Understanding Privacy Settings: Keeping Things Private Online

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However you use the internet, you need to be aware of how privacy settings work, basic internet safety methods and how public your messages are. On social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as online forums, you can share as little (or as much) personal information as you want to. If you don’t know how to set up your online profiles correctly though, you could end up sharing much more than you think you are.

You might think that because you’re choosing to be online, you’re sharing in a way which anyone and everyone can see if they stumble upon the right page. In many ways that’s true: even with increased privacy settings there is no way of stopping others with access to your accounts for copying, screen shotting, or sharing anything which you have posted. So think about every post on networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

And remember, if you’re concerned that your internet privacy has been compromised, and someone is using personal information against you, you can speak to us anonymously anytime you need to by calling 0808 8001037 or using our live chat facility.

What internet safety used to mean

In the past, internet safety meant being careful with the sites which you visited. That is, if you picked up a virus it was your fault for going on a bit of a risky website. If someone got more information about you than you would have liked that was your fault as well. Keeping children away from unsuitable content was the main concern, so privacy basically meant a heavy use of parental controls.

Since then though, there’s been an influx of mobile devices which mean that almost everyone has internet access as and when they want it. There’s no need to wait for your turn on the family computer when most of us have a way of getting on the internet any time we like.

Be careful who you share with

Regardless of your privacy settings, if you have imputed data or shared photos on your profile and added someone as a contact they are likely able to see this content. That means that even if it’s something you shared years ago and forgot about it could still be an issue.

When you add a friend you know and like you can be fairly safe in the knowledge that they won’t be spreading your personal comments around the internet. However, how do you know that the people you’re adding are really who you think they are? It’s quite simple to duplicate a Facebook profile. You just need to create a new account using a false name, and then copy the cover and profile photos from a user’s real account. This will allow you to set up a page which looks almost identical to the one you’re mimicking. Add a ‘made a new Facebook, my page got hacked’ status and most people won’t question that that is the real deal.

When that fake user then adds you as a friend and you accept, they will have access to most of your private statuses and imagery. You might even send messages thinking it’s someone you know and trust. The only way to make sure it really is your friend’s account is to ask them and check. If it isn’t you could end up with your private thoughts being shared with someone you never planned to share them with.

Using Forums

When you create a profile for an online forum it will be visible to people you don’t necessary know. For this reason it’s really important to limit the information you include. Use a fake name, avoid putting in a detailed location (country is usually enough for most sites), and try not to use photos of yourself in the public sections. The more information other users have about you the greater their chances of finding you offline, whether or not you want them to.

An internet safety education can help you stay safe on and offline, as well as protect your identity. Remember that internet privacy problems can affect your life offline as well, so it’s important to think about how you use these sites – the repercussions can last for years.