5 Ways to Protect Your Privacy on Social Media

Last updated: April 21, 2024 Reading time: 4 minutes
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Using social media comes at the cost of our privacy, and that is because of the companies behind these platforms. In most cases, have to collect data to generate revenue. They either use data to serve ads on behalf of businesses or sell it to others for things like public relations and machine learning.

In July 2017, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a US consumer protection enforcement agency, fined Facebook $5 billion for allowing data collected from its users to be used by Cambridge Analytica. This UK political consulting firm engaged in misleading campaigns.  

Over time the demand for data is growing, especially with various artificial intelligence (AI) applications and algorithms. This pushes tech companies to increasingly engage in massive data harvesting despite strict data management regulations adopted worldwide.

When you share photos with family, Facebook collects your biometrics from them. When you tell your friends how delicious the food is at the restaurant you visit, they track your location. Similarly, when you like the pages of your favorite superhero, they know what that says about your personality. 

Indeed, there is little you put on social media that is not helpful information to the tech companies and their clients. Therefore, it is essential to learn how to protect your privacy on social media.

The following are five things you can do to make it a little harder for others to collect your data through social networking applications and sites:

1. Use VPN encryption

virtual private network (VPN) is a service that gives you control over how your devices interact with the internet. In particular, with it, you can easily mask your location and make it a little harder for others to monitor your activity, collect your data as well as access credentials to your digital wallets.

The service works by encrypting your communication and directing it through a secure channel to a server that assigns a new IP address before getting out to the web. With VPN encryption and a new identity server, it is a little difficult for someone to follow your communication back to where it originates.  

VPN solutions exist both for desktops and mobile devices. Often a single plan will serve all your devices. 

2. Use the website instead of the app

Mobile social media applications are created for convenience while on the go. However, it turns out that mobile applications are also often designed with a higher capability for collecting data. According to Statista, up to 91.5 Facebook users access the platform through their smartphones.

A mobile app often collects data on your activity on other installed applications. It can also map your movements throughout the day using the GPS feature on your phone as well as mobile network triangulation. 

In the recent past, the experience you get on the mobile application and the one on the browser has grown less different for most social media platforms. And that means there is less excuse for why you need to install the app.

You can reduce the amount of data the social networking site collects by using the web version. You can make it even better if you make it a habit to access the site from your stationary device, such as a desktop. 

3. Turn off location when not needed

There are many instances when you need the GPS location tracker on your phone. However, there are many other times when you don’t need it on, and the only purpose it serves during these periods is to help apps collect data and relay it to others. For example, when you use a taxi-hailing app like Uber or when you need some help with navigation. 

You should consider turning off your GPS feature whenever you don’t need it. Even though your phone location can be determined, it makes it a little harder, and you might lock out less sophisticated applications.  

4. Accept friendship from people you know in real life

Social networking sites have made it easier to connect with people from anywhere worldwide. We often don’t know who the people on our networks are or what they do. That means it is easier for criminals to get their way into your networks and do surveillance on you. A total stranger can have a very good idea about your daily routines.

Unless it is for your business, limit the people you connect with to those you know in real life or those you have something important to share. In the least, try to know the reason for every connection you have on social media. 

5. Know about and make use of the privacy settings

If you have to accept strangers into your network, make it a habit to investigate the private features that the social networking site or application you are using has made available. Often using the settings, you can regulate how much of your data is accessible to others. For example, Facebook has the list feature that allows you to categorize your friends, and when you post, you can decide which list should see the content and which one shouldn’t. A family list can see the pictures of your evening out, and the rest of your friends have no access.

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About the Author

Rebecca James is an IT consultant with forward thinking approach toward developing IT infrastructures of SMEs. She writes to engage with individuals and raise awareness of digital security, privacy, and better IT infrastructure.

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