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Privacy continues to be a major issue on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, X (formerly known as Twitter), and TikTok. You might not be aware of it, but every time you join a new platform, create a new profile, or publish a new post, you are putting your privacy at risk. With that in mind, here are three common social media privacy issues to be aware of.
Most people are using their smartphones to interact with social media, and that means that their location data is potentially being tracked at all times. Just about the only way you can avoid this is by specifically turning off the geolocation settings on your phone. This should keep third parties from being able to monitor your position on a second-by-second basis.
Often, this location data will just be used to deliver you better and more highly targeted ads. For example, say that you are inside a shopping mall and taking a break from all that shopping by seeing what’s going on with Facebook or Instagram. Well, you might be surprised to see a special ad or promotion from a nearby store pop up in your social media feed. That’s because many companies now use “geofencing” to serve up relevant offers to shoppers.
Location data can also be used by marketers to develop a sophisticated profile of you that can then be sold (and re-sold) to a variety of different users. Say, for example, you bring your phone with you to the gym each week and you post updates to social media. This data, when aggregated, might be then used to pitch you products based on a profile of you as a “fitness enthusiast.”
Social engineering, identity theft, and related scams
The more data that scammers can gather about you, the more sophisticated the scams they can run on you. One of the most sophisticated of these is known as social engineering, which is a way of manipulating people to give up sensitive information and/or data about themselves. The more a scammer knows about your social media profile, and especially your network of friends or followers, the more damage can be done.
For example, if a scammer has access to your social media contacts list, he or she can then go to work building up an elaborate scam. They can pretend to send a message from a person in that contact list, requesting information from you. Usually, they will include a link in the message that you are supposed to click. In some cases, these messages are so realistic that they lead to you clicking on that link and then divulging information like a password, social security number, or phone number that can later lead to identity theft.
Passwords and account security
Finally, don’t forget about the value of account security. There’s a good reason every social media platform tells you to create strong passwords, and to avoid reusing passwords you might have used on other social media platforms. This basic step makes the job of breaking into your account much harder.
To really make your account secure, you should consider using two-factor authentication, also known as 2FA. This requires the use of a password, as well as the verification of a message sent to your computer or phone. Usually, it involves a text message sent to your phone number with a top-secret code that will only exist for 15 minutes. Until you enter in that code, you won’t be able to access your account. The logic here is simple: a scammer who has somehow accessed your password probably doesn’t also have possession of your phone.
The FTC says that, in 2021, over 90,000 people were victims of social media fraud. If you do not want to be the next victim of identity theft, it’s important to understand the most common social media privacy issues, and to take immediate steps to address them.