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How to protect your privacy on neighborhood sites like Nextdoor

How to protect your privacy on neighborhood sites like Nextdoor
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Everyone's talking about Nextdoor. It's the social networking site that brings back good old-fashioned neighborhood chatter between your neighbors across the street and you. It puts you in touch with folks down the block and even people a few miles down the road.

It's reminiscent of simpler times that you might remember when your neighbors and you actually spoke. That was before we all disappeared behind our digital devices. Nextdoor is also like Facebook, where you can scan through your contacts' posts and photos, and you can post your own messages and photos.

Only, Nextdoor limits your communication to people who live close to you.

You might alert those neighbors to prowlers you spotted in the neighborhood. Your neighbors might recommend a good plumber or mechanic. They could also tell you about yard sales or appliances they're giving away. Or you can alert them to a stray dog you found.

It sounds great and in many ways, Nextdoor is a social media site you should check out. (Read our tips to navigate Nextdoor here.) However, Nextdoor has a dark side. Actually, it has a few dark sides that you must know about.

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Online bullying rising on Nextdoor

When you're using Nextdoor, it's hard not to notice that it's not as well monitored as sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Instead of online bullies being quickly silenced, on Nextdoor, they can rattle on and on, and on, with seemingly little or no monitoring.

In fact, it's not unheard of for Nextdoor bullies to take their harassment offline, too. That's scary when you realize that many members post their exact street address on the site.

There have been reports of Nextdoor bullies calling other members and harassing them. How can you feel safe when people who don't like you call you at home, or walk right up to your front door?

There have been instances of Nextdoor bullies contacting other members' jobs to reveal embarrassing or hurtful information about them. One Nextdoor bully, for instance, called a real estate agent's manager and started harassing her with emails and phone calls. Why? It was another agent trying to damage her competition's reputation.

That's outrageous and frightening. However, don't panic. There are ways to keep your Nextdoor bullies away.

How to deal with bullies on Nextdoor

The first step to staying safe is really important. Do not put your street address on Nextdoor.

To ensure that your street address isn't visible to Nextdoor members: Click on the down arrow by your profile picture >> Settings >> Privacy >> Show My Address to Neighbors As.

You'll have two choices. You can show them your street address, including your house number, like 321 Main Street. Or you can just display which street you live on, like Main Street.

Second, make sure you alert your neighborhood's Lead to another member's harassment. However, be careful. Do not rely on only your neighborhood Lead to solve your problem, especially if you're being threatened.

As Nextdoor states: "Neighborhood Leads do not work for Nextdoor and are not compensated in any way. They are simply neighbors like other members, who have been granted additional capabilities to help their neighborhood run more smoothly." Those extra privileges include things like redefining neighborhood boundaries or nominating a new Lead.

Third, if you feel that you're in danger, immediately contact your local police.

If you are in danger, you can report it to Nextdoor after you've called the police.

How to Report a Safety Concern: From any page on Nextdoor, click the down arrow by your Profile picture in the upper-right corner >> Help >> scroll down to Privacy and Safety on Nextdoor >> click on Contact Us (three-quarters down the page) >> choose the issue for I have a question about, and for Relating to.

Protect your privacy on Nextdoor

On a social networking site that asks you to post your real name and your home address, your Privacy is an immediate concern.

It's important to note that Nextdoor, like many sites, reassures users that it will not share or sell your private information to anyone. However, there is a huge loophole that you need to be aware of.

When you register with Nextdoor, you're giving the site permission to access a lot of your information. In fact, Nextdoor spells this out pretty clearly on its Privacy Policy. Take a moment to read through it, ideally before you sign up with the site.

"We collect information from you, when you give it to us directly or give us the OK to get it from another source. For example, when you register for Nextdoor, you voluntarily provide your name, profile photo, email address, and similar information."

If you register for Nextdoor using your Facebook credentials, you're giving Nextdoor permission to access information from that site about you.

Nextdoor can also track your physical location.

"If you want to allow us to show you where you are on your neighborhood map, to tag your posts, photos and events by location, to verify your address (where available), or to display activities and Content that may be relevant to your current location, we may ask your permission to access geolocation information from your mobile device."

Nextdoor also collects information about the computer, smartphone and other devices you're using to access the site.

Plus, when you invite your neighbors to join Nextdoor, whether it's providing their email address or their home address, you are giving that information to Nextdoor. That's how Nextdoor is expanding to five or more new neighborhoods every single day. That's great, as long as you're comfortable sharing other people's information with Nextdoor.

Fortunately, you have a few options when it comes to restricting Nextdoor's access to your personal information. These include:

  1. Simply, don't sign up in the first place.
  2. Manage your Personal Profile settings (click on the down arrow by your profile photo >> Your Profile).
  3. Delete your Nextdoor account from your computer (steps for iOS and Android vary slightly from these): Click on the down arrow by your profile picture >> Settings >> Account >> Deactivate Your Account >> tell Nextdoor why you're leaving >> Deactivate.

If you feel that your privacy is being violated on Nextdoor, or you're concerned about it, you can email Nextdoor at Privacy@Nextdoor.com.
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