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6 privacy and security mistakes you’re making on social media

Pop quiz: What percentage of American adults use social media? Think about it and I’ll tell you the answer below.

From Facebook to Twitter to Instagram and all the sites in between, we’re voluntarily giving out more information online than ever. Tap or click to get a closer look at exactly what Google knows about you and the steps to erase it.

That info translates to big money. The data sold by tech giants like Facebook gives advertisers a shockingly clearer picture of who you are and what you’ll buy. Tap or click here to see how Facebook uses your location and how you can shut that down.

Oversharing doesn’t just fuel ads that follow you around the internet. Hackers, creeps and trolls can easily use the content you’ve posted against you. Keep reading to see if you’re making mistakes you’ll regret later.

1. You skip the privacy and security basics

First things first, Pew Research says about 70% of American adults use social media. In younger demographics, it’s as high as 90%. I wonder what percentage of users neglect the security basics that protect our accounts?

That includes, of course, your passwords. Some passwords are so easy to remember, hackers can guess them too. Or you may be in the bad habit of using the same password across multiple websites.

Why is this such a dangerous shortcut? If a hacker gets ahold of your username and password on one site, you can bet they’ll try the same combination on other sites. To protect yourself, you need stronger passwords — and several of them.

I know, it’s a pain. Use these smart rules to make the process a little easier.

Once your passwords are in order, enable two-factor authentication wherever you can. It adds a step to the login process, but it may be the difference between a cybercriminal breaking into your account. Tap or click here to see how to set up 2FA for your favorite social media sites.

2. You don’t care who sees what

Most social media profiles are public by default. If you leave yours that way, anyone looking you up can see everything you’ve posted, including your photos, interests and location.

To see how your profile looks to others on Facebook, click your profile picture in the top right and click the eye icon below your name. From here, see how your profile looks to the general public or specific Facebook users. Swipe through and see if there’s anything visible you’d rather not share.

Changing your privacy settings on Facebook is a bit of a pain, but you do have a lot of control. Here’s what you should check:

  • Open Settings and select Privacy.
  • Scroll down to Who can see your future posts? and tap or click Edit. You can adjust specific audience settings here.
  • Scroll down to Limit Past Posts to select who can access your previous content.
  • Scroll down to Who can see your friends list? and tap or click Edit. Choose either Friends or Only me.
  • Scroll down to Do you want search engines outside of Facebook to link to your profile? and tap or click Edit. Clear the checkbox that allows search engines to access your profile.

And if you use Instagram or Twitter, you can set your profile to private with just one setting.

On Instagram:

  • Go to your profile, then tap the three-line icon in the corner.
  • Tap the Settings gear icon.
  • Tap Privacy, followed by Account Privacy.
  • Tap next to Private Account to set your account to private.

On Twitter:

 3. You ignore tagged photos

You know what photos you’ve posted, but have you seen all the photos your friends and family have posted of you? You may not have wanted that picture going live, but the fact that they tagged you means you’re forever associated with it. But you can do something about it.

On Facebook:

  • Click the down arrow in the top right corner.
  • Select Settings & Privacy, followed by Activity Log.
  • In the upper left of your activity log, tap Filter.
  • Scroll to Photos & Videos and click the circle to select.
  • Click Privacy: See all and select Privacy: Public. You can also see only the photos you’ve hidden on your timeline by tapping Visibility: All, then Visibility: Hidden.
  • Click Save Changes.

On Instagram:

  • Tap the photo or video you want to untag.
  • Search for your username and tap on it.
  • Tap on Remove Me From Post.
  • Select Remove (iPhone).

TECH SMARTS IN TWO EMAILS A WEEK: The tech world changes by the minute. Keep up with The Current, my smart, funny (and ad-free) newsletter. Tap or click here to try it. 

4. You give your life away

Assume anything you put on the internet can and will go public. This will help you avoid oversharing embarrassing or compromising information.

The same thing goes for messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, WeChat and WhatsApp. If an account you’re talking to becomes compromised, a hacker or cybercriminal can easily use the information you’ve sent to crack your account or worse. Never ever treat messaging apps as anything more than basic communication tools.

Follow these ground rules for sharing personal data on apps:

  • Treat all data you share like it’s public. Assume it will be visible to anyone.
  • Never reveal personal information or financial over chat or messenger apps.
  • Don’t use your real phone number or email address to sign up for apps, games or quizzes. These apps can give you a second number; I like Google Voice.
  • If you’re asked to give your location when uploading or sharing a photo, say no.

Bonus privacy step: Create a burner email account you use to sign up for new accounts. Tap or click here for our favorite fast and free burner email generator. 

5. You get lax

If you’re a Facebook user, you already know it changes like the wind. Settings and privacy menus appear and disappear overnight, which makes adjusting your settings on a regular basis all the more important.

I suggest popping in every couple of months to make sure everything is set up the way you want. This gives you ample time to decide what you’re comfortable with sharing, as well as what you’d prefer to keep private from friends and followers.

WHILE YOU’RE AT IT: You need to update your software regularly, too. Skipping updates is just one way you’re shortchanging the life of your smartphone. Find out if you’re making other costly mistakes. 

6. You use your login elsewhere

Do you ever see an option to “Log in with Facebook” on other websites or apps? No, this isn’t a scam — but it’s not necessarily smart.

Facebook partners with a staggering number of advertisers to build a detailed profile about you. Signing into third-party sites with your account only expands Facebook’s each beyond the platform itself.

Even worse, if your account gets hacked, any other apps or websites you signed in to with that account are now compromised as well. It’s like a domino effect for your data.

Using social media safely is possible if you know what you’re doing. Now, go forth and share — just not too much.

Need expert tech help you can trust? Post your tech questions and get concrete answers from me and with other tech pros for 30 days for freeSign up at, no promo code required. 

What digital lifestyle questions do you have? Call Kim’s national radio show and tap or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to or watch The Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet, television or computer. Or tap or click here for Kim’s free podcasts.

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