Practicing Safe Social Networking

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2010-03-25 Print this article Print

5. Privacy settings matter

Luckily, social networks, especially Facebook, have done a much better job of allowing users to secure their profiles so peering eyes can't find out what they're up to on a social network. Facebook's privacy settings are commendable. Although the default leaves much to be desired and some folks never change those settings, Facebook's tool allows users to keep just about everything private from those who aren't friends. It even helps users decide what friends can see. More social networks need to follow Facebook's lead and offer strong privacy settings for folks who want to secure their anonymity.

6. It can be good or bad for companies

Although most companies aren't too fond of employees accessing social networks without the proper security protocols in place, social networks can be both good and bad for organizations. On one hand, social networks can be fantastic marketing opportunities for firms that want to promote a brand through social means. At the same time, companies can be subject to the same security issues affecting individuals. Facebook groups, for example, have been hijacked in the past, leading to all kinds of potential trouble.

7. Spam is still present

Recently, Twitter announced on its corporate blog that it has successfully cut down spam on the social network to just 1 percent of tweets. It's a commendable job. But any Twitter user knows that spam is still far too present on the social network. Of course, Twitter isn't alone. Spam, originally the bane of e-mail, has quickly made headway in the social space as spammers realized that most folks are moving to social networks to communicate. It's not a good thing. As spam filters help to limit annoying e-mails, spammers have found another place to annoy us.

8. They're not all equal

Although there are a slew of social networks on the Web that boast something for just about anyone, they're not all equal. When it comes to security and protecting user privacy, there are some social networks that lead the pack and others that leave much to be desired. Realizing that, users need to be more careful about the social networks they join. Luckily, Facebook is close to leading the pack on almost all security and privacy issues. But some social networks aren't so proactive. As a result, they should be avoided.

9. Stick with the bigger ones

With that in mind, it's a good idea for users to stick with larger, long-established networks. Although every social network started as a small, unknown site, today, the market is much different. For the most part, only the larger social networks can be trusted with a user's private information. That doesn't mean that users should only stick with MySpace, Facebook and Twitter. But it does mean that if a site is extremely small and few people have heard of it, it's probably not to be trusted. It's better to wait and see if it gains popularity before private information is shared with the site and its small community.

10. The fear of location

As social networks have matured, location has quickly become one of the most desired features. But the debate over location-based social networks is intense. Proponents believe that it adds a viable element to social networking by helping users communicate with friends who are within a particular distance. Critics of location-based services say that by offering an exact location, it tells the rest of the world where a user isn't. And if they share their home location, it won't take much for someone to find out where they live. I tend to agree with the critics. While I see value in location-based services, it's just too much shared information. I don't want all my Twitter followers or Facebook friends to know where I live. I also don't need to tell folks where I am at every minute with a location service like Foursquare.

Simply put, some anonymity goes a long way. But as social networks have matured, we've lost that anonymity. And our security is feeling the effect.

Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at

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