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Don’t post anything online you wouldn’t post on your door
Social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare are a popular way to stay connected with friends and family. While social media sites can increase your circle of friends, they also can increase your exposure to people with less-than-friendly intentions. Follow these steps to stay safe on social media sites.

Maintain profile settings
Don’t post anything online you wouldn’t want your parents or grandparents to see. Assume everything you post is public and will stay on the Internet forever. Never include personal information, such as birthdays, addresses or phone numbers on public profile pages. Read the site’s terms and conditions to understand what data the site owns and the guidelines for how you should behave on the site. Don’t post harmful (especially untrue) material about someone else. You can be held liable under defamation laws and invasion of privacy issues. Set your security settings to always ask for your permission before posts, photo tagging or comments are made on your profile.

Sock Puppet
Only add people you really know as friends on social media sites. Malicious users and marketing companies often create fake profiles, also called “sock puppets”. Sock puppets try to trick users to give out personal information. Even if you don’t communicate with the sock puppet, they can still access and use the information you post on your profile.

Facebook Tips
Avoid posting pictures of yourself in potentially compromising positions, like heavy drinking or partying. Categorize your friends into lists. Lists let you decide which of your friends can see specific information. Facebook doesn’t let you hide what you “Like”. Don’t “Like” things you don’t want to be associated with.

Twitter Tips
Be conscious of the nature and tone of your tweets. The Library of Congress keeps a record of every tweet and anyone on the Internet can view them, including family or potential employers.

Geo-location Tips   
GPS-capable applications pinpoint your location and can include that information in your social media posts. Many smart phones automatically enable Geo-location updates, unless manually turned off. Disable location these settings when you’re not using GPS. It will also save battery. When using Geo-location apps, like Foursquare, don’t check in or out at your dorm room or home. Only let people you know see your check-ins. If you keep GPS settings enabled know that revealing your location can have negative consequences.

Think before you link
Avoid using online games or sites that ask to access your social media accounts, to link to scoreboards or for general information. Not every site will keep your information safe.

Assess your needs
Tailor your social media accounts according to your needs and use them appropriately for your job, school or to stay connected with family and friends. Regularly re-evaluate your social media accounts and close any you don’t need.

Google Yourself
Take a minute to Google or search yourself to see what others will see. Acquaintances, friends, and prospective employers will do this same search. Make sure there is good information at the top of your Google results. Try services like Brand-Yourself.com or a Google Alert in your name. You can control whether certain social media sites show up when your name is searched. For example, in Facebook’s privacy settings uncheck “create a public search listing for me.”

Speak up
  • Use report spam links if you think an account is actually a sock puppet.
  • Contact the police if you feel you are a victim of abuse online. You will protect yourself and help others.
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