you shouldn't just click on the agreements without understanding what you've signed up for.
- Be aware of what you're giving away. In many cases you are agreeing that your content will be owned by the social media site. This is understandable, given that their site has no value without content, but it may also mean you can't use the same material elsewhere.
- Do you have the legal right to post the sorts of material you are planning to? Posting copyrighted content can result in legal action.
- Why Most Consumers Don't Read Terms of Service.
In general, the larger a terms of service agreement is, the more rights and freedom you're giving up.
Use Secure Passwords
Be sure that the information you use to log into your account is difficult to guess. Weak passwords can allow others to log into your account without your permission.
Don't Post Password Recovery Information
Watch that you don't unknowingly give away the key information needed to "recover" your password.
Many folks routinely post the sort of information used when you've forgotten your password such as where you were born, your favourite teacher, family names and relationships, etc.
Because this information is so frequently posted on social media sites it create a huge risk to all your on-line accounts (including access to your bank account).
Deactivate or Delete Your Account
If you are no longer using a social media site (i.e. if you've moved to another site or just don't check your account any longer) you should delete (not suspend) that account for your own protection.
- How to Delete an Account from Any Website posted by PC Magazine.
Who Owns Your Private Data?
…[P]eople believe they own their data. Even though the user agreement might technically give companies the right to sell the data, change the access rules to that data, or otherwise own that data, we — the users — believe otherwise.
— Bruce Schneier
Privacy? What Privacy?
- The Evolution of Privacy on Facebook — changes in default profile settings over time.
- The age of privacy is over according to Facebook's Zuckerberg.
- Facebook Timeline a new privacy test.
- Irish law student: Facebook gathers 1200 pages of data on him — and there's more!
- Facebook Security posts on ZoneAlarm's Blog contain information about privacy, trust, bullying and more.
The Facebook IPO scandal showed more concern about being the largest IPO in history than telling the truth. Facebook isn't your "friend."
Controlling Your Facebook Privacy
The following sites will give you some tools to manage your Facebook privacy settings:
- Facebook Security is Facebook's own information on security and includes information about threats and how to deal with them.
- Facebook Privacy: A Bewildering Tangle of Options posted by The New York Times.
- Facebook Privacy: Secrets Unveiled posted by PC World.
- 10 Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Know (2011).
- What does Facebook publish about you and your friends? Enter your Facebook ID or alias to find out.
- ReclaimPrivacy.org provides an independent and open tool for scanning your Facebook privacy settings.
Deactivate or Delete Your Account
Every time problems with Facebook privacy are publicized, a huge portion of Google searches are for ways to delete a Facebook account (which removes your personal data rather than simply deactivating your account).
- Facebook's Help Center information on account deletion.
- How to deactivate your Facebook account posted by The Guardian.
ZoneAlarm SocialGuard offers these suggestions to make sure that you always stay safe and secure on Google+:
- Set up Circles: Google+ Circles let you create specific groups to share information with. Once you have created a circle, anything that you share in that circle can only be viewed by other members in the circle.
- Lock down you profile: Your profile, by default, can be viewed by anyone on the web. If you want to change this, make sure to change the appropriate settings so that only friends in your circles can see your information.
- Restricting Search Visibility: Another default setting of your profile is that it shows up in Google search results. If you don't want Google (or other search engines) to include you in the results, make sure to change your profile visibility settings.
- Lock down other privacy settings: There are many other customizable aspects of your profile that are less well-known. Some of these include being able to limit who can see people in your circles, and who can send you emails.
- Streaming to appropriate circles: When you create a post on Google+, you can choose which circles you want to share that post with. By default, Google+ will remember the circles in your previous post, and use those same circles for your next post.
- Remember that your posts may be public: If you comment on friends' posts, their privacy settings may allow others to see what you've written. Make sure to exercise caution!
Twitter Security & Privacy
Twitter security and privacy concerns are not as numerous as those with Facebook, but you still need to keep a closer watch:
- Twitter Security Dos and Don'ts.
- Twitter security was a larger concern in 2010.
LinkedIn Security & Privacy
LinkedIn is a little different in that it is designed for building professional networks rather than friendships. However, there are still some issues:
- LinkedIn Account Security and Privacy — Best Practices.
- More than 6 million LinkedIn passwords stolen.
- Was your LinkedIn password hacked?.
You can close your LinkedIn account after which your account information is deleted and logs or backups are de-identified within 30 days.
Pinterest Security & Privacy
Pinterest describes itself as an online pinboard where you can organize and share the things you love. However, there are still some issues, particularly around the legality of copying images that aren't yours:
- Pinterest Acceptable Use Policy includes a note about intellectual property rights (copyright).
- A lawyer digs into the issues of ownership on Pinterest. She considers Pinterest an enabler of illegal activity.
- Why I tearfully deleted my Pinterest inspiration boards looks at the intricacy of legal arguments for "fair use" on Pinterest (Canada has no such thing as a fair use exception).
- Pinterest Security Risks You Need to Know About.
Specialized Social Media
When you think of social media you probably don't think about online dating services like eHarmony, Be Social and Plenty Of Fish. Who uses them? Do they work? Are the "free" sites really free?
- Online Dating Site provides accurate, unbiased information about what really goes on in the online dating world and gives you the resources to protect yourself.
More About Related Issues
Protecting Your Online Identity
The following related pages offer more information about protecting your online identity:
- Your Privacy At Risk — Everyone is Collecting Information
- Encryption — Protecting Your Data
- Passwords — Protecting Your Electronic Signature
- Avoiding Spam — Unsolicited Emails and Mailing Lists
- Phishing & Identity Theft — Obtaining Information by Deceit
- Proper Email Address Etiquette — Using To:, CC: & BCC: Correctly
Securing Your Computer
The following related pages offer more information about securing your computer:
- Security Basics — Preventing Unauthorized Access
- Security Strategies — Avoiding Infections
- Firewalls — Your First Line of Defense
- ZoneAlarm Security — Recommended Firewall Products
- Anti-Virus Protection — Current Alerts, Strategies, Hoaxes & Software
- Encryption — Protecting Your Data
- Passwords — Protecting Your Electronic Signature
- Web Security — Vulnerabilities in Internet Software
- Windows Security — Vulnerabilities in Windows
Updated: August 3, 2013