Facebook and Twitter: How to protect your privacy

Safeguard your identity and your personal data and be careful what you post.


Web surfing is no longer a solo affair. Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks have quickly become an integral part of the online culture, and with them comes a whole new array of potential security threats.

Here are some of the key dangers of social networking and offer a few easy steps that you can take to stay safe online.

Social networking is built on the idea of sharing information openly and fostering a sense of community. Unfortunately, an online network of individuals actively sharing their experiences and seeking connections with other like-minded people can be easy prey for hackers bent on social-engineering and phishing attacks. It's important to be aware of the threats, and to maintain a healthy skepticism in your online interactions.

Be careful what you share

For starters, even in an open community of sharing, you should observe some boundaries. As US President Obama warned students in a recent address to schools , "be careful what you post on Facebook. Whatever you do, it will be pulled up again later somewhere in your life."

The core truth of that statement can be applied to any social networking site, and possibly even to the Internet as a whole. As a general rule, refrain from posting things online that you will regret later. Odds are good that someone, someday, will stumble across it, and it may come back to haunt you--especially if you are planning to run for public office.

Facebook disaster

Aside from simply abstaining from posting embarrassing or inflammatory comments online, take two fundamentals to heart: Remember who your friends are, and know that a friend of a friend can be an enemy.

Remember who your friends are

When you write a Twitter tweet or post a Facebook status update, you have to keep your audience in mind. More and more these days, we hear stories of people who have forgotten that their boss is part of their network and have said things online that have gotten them reprimanded, even fired.

The consequences of inappropriate online comments have become so common that they have earned an entry in the Urban Dictionary: Facebook fired. Saying something as obvious and seemingly innocent as "I'm bored" in a status update during work hours can have dire consequences if the wrong people see it.

With services like Twitter, or the recent changes to Facebook that allow anyone to view and search updates, you really have no way to hide.

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