Looking for more online privacy? You got it

It’s becoming difficult to keep up with the various privacy policies across the expanding social media landscape. Facebook’s Timeline, mandatory by month’s end, resurrects every move you’ve made since joining the network. And it’s not just social media: If you use Google as a search engine, for example, you’re subjected to its new privacy policies, which started this month.

Advocates for privacy and security worry about the widening practice of collecting information on the Internet and how that information is being used. Even if a company promises not to sell your personal information to third parties, there’s still the risk a readily available database that includes your information could be hacked.

Identity theft ensnares 4.9 percent of adults, according to Javelin Strategy & Research’s latest report on the topic, and social media can significantly increase your vulnerability. Users of LinkedIn and Google Plus suffered the highest rates last year — at 10.1 percent and 7 percent, respectively. Above-average incidents of identity theft also were reported by users of Twitter (6.3 percent) and Facebook (5.7 percent). [The Javelin report didn’t contain similar data for Pinterest, growing in popularity but still relatively new.]

Even if you’re not that concerned about identity theft, Facebook’s new Timeline might have you worried about privacy. Not only are employers now screening job applicants through social media, but do you really want other people reading your status updates from three years ago? And Google’s new streamlined privacy policy, which shares your information across all of its platforms, might have you feeling a little overexposed.

Here are a few things you can do to make your experience on the World Wide Web a bit more private:

Facebook: You can delete posts on your Timeline, but if you’ve been prolific on Facebook it could take some time. Also, it’s a good idea to regularly revisit your privacy settings as Facebook continues to evolve. You can make your account as private or public as you wish by changing these settings. Among other things, you can set up a security login, which requires a special code any time you access your account from an unknown location.

Google: If you’re uncomfortable with Google targeting your searches and Gmail content for advertising purposes, you can visit your Google dashboard to block specific ads or to opt out of “advertising personalization” altogether. Google’s privacy settings include opting out of ad personalization on other web pages.

LinkedIn: By default, LinkedIn shares your information with third parties, but you can change this in your privacy controls. You can also adjust who sees your activity feed and turn off your activity broadcasts.

Twitter: You don’t have to be as public as everyone else — just check the “protect my tweets” box under settings to create a closed network. You then must subsequently approve anyone who wants to view your tweets.

How do you protect your privacy online? Which companies’ privacy policies give you pause?

– By Lauren Davidson, Atlanta Bargain Hunter

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One comment Add your comment

Robin Wilton

March 6th, 2012
8:02 am

Companies’ privacy policies aren’t really about protecting users’ privacy… they are a set of disclaimers intended to maximise what the company can do with data about you, while minimising your grounds for complaint. On that basis, I’m afraid the answer to your closing question is “All of them”…