Keeping your social profiles secure and up to date is essential for staying safe on social media. In addition to the built-in security features, the networks offer additional privacy settings that users can turn on or off, depending on what they want to display, share or receive.
This quick guide to the privacy basics for each of the main networks will help you restrict unwanted access and protect your information. These are not all the privacy features the sites offer, they’re simply a few of the best and simplest to set up.
Follow the steps below to maximise your profile security and make sure you show your kids how to check their profiles too.
Please note — some of these features can only be accessed through the browser on your laptop/PC, not a mobile.
View your account as the public would see it — Once signed in, click on your profile picture, once on your profile, you’ll see an option to ‘view as’ under your image. This will show you what the public will see when they view your profile. On desktop, head to the settings in the top-right corner, then select ‘Timeline and Tagging’ in the left tool bar. Under the review section select ‘View as’. On desktop, you also have the option to view as a specific person at the top.
Review apps and settings– For desktop, access your settings and head to ‘apps and websites’ in the left tool bar. This allows you to see which apps you have given permission to access your account and data. Check the boxes and remove any unwanted applications. On mobile, go to your profile and click on the three dots saying ‘more’, then ‘view privacy shortcuts’. The top option takes you to a review of important privacy settings where you can decide who sees what, then remove any unwanted access.
Turn on two-factor authentication — Add an extra layer of security so your login is always secure. In your account security settings select ‘Use two-factor authentication’. Facebook will then talk you through some simple steps.
Set your trusted contacts — This is a great feature, you can nominate friends or family members to help you get back in if you lose your account access. In settings select ‘security and login’, then ‘setting up extra security’. You can choose 3 to 5 friends to contact if you are locked out. These trusted contacts can send you a code to help you gain back access to your account if you lose it.
Managing your post privacy — You have the control over who sees what. You can easily set the privacy on individual posts, comments, your timeline and images you’re tagged in. Once in settings, you’ll find these options under the ‘privacy’ settings or you can change individual posts underneath each one.
Unfriend, block or take a break — If you have a ‘friend’ that you’d rather not be friends with it’s easy to unfriend or block. If you’d rather not offend people, you can secretly mute accounts by taking a break for a while. This limits what you and they will see. On the said friend’s profile, click the three dots in the top right under their cover photo. Choose block, but instead of blocking select ‘take a break’ instead to give you more options.
Reporting unwanted posts — If there’s a post that offends you, makes you feel uncomfortable or is harmful to someone else, you must report it. Hit the three dots in the top right corner of the post. This gives you the choice to hide, snooze, give feedback or report the post.
Facebook offers heaps more security feature here.
Make your stories private — change the setting of your story privacy if you haven’t already. Do you really want the whole world to be able to view what you share? In settings, scroll down to ‘View My Story’ and change it to friends only.
Who can contact you? — Unless you want to be contacted by absolutely anyone who feels like it, it’s beneficial to change your contact settings. In settings, scroll down to ‘Contact me’ and change to friends only. Otherwise, anyone can call you and send you snaps or chats. If you receive something you’d rather not, then block or report the account who sent it.
Location sharing mode — When you have Snapchat open, your location updates and unless you have ghost mode on, people can see your location. Once again in settings, scroll to ‘See my location’ and change to ‘Only me’.
Two-factor authentication — When you log in you’ll need to provide an extra login code as well as your password. This will be sent to you via text or generated in the app. This is an added security feature to make sure only you can login to your account. In settings, tap on ‘Two-Factor Authentication’ and follow the prompts to set up this feature.
Snapchat’s safety centre has lots more advice for staying safe.
Make your profile private — Unless you are a business or promoting something, think very carefully about having a public account; especially if you’re sharing personal information. To change your profile to private, click on the cog symbol next to ‘Edit profile’. Scroll down to ‘Account privacy’ and hit the button to change to a private account. This means people will have to request to follow you and can only see your posts if you accept them.
Turn on two-factor authentication — as with Facebook, this ensures that your account can’t be taken over if you lose your password. You’ll be sent a backup code as an additional layer of security when you login in. In the settings, (the cog icon next to edit profile) scroll down to ‘Two-factor authentication,’ click and turn on ‘Require security code’ to be sent your code.
Block unwanted attention — You can block, report or mute any accounts that you no longer with to see or hear from. To do this, go to that persons profile and click the three dots in the top right hand corner and select the action you require.
Reporting unwanted posts — As with all the other sites, if there’s a post that offends you, makes you feel uncomfortable or is harmful to someone else, you must report it. Hit the three dots in the top right corner of the post. Select report, this gives you the option to report as spam or as inappropriate.
Revoke access to third-party apps — If you’ve logged in to other sites using your Instagram details, then it’s good procedure to check out who has access. This can’t be done from the Instagram app so you’ll have to access it from the browser (desktop / laptop). Click on the cog symbol followed by ‘Authorised Apps’ this will show you who has access and let you revoke if needed.
For more tips, check out the Instagram Help Centre.
Login verification — As with the other sites, you can set up login verification. By default, this is set to off. Turning it on makes it harder for an unauthorised person to login to your account. You’ll receive login verification requests via a text message on your phone or the Twitter mobile app. Once in the settings and privacy section, select account, then security, followed by login verification. Turn it on and follow the quick steps.
Protect your tweets — In settings go to ‘Privacy and safety’ and turn on protect your tweets. This means that only people who follow you can see your tweets as opposed to everyone on Twitter! Each new follow will have to be approved by you.
Discoverability — Twitter uses your email address and phone number to make your account discoverable to others. This is a default setting so you’ll have to turn this off if you’re not happy about it. This doesn’t mean that your email and number can be seen publicly, it just means you can be discovered using them. Visit the privacy and safety option in your settings, then under discoverability turn off the option to let others find you by email / number.
Tweeting your location — If your account isn’t set to private then you shouldn’t really be sharing your exact location with others. If this feature is on, when you tweet it will include your device’s precise location (latitude and longitude) which can be found via API. You can turn this off in your privacy and safety settings, under ‘Location’.
Photo tagging — Twitter has enabled the tagging feature by default for all users. So anyone who wants to tag you in one of their images can do so, regardless of if it’s anything to do with you. Up to ten people can be tagged per post so it’s easy to imagine how scammers and spammers may take advantage of this feature. You can prevent people adding your name to their photos by editing this in your privacy settings under ‘Tweets’ and ‘photo tagging’.
Call out inappropriate posts — My message will be the same for all social networks. If you see something inappropriate, whether it’s bullying, body shaming, sexism, racism, attempted reputation destruction and anything else that can make you or someone else feel uncomfortable. On each tweet you’ll see an arrow in the top right hand corner. Click it to give you options to report.
Twitter’s help centre has a comprehensive outline of all safety and security features and is super easy to use.
Broadcasting your activity — Every time you make a change to your profile or take part in activity of any sort on LinkedIn it will be shared with your connections unless this feature is turned off. To do that, go to settings, privacy and ‘how others see your activity’, this will allow you to update privacy for various parts of your profile.
Two step verification — as with all the other sites, this will provide enhanced security if your password is compromised. To activate, go into your settings and privacy and change the two step verification option to ‘on’, then follow the prompts.
Anonymity — You can control who sees what on your profile. If you want a higher level of privacy, you have the choice to only display anonymous profile information, or take it one step further and show up as anonymous to people whose pages you’ve visited.
Limit and protect sensitive information — whilst it’s important to sell yourself to prospective employers on LinkedIn, be careful when sharing data that could be used to build a clear picture of your life. Dates you went to school and addresses for instance. Save these for your CV to be shared privately with employers.
Third party access — whilst you may not think you’ve shared your LinkedIn information with any third parties, if you’ve used LinkedIn to sign in or register to other sites then you have. You can check and revoke access by visiting your account settings and viewing partners and services. In there you’ll see the services you’ve permitted to have access.
Block and report if needed — forgive me for covering old ground, but it warrants being said again. Call out anything you see that’s inappropriate. Either report to the site or block the offender to make the site safer and happier for everyone.
You can find more information on safety and security on LinkedIn in their safety centre.