Privacy On Social Media & Issues To Navigate

When it comes to recent examples of privacy on social media and the issues it can cause, just take a quick look at the news – you’ll find something!

So what are the issues we face today, and how do we maintain social media privacy in a world of shared information?

From problems with security and data breaches, to serious consequences from users oversharing on social platforms, the relationship between privacy and social media can be strained – at best.

With people putting more and more of their lives online, privacy on social media is going to be a main concern for many going forward.

At BrandYourself, we’ve been paying attention to this for a while. While there are a ton of privacy issues, you can usually divide them into two camps:

  1. Data/privacy breaches related to the infrastructure of the social network itself
  2. Issues originating with the users themselves


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These two camps are not completely unrelated as well. A combination of poor judgement from the user and a breach can lead to major issues with privacy on social media that are not easily remedied.

Understanding the difference between both of these is important if you want to know how to protect yourself. Something we see quite often is that a lot of people only have an understanding about one of the two camps listed above.

If you’re aware of how to maintain your privacy on social media by not sharing or exposing your information, that’s a great start. However, as a user of any social network you need to be aware of the information they likely have about you and the business model they use. You can avoid shooting yourself in the foot and still get burnt due to a data breach of a social media site.

The opposite can be true as well. Let’s say that you read every terms of service and understand what is being done with your information on every social media site you use. That’s a great start, congrats!

However, let’s say you share too much information or post a picture that has your address on it. Consequences that come from this are not the fault of the social media site you were using, it’s on you.

The reality of the fact is that your privacy on social media can vanish in the blink of an eye over something that might have seemed very innocent. When you are dealing with the kind of reach and scale that these sites have, the time it can take for these mistakes to come back to bite you is extremely short.

So, let’s get into the two camps and what you need to understand about each.

The social network and its leaders

In this case we’re talking about issues that come from the company that runs the network, as and vulnerabilities within the actual architecture of the site. These social media privacy issues are often part of the core fundamentals of a site, and the user cannot change them directly.

However, understanding what’s happening behind the scenes and how to mitigate risk on certain platforms will go a long way.

The number of people who have no idea how social networks operate when it comes to privacy is far too high. By becoming more aware of this aspect of the sites they use so frequently, many people would be able to adequately protect themselves from some common mistakes that come back to bite them.

Here’s what you should do in order to maintain your privacy on social media.

Understanding the fine print

This is one of the most overlooked aspects when it comes to social media privacy. Most folks don’t want to take the time to read the user agreements because it’s boring or takes too long.

While we totally agree that reading legal-ease isn’t the most fun thing to do, it is a smart thing to do. Once you make it a habit it really only take a few minutes to get a high-level understanding of what’s going on, and if there’s something you don’t like. This is a very small time investment considering the amount of time you will likely spend on the site once you sign up.

In the case of larger social networking sites, a free account often comes at a price to the user. Depending on the rules outlined in the terms of service, users often sign away their privacy rights as soon as they click “agree”.

While user data is typically used in aggregate to improve services, there’s always a strong chance that the terms of service allow that company to sell or share your information to third parties for profit. Whenever you join a large social media site in the future, it would be wise to assume this is happening or is going to happen at some point later on down the line.

Other companies are willing to shell out a lot of money for this data for behavioral research and advertising benefits. The owners of the site determine what kinds of information to collect from users, and how to share it.

Additionally, the terms and conditions will often change, so it’s up to you to read these agreements and understand what exactly it is that you’re agreeing to. Quite often notification emails and pop ups about updates to terms of service get ignored by the user, yet those same users get upset when they find out that their information was being sold to advertisers.

Change what you expect from these sites when it comes to your privacy on social media, read the terms of service, and you will be far better off. Doing this will help you find sites with social media privacy terms that you feel comfortable with.

Technical vulnerabilities

When accepting a social network’s terms of service, you’re not only giving license to the company to track you and share insights about this as they please, but you’re also accepting any vulnerabilities within their system.

While this is by no means the intention of the network, third parties can expose different vulnerabilities within the software they use. This can mean anything from phishing scams, to contact hacks, or worse.

Additionally, when social networks allow third parties to design applications to work in tandem with these networks, there’s always a chance that the application is also vulnerable. This is a very common social media privacy issue especially on smaller networks that don’t have as many resources to stop this from happening.

This means whenever you download an app or choose to login using a social media account, make sure that you are downloading from a reliable source, and that you update it as new versions become available. Privacy concerns with social media should increase drastically when you deal with smaller, unknown sites.

Protect yourself from…yourself

While data breaches are problematic, many social media privacy issues and missteps happen due to the volume and nature of what we’re posting on these networks. Making smart decisions about your privacy on social media (and what you’re posting) whenever possible will limit the chances of serious repercussions.

Smart online reputation management often includes staying out of your own way. Building a strong presence on social media platforms is a professional necessity in virtually all industries today, but try to avoid the following:


A number of questions have been raised over the past few years when it comes to negotiating your excitement as a parent and the volume/nature of images and videos that you share of your children online.

This is without a doubt one of the most frequent social media privacy issues that we face today.

While parents posting images and videos of their children is pretty common, it’s still important for parents to at least consider their children’s right to privacy (or even safety), when it comes to posting.

We are just starting to scratch the surface of the psychological effects that sharenting (parents who post and share all kinds of content about their children online) may have on children. However, there’s no doubt that this is a tricky area that requires some thought, particularly before children are able to voice their own opinions about their rights to privacy and what their parents share about them online.

Take a look at what content you’re sharing about your child and ask yourself the question, “Would I want a stranger to know this?” If the answer is no, take down what you don’t want available and refrain from sharing similar content in the future.

No matter how trusted you think your circle is online, it’s not difficult at all for a stranger to find a way into your group and begin accessing the content you share. Remember this!

Compromising your safety with overshares

When it comes to privacy issues with social media, never lose sight of your own personal safety. Even if you consistently err on the side of “private” when it comes to account settings, if we’ve learned anything from recent scandals, it’s that you shouldn’t publish or share anything that you want to remain private online.

Social media privacy can affect your real world safety as well, and that’s a problem no one wants.

When it comes to your safety in the real world, remember that what you share online can come into play. Constantly sharing where you are and what you’re doing can give criminals who want to do you harm too much information.

Are your own photos on instagram about your vacation alerting burglars that now would be a great time to break into your home? Did you just increase your chances of identity theft by tweeting out your ridiculous driver’s license picture and not blurring out your personal info?

Think critically about what you’re sharing and whether or not it’s really something that you’re ok with anyone seeing.

Sabotage your own job security

When it comes to privacy on social media and your job, it’s important to remember that what you say on social media can come back to bite you at work.

Whether you post about how much you hate your job, make a comment about your boss, or post something that does not follow the core mission of your company, you can get fired for what you say online. So always remember to exercise caution when it comes to what you post and share.

If you get fired for something you post online, make sure that it’s something that you actually stand by… not a mistake, not poor judgement, but a true reflection of who you are. Even if you think that what you are doing on social media is private, imagine your boss reading every post and comment.

It’s easy to have a disconnect between what we’re posting and who is reading it. So just keep the above in mind when it comes to what you’re sharing online.

How to maintain your privacy on big social networks

When it comes to maintaining your privacy on social networks, it’s important that you first take some time to reflect on what you are and are not comfortable with sharing, as well as your audience.

It doesn’t have to be a one-size-fits-all stance, but a general idea will be very helpful when it comes to avoiding self-inflicted social media privacy issues we see today. This will also make it far less likely that you will have much to clean up later on.

There’s a good chance that your feelings towards privacy on social networks won’t always be consistent and may change depending on what it is that you’re posting. Even so, it’s a good idea to see where you fall on the spectrum.

Are you a “living in a cabin in the woods with a tinfoil hat” type of person when it comes to privacy? Or do you regularly out-selfie a Kardashian? In all likelihood, you fall somewhere in-between. Even so, go through your various social media accounts and do the following:

  • Familiarize yourself with the privacy settings. There’s a lot that can be done here to help protect your privacy on social media that most users don’t even consider. For example, on Facebook you can customize your settings to share or exclude content from certain people or lists. Most people only know about the “public” or “friends only” options.
  • Really consider what you’re posting – even if it’s “private”, there’s always the chance that others could see it. Is it still worth sharing? Quite often we see regrettable posts on social media become newsworthy because of a screenshot someone else took. Even if you take down whatever you posted, it could be too late. Not posting it in the first place is far more effective.
  • Stay focused on specific topics – work and a hobby are great topics because they are professional, but also show a bit of your personality without giving away too much information. The more you share about your personal life and sensitive information, the more you put yourself at risk.
  • Stay true to your comfort levels. That means, don’t get too personal if that’s not your style. Don’t share information if you think you’ll regret it later. If you’re on the fence about something, it’s probably smart to keep it to yourself, just to be safe.
  • Treat others as you’d like to be treated. Yes, you have the right to troll anyone you want to… but how is that helping you or anyone else? Not only is it pointless, but it can come back to bite you in a big way.
  • Use best practices when it comes to account information. Always use secure passwords that are different for each account, and use a secondary email address for these accounts. In the event of a security breach this will go a long way in ensuring your most important accounts (like your primary email) are protected.
  • Don’t share your login credentials with anyone. This should be obvious, but people ignore this tip more often than you would think.

Using free software to make things easier

As you can see, social media platforms provide a great place to engage with others while developing your personal brand. They also come loaded with a number of potential danger zones when trying to maintain your privacy on social media and in real life.

These privacy issues with social media are not going to disappear anytime soon, which is one of the reasons why we built our reputation management software. Many people are too overwhelmed (or don’t have the time) to monitor this sort of thing on a consistent basis.

Luckily, our free tool can monitor your social media privacy and see if there’s anything out there that you might not be comfortable with. This will take save you some time and give you additional peace of mind knowing you have something looking out for your privacy at all times.

In addition to protecting you from some of the social media privacy issues we discussed earlier, our DIY tool can help you stay on track when it comes to developing a positive and effective personal brand that avoids getting too personal.

It takes you through the process of building out your online reputation by following our 3-Step Process. Build a strong foundation for your personal brand, establish authority, and maintain relevance over time.

Sign up for a free account here.