Author–Mike Koclanes

The events and scandals of the past year have further heightened our awareness about privacy issues in our use of the internet. Nonetheless, it did not slow me down from sharing my thoughts and social media posts but I do think more carefully about what tools I use to spread news. This year, I found that my holiday experience was enhanced by the ability to easily stay connected and share family news, holiday pictures and thoughtful greetings with family and friends from around the world, through social media and mobile technology. I firmly believe that the benefits outweigh the risk of this type of social communication.

As you enter the New Year, it would be prudent for you to review five simple steps to ensure the privacy of your online conversations:

  1. Review all of your privacy settings in social media –Do not automatically accept the default settings. It takes just a few minutes to review the settings on all the major social apps. Ensure that your postings are segregated to Family or Family and Friends and not always publicly posted on sites like Facebook. Facebook pages are increasingly reviewed by businesses as part of the interview process, so use discretion in terms of what you share. Also, review your friend list periodically and delete individuals that you do not want to include in that close circle of contacts. Understand how you intend to use various types of internet and mobile apps based on privacy. Perhaps you will use Facebook for friends and family, Twitter for public statements on trending topics and people and threads you like to follow, and LinkedIn for business networking. Be aware of this difference and be selective in your communications. Furthermore, do not assume that direct messages on these platforms are private. They can easily be copied and forwarded to unintended recipients, just like email. Do not assume just because they are directed at an individual you can control that message from being propagated.
  2. Safeguard your Login and Passwords — Make it harder for attackers to access your account by choosing to receive login verification requests. Protect your login and password on sites like Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Google+ and Facebook. Unfortunately, when it comes to resetting your password, all Twitter requires is your username. Tighten your password security by requiring personal information (two-factor authentication) before reset emails and SMS notifications are sent —and by making sure that you don’t have your personal information posted on another public page or social media account.
  3. Think about what and how you share — Consider whether the information or images you are sharing are potentially harmful to your reputation or personal brand image if they are forwarded, printed or stored and shared with anyone other than the intended recipients? If so, use an encrypted and ephemeral or disappearing messaging solution like Vaporstream® for these types of communications that prevent unintended propagation.
  4. Encrypt your mobile device — Lost devices are a major security risk. At least have a pin code or thumbprint scan to unlock the device. Most people don’t take even the basic steps to secure their mobile device. A nationwide survey by Consumer Reports found that 34 percent of all smartphone owners do absolutely nothing, not even a simple code to lock the screen.
  5. Frequently change your password — Keep in mind that it’s important to regularly change your passwords to avoid being a victim of a password breach or hackers. Do not use the same password for multiple accounts.

Applying these simple practices for personal security you can enjoy the wonderful experience of sharing moments and memories with family and friends, collaborating with co-workers and communicating in forums where you wish to be heard, without significant risk to your personal privacy. Make 2016 the year of better safeguarding your privacy.