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Once in a while, a shocking event reminds us of how vulnerable we are to invasions of our privacy in the age of social media. The scandal in which Facebook was accused of allowing Cambridge Analytica to use personal data is just one of the more visible examples. It's easy to feel comfortable on social media platforms eagerly populated by millions of users—but that comfort can lead to dangerous complacency. Let's look at how to recognize the hidden risks of personal social media usage, how to limit those risks through intelligent privacy choices and how to protect your business from social media vulnerabilities.

Protecting your personal information

Social media platforms inevitably require their users to create accounts that include some personal information such as phone numbers, email addresses, job title and company, education and school, location and relationship statuses. There's no getting around the bond of trust you must forge with the social media provider if you want to use the platform. As recent incidents have demonstrated, providers can violate that trust, deliberately or inadvertently. With that in mind, here are a few things you can do to protect your personal information.

Some social media users react by shutting down their accounts entirely. But you can also protect key elements of your online privacy by opting out of the platform's API (application programming interface) and blocking information from passing to and from third-party apps. This can generally be done in your account settings on each platform. You may also be able to select which apps have access to specific areas of your personal information. These steps can limit the amount of data you're making readily available to other businesses and organizations.

Managing your viewing audience

Keeping your personal and financial data away from prying eyes isn't the only aspect of social media privacy you need to consider. Today's multimedia self-publishing platforms are an open invitation to post your thoughts, opinions, beliefs and everyday activities.

It's hard to resist the temptation to share information with others on social media—but do you really want all that information visible to everybody? Eleven percent of the population reports posting social media information that they later regretted. Railing against your employer, for instance, could quickly get you fired or drop you into a defamation lawsuit, and sharing a picture of your new debit card could lead to unauthorized charges. Blatantly unprofessional behavior shared online may lock the doors of employment to you when you're searching for that dream job and even minor details about your daily life could provide burglars or blackmailers with plenty of helpful information.

Instead of maintaining an "open-door" approach to your social media platform of choice, look at the levels of permission that platform offers and make use of those levels. Set careful parameters regarding which individuals and organizations can view which posts. There's no reason your family, boss, and church members should all be privy to the same content.

Safeguarding your business data

If your business makes use of social media platforms, accounts or channels, you must apply many of the same privacy strategies you would use as an individual to your entire workforce. Remember that any social media posts made on a company account could make the company liable for damages.

How can you keep control over your company's social media privacy? Whether or not your business has an online presence, a Social Media Policy is a smart move. Having a policy in place can help you define the terms, rules, and appropriate uses of this tool with your employees. With a Social Media Policy, you can:

  • Establish guidelines for how members of the company should engage in social media
  • Manage or monitor the way your employees talk about your company online
  • Prevent employee misuse of social networks as it relates to your company and its business interests
  • Retain your social media (Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, etc.) contacts when employees or service providers manage your social media accounts.

If you still have questions about navigating these choppy waters, you can ask a lawyer today.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

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