Information Security

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Social Networking Best Practices

Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and other social networking sites make it easy for you to connect with others based on shared personal and/or professional interests. They help you exchange information about yourself via postings, pictures, videos, email, or instant messaging. Depending on how you set up your account, this information can be shared within a small community of friends or broadcast to the world.

Socializing online encourages openness, but it also challenges us to think about how we define privacy and what we consider personal. Consider how parents, university officials, future and current employers, or worse, online predators, may interpret your profile. The tips below will help keep you and your information safe.

1. Know how the site works before you join.

Social networking sites are each set-up differently and offer a range of options. Some allow you to post to a small group of users, while others allow anyone to view your personal postings. Look at the different features and think about what level of openness you really want. Consider whether setting viewing restrictions can help control who sees your information.

2. Keep personal information to yourself.

Your full name, Social Security number, address, phone number, bank or credit card account numbers (and that of others) do not belong on these sites. By posting them, you open yourself up to identity theft or stalkers.

3. Information lasts forever.

Only post information you are comfortable with others seeing, including your professors, parents, current or future employers, coworkers, or the police. Even if you change your mind and delete what you posted, the information is still out there. Older versions may exist on someone else’s computer and social networking sites can never fully remove these files.

4. Think before you share.

Photos, videos, stories, blogs can all be used to form opinions of you or can be shared with others. Before posting, consider who will see these and whether you can share them with a smaller audience. Be considerate when passing on photos of friends - ask whether they would want that information shared.