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How to protect your privacy online


Sooner or later you will realize that you are posting too much personal information online. In this article, we will talk about how to make sure that social media accounts do not tell attackers anything extra about you.

The Internet can be a dangerous place, as the culture of social media sharing often conflicts with security and privacy best practices. Most of us have at some point shared information about our birthday, photos of our loved ones, data about where we live and where we come from, and other content that perhaps should not be published on the Internet at all.

In the worst case, the information you share online can be used for physical threats or extortion of large sums of money. The basic safety rules for surfing the Internet are pretty much the same everywhere. This does not depend on which online services you use.

Before we move on to specific actions regarding your Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn accounts, you should understand this: the better you protect yourself online, the less likely that attackers will misuse your personal data.

In general, you need to make sure that your friends or social media followers (with limited access to your posts) are people you trust completely. You should also search your post history for personal information, as it can be used to steal your data, gain access to your accounts, or trace a physical address. If necessary, delete any personal posts or conversations that confuse you. You can also check photos of friends you’re tagged in and remove tags if you don’t need them.

Your actual address of residence can be obtained in several ways. If you are an eBay seller sharing links on your personal social media accounts, please note that your address is usually published with your listings.

If there is a strong possibility of receiving threats from third parties, it is best to immediately restrict access, set new privacy settings and, if necessary, pause, delete or unpublish new posts in your accounts. In this case, you should take a screenshot of the threatening message and report it to law enforcement agencies.

A few more steps you can take are to disable your location tracking, enable two-factor authentication to secure your accounts, create backups, and delete old posts on all accounts where possible. You should also consider deleting social media accounts that you no longer use, especially those that contain information about you.

Now let’s move on to the list of actions for each social network separately.


How to protect your privacy online

The security of the social network Twitter has recently come under intense media scrutiny when one of the hackers was able to get into the site’s admin panel. This allowed the fraudster to gain access to the resource and publish entries on behalf of the largest verified accounts in order to receive huge funds for them. None of the measures below can protect you if the social network itself is compromised. However, these tips will help protect you and your data from common and more common threats.

In your Twitter account itself, you should make sure that location tags are disabled for your tweets (section "Settings" > "Privacy and security" > " Location information "). This option may be accidentally enabled, for example, if you re-installed the mobile application, so it is worth checking its status from time to time.

In the " Find you and contacts " section, turn off the display of your email addresses and phone numbers. This will prevent people searching for your account from using other personal information about you to do so. Follow this advice if you want to remain anonymous.

If you check the box next to the option: " Protect your Tweets " on the main screen in the " Privacy and security " section, only people who are your followers will be able to see your posts in the account. The tweets will also not be publicly searchable. You will not be able to send private messages and mark on the photo.

Twitter can retaliate if you want to delete a lot of your tweets or unfollow a bunch of people in a short period of time. Your account can even be blocked, so it’s better to create a new one for yourself right away and not bother about it. This is the official recommendation from the resource itself.

However, there are a number of useful tools such as TweetDelete and Tweepi that will make it easier for you to unfollow multiple users and delete a large number of tweets at the same time. Keep in mind that Twitter rules say it can take a significant amount of time to unfollow hundreds of people or delete your posting history entirely.

Back up your posts before using these tools by downloading data from Twitter through your account settings. Don’t forget to restrict such tools from accessing your account once you’ve finished deleting and copying.

There are also dedicated tools to export your followers. The Twlets Chrome extension is a great option, but you’ll have to sign up if you want to download more than 1,000 subscribers. The Twitter-exporting Google Sheet by Martin Hoxsey is a free tool, but you’ll also need to create an account.

Alternatively, you can simply create a new Twitter account and keep only the followers you want there.


How to protect your privacy online

You’ll find Facebook ‘s main privacy options in the settings menu. On the Security & Login tab, you need to turn on two-factor authentication, check which devices are already authorized in the system, and turn on unauthorized login alerts if you suspect someone might be trying to hack into your account.

On the " Privacy " tab, you can decide who will see your posts (including those already published): only friends or yourself. You must also set your friends list to be visible only to yourself or to friends, disable searches for your account by email address and phone number. You can also limit friend requests to only people who are already friends with your friends.

In the settings, you can also view the history of already published posts. You will be presented with an activity log, in which you can see everything that you have already published, as well as all the posts in which other people have tagged you. You can access your activity log by clicking on the down arrow in the right corner of the top Facebook toolbar, selecting " Settings & Privacy " and then " Activity Log ".

In the Activity Log, click on the Browse Timeline button, and then select Posts. You can sort them by date shown on the left navigation bar. Use the "…" icon in the upper right corner of each post to delete it. If you use Facebook or Facebook Lite on your smartphone, you already have access to the activity management channel, which allows you to send multiple posts to the trash at the same time. Posts can be restored within 30 days of being sent to Trash before they are completely deleted.

On the Mobile Activity Log page, select Manage Activity. You can then filter your past entries by date and content, and use the checkboxes to select multiple entries to delete or archive. If your account is many years old, deleting all posts will still take a long time, but this is a good way to protect yourself and your personal data.

Also, on mobile, turn off location tracking to avoid targeted ads.

If you want to delete all posts, you can use handy third-party tools like Delete All Messages for Facebook and Social Book Post Manager for Chrome. Keep in mind that the effectiveness of such tools depends on factors such as the Facebook API and the speed of your internet connection. In any case, you should back up your data before deleting it and get rid of the tools you used when you’re done.

If you plan to close or temporarily deactivate your profile, you can do so from the Your Facebook Information tab. There’s also an option to download an archive of all your Facebook posts. Be sure to do this before mass deleting your posts.

Removing unwanted friends on Facebook is much easier than on Twitter: on the main profile page, click on the "Friends" tab to view their list. Then click on the "…" next to one of them to open a list of actions. After that, you should select the option " Remove from friends ". Unfortunately, we could not find any special tools to automate this process.


How to protect your privacy online

Your LinkedIn resume (or any other online resume you might have) can tell attackers a lot of information about you: where you work and live, your contact details.

Any unnecessary e-mail addresses or phone numbers should be deleted. This is especially true for those that you mainly use for personal communication. You also need to use LinkedIn’s privacy settings wisely to make your profile private. Select a special option to prevent people outside of this resource from seeing your name, delete all social media accounts associated with LinkedIn, and change your geographic location. You must also set your privacy settings so that your date of birth is only visible to you.

You can also close or temporarily deactivate your account. Once you’ve activated a few basic security options, such as limiting who can view your email address, the key is to make sure that this information is made available to a potential employer.

LinkedIn is trying to break into social media territory as well. If you have shared information about your resume on a social network and want to delete your posts, go to the following path: " Me " > " Posts and activity " to view the entire activity feed. Unfortunately, you will have to delete posts one by one, as there are no options for bulk deleting posts.


Want to see the information you’ve provided to Instagram besides your photos?

Go to the app’s settings page and click on the " Security " button. Here you can view and download the information Instagram has collected about you. If you click on " Access Data ", you will be able to see any changes to your password, email address and phone number associated with this account, as well as additional information about how you use the application.

Instagram allows you to delete contacts that you may have associated with the social network using your phone number. This includes clearing names and phone numbers. Instagram and Facebook hijack your contacts to send promotional offers to your friends, but they also gain knowledge of your social activity in this way.

This Instagram page shows you if you have uploaded any of your contacts and allows you to delete them. Deleting the past will not stop the download of new contacts appearing on your phone. This setting can be turned on or off through the settings menu on iOS or Android.

You are probably using Instagram on your phone. By default, Instagram’s location data collection feature is disabled, but you most likely enabled this feature unintentionally while adding your location to a post or story.

To turn it off, on Android, go to the " Settings " section, then tap on " Apps " and find Instagram. You can turn these settings on and off, allowing Instagram to access your location at all times, either only while using the app, or never.

If you have an iPhone, the process is similar. Click the phone’s settings menu, go to " Privacy " and then to " Location Service " and search for Instagram.

Internet data leaks

Massive data breaches are a sad reality that many companies face. Visit the Have I Been Pwned website to check if your email addresses, passwords, or other personal information was exposed in a company data breach.

First of all, make sure that you have already changed your password and have not used it before. Unfortunately, there is little you can do with personal data that has already been stolen. They can now be accessed by anyone.

If you’re worried about your name, phone number, or address being published online, you can turn on Google’s email alert. He will inform you immediately.

Check the websites you visit and make sure they don’t share too much personal information about you. If you don’t need to give details about yourself on the site, use a pseudonym and maintain your privacy.

According to Wired.
Cover image: Jon Moore via Unsplash