5 Social Media Privacy Tips for Twitter and Facebook

Wooden block with lock picture sitting on a computer keyboard

Social media services like Facebook and Twitter are amazing forms of communication. Never before have we been able to share as much about ourselves with as many people as we can today.

With this amazing ability to talk and share come some pretty big security concerns. Twitter and Facebook want you to be as public with your posts as possible. But to keep yourself safe online and protect your privacy while you use these two platforms, there are some essential social media privacy tips you should follow. Check them out below.

1. Protect Your Tweets

If you’re a Twitter user, the easiest way to protect your privacy is to protect your tweets. This means that only people that you approve as followers will be able to see what you post. To turn this on, just log in to your account and click on your user picture in the upper right corner. From here, click on Security and privacy and check the box labeled Protect my Tweets.

Twitter Privacy options

Note that this only works for your future tweets, not for items that you may have posted publicly before. Messages posted publicly can only be deleted to hide them.

2. Set Privacy for Past and Future Facebook Posts

Unlike Twitter, Facebook allows you to set privacy settings for both future and past posts. This means if you’re looking for a new job you can quickly lock down your profile.

To adjust security settings for posts in Facebook, just log in and click the lock icon in the upper right corner. Next, click on Who can see my stuff and select Friends. Once this is set, you can go back and update past posts on a per-post basis by clicking on Activity Feed right below the “future posts” setting you just adjusted.

Selecting Friends as Facebook privacy setting

This might take some time, but it will make sure you only share what you want seen.

3. Review Facebook Security Settings

While you’re at it, you might as well review more of your Facebook security settings to make sure you’re staying nice and private. While making sure your posts are secure, you should also check out who can view your profile, contact you, and interact with you while you’re on Facebook.

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By clicking the lock icon in the upper right corner again, you’ll see Who can contact me, which helps you weed out unwanted messages and who can send you friend requests. Finally, click on See More Settings at the very bottom of this list to see the real meat and potatoes of Facebook security settings.

Privacy Settings and Tools screen on Facebook

There’s a lot here, but the most important might be the last item. Under Who can look me up, you should turn off Do you want other search engines to link to your timeline. This stops the likes of Google and Bing from searching your Facebook timeline when someone does a search.

4. Disable Location Services

Location services are one of the most useful tools on our mobile devices, but they’re also one of the most dangerous. If you post regularly from home and then post from somewhere that isn’t home, someone could very easily see that you’re out of the house – and that it’s time to break in and steal all that nice new technology you’ve been talking about on Twitter.

Or, if someone is looking for you in a not-so-nice kind of way, they could literally follow you based on your location sharing in Facebook and Twitter. To stop this from happening, you can turn off location services on your mobile device for these apps. This varies based on what type of phone you use, but follow the instructions for your specific device. Here are some tips on various devices for Facebook.

Twitter location settings screen showing Delete all location information button

For Twitter, make sure the Security and privacy page at Twitter.com doesn’t have the Add a location to my Tweets box checked. This will disable it system-wide. Verify that it’s turned off for your device, and you’re all set. To remove all past location data for Twitter, click the Delete all location information button, and any trace of location sharing will be wiped out.

5. Turn Off Location for Images

Speaking of location services, did you know that every picture you take has location data attached to it? If the device you’re taking a picture with has a GPS chip in it, the default is to save location data to the file.

Map in iOS 8 showing locations of photos taken

This means that the pictures you took of your new MacBook or iPhone at home have location data attached, showing someone where the items are, if they care.

Many services, including Facebook, Twitter and Flickr, keep this data when posting your pictures. While this is great for showing a picture map in iPhoto or iOS, it’s terrible for privacy.

Turn off location data for pictures in every device you own with GPS to ensure this data is never sent again. This varies per device.

On an iOS 8 device, you go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services > Camera and set Allow Location Access to “Never.” Now when you post pictures to Twitter or Facebook, your location data won’t be present.

We can all get carried away sometimes with sharing stuff online, without really thinking about the potential repercussions. Following these social media privacy tips can help you make sure you’re sharing in ways that won’t come back to haunt you later. (Disclaimer: We can’t keep you from posting those “hilarious” photos of you wearing a lampshade on your head or puking on your friend’s shoes outside the club.)

Do you have any of your own tips for how to use Facebook and Twitter more safely? Share them in the comments below!

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