Despite having concerns about security and data privacy, billions of people around the globe use social media. A study by ID Experts found that three-quarters of adults, regardless of age, believe they are at risk when using social media. 65 percent of the 2,200 adults surveyed say they have not stopped using a social media network in response to those worries.
Doug Pollack, chief marketing officer at ID Experts, says there are six things consumers can do to protect themselves on social media:
Tighten your privacy settings
Pollack says the most important thing consumers can do is review their privacy settings. When using applications on the web, he says most people use the default settings or don’t have a sense of what they are. Pollack suggests checking and understanding the privacy settings for each social network.
ID Experts says the social media network used by most people is Facebook. Pollack cautions against using Facebook to log into other applications.
“That’s something they have provided to make it really simple for people,” he says. “But it also provides that conduit for that information to flow between other applications you might be using. You may forget that they are sharing information with Facebook which you may not prefer to have.”
Secure your devices
Pollack says it is important to use the security technology that is included with your devices.
“This is Security 101,” he says. “Whether you are using an iPhone or an Android device, there are underlying security elements that come with your product. It’s just a matter of being careful and turning them on.”
Go beyond social media
Pollack says data and privacy concerns should go beyond social media. Whenever you use an application on the web, it's important to review their privacy policies.
“Very commonly financial data is aggregated and reused,” he says. “I think people that do their banking online, use a brokerage account or other things maybe are not as carefully looking at the privacy policies and the use of their data.”
The importance of strong passwords and two-step authentication
If there is one thing you need to do today, Pollack says it should be changing your password. He says many of us are lazy and reuse passwords.
“Using a strong password which could include multiple characters or long sentences tend to be stronger and more powerful,” says Pollack. “People can even use password managers if they are so inclined. Those can be very helpful.”
Help your network
The purpose of social media is to share information with people that have a common interest or bond. Pollack says the weakest link in your network can be someone who is not as judicious about managing his or her privacy.
“One of the things you can do is help them help themselves in terms of paying attention to privacy,” he says. “It’s really very dangerous now compared to people’s perceptions years ago.”
If you need help managing the security of your data, Pollack says there are products out there that can help. Some protect people by using a VPN, or virtual private network, when using open Wi-Fi networks.
“We can be inherently lazy, especially when it comes to our privacy because the harms are not as obvious as other things,” he says. “If somebody breaks into your house, you know what the harm is like. If somebody breaks into one of your social media accounts, maybe not so much. Given everything that’s been going on this past year, people just can’t afford to ignore their information privacy going forward.”
Linda Bell joined FOX Business Network (FBN) in 2014 as an assignment editor. She is an award-winning writer of business and financial content. You can follow her on Twitter @lindanbell