Virtually everyone is using mobile apps nowadays, and the use of social media is at an all-time high. Data security and privacy have become major issues, and every user needs to know how to protect themselves. In a recent article, we discussed data protection methods to minimize your online footprint. This post shares advice on data security methods that can be used to protect yourself on social media and messaging tools, as well as some general rules to follow when using your mobile phone and apps.
Three Data Security Methods to Use with Social Media
Don’t sign up for a new service using Facebook or another social networking account – When a website tells you it’s easier to register using your Facebook account, what they really mean is that it’s easier for them to pull all available information about you from that site and use it to build a profile on you. For improved data security, always use the “sign up with email” option, and don’t use the same email address you use for Facebook and other social media accounts.
Lock down those social media privacy settings – Review and set the privacy settings for every online service you use, and revisit those setting regularly, as services tend to change their privacy policies.
Think before you post – Remember, nothing on social networks is truly private. Be aware with whom you’re sharing when you post. What you post could be used against you, either now or in the future. Government agencies, political operatives, potential employers and online marketers are just a few parties who may be interested. Even when you delete a post, it can live on in other ways. Your “friends” can copy and paste anything visible to them into other sites or email messages. On Twitter, some posts are part of the public data feed that is routinely captured by data brokers and others interested in analyzing that data.
Manage Your Messaging for Data Privacy
Secure your email – In order to enhance data security and protection, be sure to enable HTTPS encryption for all email communications in transit. For email data in your inbox, a hosted email service you pay for, such as Rackspace, offers more privacy than does a free public webmail service such as Gmail. Hosting your own email server offers the most privacy of all. Email posted on free webmail services may be accessible by advertisers to send interest-based advertising. In addition, the government can access your data by simply presenting a subpoena, and the provider may be prohibited from telling you about it. With an internally hosted server, a search warrant would be required, and you would be aware of it.
Use a privacy-oriented email service – Popular webmail services such as Gmail and Yahoo Mail offer a free account in exchange for collecting data about you and analyzing your email activity for marketing purposes. Your data security would be enhanced by considering the use of a free service not supported by advertising, such as Zoho Mail.
Use a self-destructing text/chat service – Instant messaging/texting services that encrypt communications and don’t retain chat history are gaining popularity, and for good reason. Some popular services include Signal and WhatsApp. The downside of these services is that the person receiving the message must have the same app installed to be able to connect.
Limit tracking on your mobile phone – Mobile phones have more limited options when it comes to data security. Your carrier knows your location, the calls you make, the sites you visit, the texts you’ve sent and received and the apps you use. Unless you turn off your phone, your carrier will always know where you are. Always password-protect your smartphones, tablets and other personal computing devices, and configure the “find me” feature or app for mobile devices.
Use a password manager and two-factor authentication – Password managers enhance data security by not only keeping track of your online passwords and user names but most also have an auto-fill feature that protects your account credentials from keylogger malware that may be watching you. It is especially important to use a strong password for your email account due to the vast amount of personal information it contains about you. For additional protection, consider a password manager, such as LastPass, that supports two-factor authentication. Even if someone guesses your master password they still won’t be able to get to your password database without physical access to your device.
Don’t share your location information – You can control who you give location information to on most mobile devices, but you can’t control which other apps might be given that data. Choose carefully. Social media updates that include location data also tell people where you are and where you aren’t. Don’t turn on location services unless you really need them. Turn them off when you’re done.
Turn off your Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to avoid retail tracking – More and more stores are installing listening devices to detect mobile phones with Wi-Fi turned on. Before long, it won’t be just your mobile carrier and mobile apps that know where you are at all times. Retailers and other businesses want to use the combination of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi signals emanating from your smartphone to track you when you enter a store or other place of business. Mobile apps like Tasker for Android can be configured to use “geofencing” technology to turn off your Wi-Fi if you leave the confines of your home or office.
Implementing effective useful data security methods is getting more difficult all the time. This is especially true given the mobile society we live in and advancing technology that allows any number of agencies or entities to track our every move. Being aware of the potential threats to data security and knowing there are some simple things you can do to protect that privacy is more important than ever before. It’s good to be a little bit paranoid.
This post was originally published in 2016 and was updated May 4, 2017.