Privacy and social engagement

This entry was posted by on Wednesday, 28 August, 2013 at

IMG_5332On the heels of last week’s post about the fear of saying the wrong thing, there’s another fear that also prevents some people from engaging in social media: privacy.

Privacy and security fears have been noted as the number one biggest fear for anyone who spends time on-line. For some of these people, those fears and concerns about privacy are also preventing them from engaging in social business. While I will go on in a moment to help address some concerns and outline a few ways to tighten things down, I’ll say this first and up front: privacy on the internet is a myth. If you are engaging in any social medium, you are doing so knowing that you can be identified by the information you share and have hopefully consciously made the choice to accept that you will not have complete privacy.

Social business thrives on the building of your own digital eminence, which can’t be done anonymously. Social business transcends the digital realm and connects us to the physical world as well. Make no mistake, when we play on social sharing sites, we do so either with pseudo-anonymity or we compromise how much factual data we reveal about ourselves.

That said, the question becomes “how can I maintain some level of privacy and still be relevant on social media?”  Simply said, using your real name, but maintaining minimal other profile information will let you build your reputation based on what knowledge you share without providing any more identifying information than your name. This allows you to connect your professional career and online presences to build digital eminence and grow your career.

Most sites require very little to be in your social profiles. Typically this profile information consists of your display name, real name, and possibly location. Some may require an image, though that is easily and often addressed with a non-personal photo. Both of these have solutions which involve obfuscation to help bolster your privacy, both of which, however, go against best practices for building your own online reputation. So, at the minimum, your name will be visible. That alone can make some people uncomfortable, but that is the starting point for playing in social business: people should know who you are, as that builds trust across your network.

Beyond your name, and preferably a photo, any other bits of information you provide should be done so with the knowledge that anything you share will likely be publicly accessible. Even if you have multiple disconnected accounts, if there are common names or usernames between them, people can begin to connect those dots. Unless you have a VERY common name, the concept of security through obscurity is no longer relevant. While not mean to scare you, this is a big consideration and something to think about every time you share a link or write a post: that content will follow you. Here is a great article on a social engineering hack just published yesterday that allowed access to accounts based on shared or publicly available content.

One way to help improve some levels of privacy would be to maintain separate digital personas for personal and professional use. While I don’t necessarily recommend this approach as noted in my previous blog post on the topic, I do understand why some individuals would prefer the multiple account strategy. My recommendation for those who do adopt this method is to use your real name in your professional account only, and not for any personal account. This will help disconnect the personal content from your professional content. Likewise, only share information and content related to your professional expertise, as this will help grow your eminence but also helps protect your personal privacy if only professional content is shared.

In cases where your real name is required for a personal account (as is the case for Google+ and common practice on Facebook), you have the ability to lock down those accounts to reduce the potential for search indexing to occur and connect content from your personal and professional accounts which share the same real name.

Following are a few great articles on how you can improve privacy settings on Facebook, GooglePlus, LinkedIn, Twitter (with a tumblr bonus), and Pinterest:

Of course, there are also some simple things you can do that don’t require any configuration of preferences or settings:

  • Understand that anything you say/ post online will stay online. The internet remembers everything.
  • Manually approve or disapprove follow requests. Approve only those you know, ignore or block those you don’t. If unsure, ask who they are via DM or private message.
  • Remember that it is possible to inadvertently reveal identifying information through status updates, photographs, comments in friends’ networks, community or group membership, and other non-direct means.
  • Some may seem overtly obvious, but every day I hear of how this information has been posted and them misused: So don’t publish your date of birth, phone number, email address, or physical address. And especially not your social security, credit card, or driver’s license numbers.
  • Remember that what you post can be seen and shared by others even in a small controlled group. Always think about what you say and what photos you post as it could be reshared by someone in your network or otherwise be seen by people not in the intended audience .
  • Don’t publicize future vacation plans, especially the time you’ll be traveling.
  • Don’t use location-based services when posting to social networks.
  • Actively manage your friends lists, circles, or following/followers to ensure your own comfort level with your network.
  • Ok I kind of lied, this is a preference/setting bullet, but it is important! Check your privacy settings often. Many social sites roll out new features and new privacy settings without widespread announcements.
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For more tips, check out the page at PrivacyRights.org which discusses cyber stalking and steps to take to mitigate potential issues: https://www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs14-stk.htm#3

Please note that this is not a comprehensive security/privacy post, but one intended to help get you thinking about how you can manage your own privacy to the level that is right for you.

And. as always my dear friends, #StayVigilant!

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