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Hackers’ prying eyes lurk behind every corner of the internet. The solution on social media would be the private mode to shield your data. Of course, cybersecurity is only as effective as the person who practices it.

It takes confidence—perhaps foolishness—to think that what you share could help someone while not being bothered about your security just because people might not agree with your views. 

Josphat Mwania voices a firm dissent. The digital marketer, content creator and software developer is adamantly in favor of being a private social media user while keeping relationships in mind.

“To achieve our goals and purpose, we need people,” Mwania said. “Hence, it is important to learn how to relate well with people and treat them well.”

During an Africa Tweet Chat he talked about privacy and social media.

How to shield personal data from evil doers

Depending on the user, social media and privacy might be a contradiction in terms. If you willingly put everything about yourself out there, you’re telling the bad guys, “Come get me.” 

“Social media privacy is the protection of concerns including the right to mandate personal privacy, and in regard to storing, repurposing, provisioning to third parties and displaying of information pertaining to oneself via the internet,” Mwania said.

“Basically, it’s restricting what to share with the public, especially personal information,” he said.

Make it tough

In a sense, online privacy is an illusion. On social media you should have the same expectation of privacy as you do when walking down a street with potential pickpockets and dark alleys. Your privacy is what you make a challenge not to reveal to others.

“Being a user, you control what to share with your audience,” Mwania said. “You can decide where to put limits.”

Think of the phrase “need to know.” What do others really need to know about you? 

“Too much information might be used by malicious people,” Mwania said. “Be conscious about your sharing habits. Don’t share too much information containing your personal data—pictures, locations, possessions and so on.

“Set up two-factor authentication,” he said. “Get the random code to your phone when signing in from different devices. Educate your kids about social networks. Be sure to customize privacy and safety settings for their accounts.”

Good Security Protects Us From Ourselves

Although precautions are generally good, take them with eyes open.

“Avoid signing up to third-party applications with your social network accounts,” Mwania said. “If someone gets your account details, it automatically spoils all data on third-party applications.

“Set up your privacy settings,” he said. “Make sure your data such as email or phone number isn’t publicly visible.”

Sharing way too much on social media gives hackers plenty of information, which could leave you way too little in your bank account. 

“That’s no privacy at all,” Mwania said. “Indeed, I won’t let all my family members follow me on social media.

“The fact that you’ve shared way too much on social media may be used for social profiling by potential employers, business partners or anyone who is about to start a relationship with you,” he said.

The case for privacy

Lax privacy practices are an open invitation to identity theft.

“Sharing personal information such as current address, phone number, date of birth or your Social Security number on social media makes your information readily available on websites,” Mwania said. “That makes work easier for cyber criminals.”

In his view, that’s why it’s important to be a private user on social media.

“One of the biggest advantages to using private mode is the ability to control who sees your content or communication,” Mwania said. “However, this depends on the kind of person you are.

“Being a private user, you’ll be less vulnerable to internet tracking companies,” he said. “You’ll have less of your data harvested by third-party companies and advertisers.”

When others start to wonder about your posts that you never made, you know you’ve got a hacker and privacy problem. There is also potential for social profiling and harassment.

“I’ve had strangers who had access to access to personal information of my friend,” Mwania said. “They created accounts and posted offensive content on social media using her pictures.”

Targeted Ads Dominate the Competition

People have different tolerances for brands or businesses invading customers’ privacy on social media.

When you’ve done little more than look at a picture of a lawn mower on the internet and suddenly get bombarded by ads for lawn mowers, you might wonder about your privacy. 

“Look at data scraping,” Mwania said. “Companies have gathered information that facilitates tracking people’s activities online. They harvest personal data and conversations from social media, job websites and online forums.”

With proper precautions, those online can achieve a degree of privacy. Nevertheless, Mwania preaches taking extra steps because no cyber connection is 100 percent secure.

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Jim Katzaman
Jim Katzaman is a manager at Largo Financial Services. A writer by trade, he graduated from Lebanon Valley College, Pennsylvania, with a Bachelor of Arts in English. He enlisted in the Air Force and served for 25 years in public affairs – better known in the civilian world as public relations. He also earned an Associate’s Degree in Applied Science in Public Affairs. Since retiring, he has been a consultant and in the federal General Service as a public affairs specialist. He also acquired life and health insurance licenses, which resulted in his present affiliation with Largo Financial Services. In addition to expertise in financial affairs, he gathers the majority of his story content from Twitter chats. This has led him to publish about a wide range of topics such as social media, marketing, sexual harassment, workplace trends, productivity and financial management. Medium has named him a top writer in social media.

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