Common social media mistakes that put your privacy at risk

As the world becomes increasingly connected and reliant on technology and social media, it’s worth looking at some of the industry's issues and how they might affect consumers worldwide.

One of the biggest challenges the technology industry continues to grapple with revolves around privacy and the use of consumer data. Many companies frequently explain that they require a large amount of personal consumer data to create better products and a better user experience for their customers. However, many consumers are concerned about where this information goes once it’s been utilized.

In 2022, multiple social media companies, including Instagram and TikTok, came under fire for falling victim to various cyber-attacks and failing to protect children’s privacy on their platforms. In September 2022, an investigation by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) found that TikTok may have breached several data protection laws protecting children between 2018 and 2020. If found guilty, the video-sharing app may face a fine of up to £27 million—the largest ever in the ICO’s history.

IBM’s Cost of Data Breaches Report in 2022 revealed that companies lose an average of USD 4.5 million during a data breach. The report also found that 83% of those surveyed have experienced more than one breach in the same period.

While protecting consumer data and abiding by privacy laws is the responsibility of these businesses, there’s plenty that consumers can do to protect themselves and stay safe on social media and other digital platforms.

Below, we list some of the biggest mistakes social media users make that could put their privacy at risk and what they can do to protect themselves better while online.

Top 5 social media privacy mistakes

1. You reuse passwords across multiple platforms

Passwords are the most valuable information for hackers, and reusing passwords across multiple platforms makes it easy for hackers to access different accounts easily.

Illustration via Freepik.
A survey by revealed that two in three people in the U.S. use the same passwords across multiple accounts. About 37 percent of those surveyed shared that they share their passwords with other people.

Hacking tools employed by hackers can now scan through whole dictionaries to crack passwords and create variations of commonly used passwords.

To protect yourself, always use unique passwords for any account you have and avoid reusing them. If you struggle to create unique and robust passwords, consider signing up for a password management service. Besides storing your passwords in an encrypted vault, the most popular password managers can generate random and strong passwords for you in just a single click.

2. You don’t use multi-factor authentication methods

Besides creating strong passwords, do yourself one better and sign up for multi-factor authentication (MFA) if a platform offers it. MFAs add an extra layer of security to the login process of any account by allowing the platform to confirm that you are indeed the right person logging in.

There are different types of authentication methods, but the most popular ones include sending unique codes to a verified device and using biometrics, like facial or fingerprint scanning, to identify a user.

3. You don’t toggle privacy settings

These days, social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok do more than just allow users to privatize their profiles. To address privacy concerns, these platforms now allow users to toggle the privacy settings for things like notifications, search, and accessibility.

For example, Instagram users can restrict accounts from interacting with them, block certain trigger words, and hide their Stories from people following them.

4. Oversharing

One of the best ways to protect your privacy is to be careful of the sort of things you’re sharing on social media. Even if your profile is private, it’s always good to assume that everything you post will remain on the internet forever and can possibly go public.

When posting on social media, it’s worth thinking about the sort of information you’re giving away unknowingly. For example, are you unknowingly revealing where you live if you’re constantly posting at home while tagging your location?

In an article, Microsoft also argues that posting photos from your trip on social media could alert criminals that you’re out of town. Information that you share about your first pet’s name, your family’s name, or your mother’s maiden name is also an answer to common security questions that you might share unknowingly.

Before posting anything online, it’s always wise to review each post to ensure that you’re not giving away information without knowing it.

5. You log in on various devices

As best as possible, try to limit the number of devices you log into an account with. For example, limit all social media platforms to only your smartphone and avoid logging in to them on your tablet. If your account has been compromised, it’ll be easier for you to figure out which device the attack occurred on.

Whatever you do, don’t log into social media accounts while on work devices or any device that isn’t owned by you. Always log out to prevent anyone from accessing your account if you must log in anywhere else besides your own devices.

Following these steps could help you protect your privacy better and limit the possibility of your social media accounts getting hacked. As more and more companies continue to experience data breaches, it’s important as consumers to state on top of the different cybersecurity risks that abound.
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