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Social Networking Safety by John Dunker

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Guest blogger today is John P. Dunker, a retired Navy Master Chief Petty Officer who has worked with computers for over 25 years. He is an independent IT consultant to businesses and individuals and designs and manages several websites. He is also “Tech-Know” columnist for Hometown Magazine.

Writers use Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites to market their work. You want to meet new people, and you want potential readers to know you. But, how do you protect yourself from those who might want to do you harm instead? Today, John concentrates on Facebook safety, but these pointers apply to any online networking site.

  • Make sure your profile is secured. Go into the settings for your account and adjust how open your profile is to others. Choose what information and content is visible to certain user groups. Set your profile and content to be viewable only to friends. This way, strangers and others whom you may not know can’t access and view your information.
  • Don’t “friend” people you don’t know. This is simply common sense. You wouldn’t call a random phone number and tell a stranger every detail about your life. Would you invite a stranger into your home to go through your family photo albums and find out about your everyday routine? However, many people will confirm people as Facebook friends that they’ve never even met in real life! If someone whom you don’t know adds you as a friend, you can ignore the request.
  • Be careful what applications you use. Facebook applications may request permission to access things such as your profile and personal information in order for the application to work. You can choose to allow this, or you can back out and cancel. Be wise when using applications. Companies can potentially invade your privacy if you click “allow” without truly knowing what the application will be doing.
  • Be careful what you post. Some things you shouldn’t post on Facebook include the following. Don’t tell when you are going to be gone or out of town. Never post a status along the lines of “Going on vacation next week.” This alerts all your Facebook “friends” that your house will be vacant and they can potentially break in. For people you really need to know that you’ll be gone, just email them instead. Don’t post your address. If you are inviting friends over or posting about a party, don’t post the address as a general status. You should instead send it to each invited person individually. Don’t post your phone number. It could potentially get spread around so that telemarketers or complete strangers could be calling you. Before you post something, read over it and make sure that it doesn’t give away private information that might put you in jeopardy.
  • Be careful what you click on. If you see a post or a message from one of your friends that doesn’t seem like something they would normally post, don’t click on it. Just like other websites, Facebook can be used to spread malware. It may appear one of your friends has posted a link, maybe a video or a link to a website. When you click on it, your computer may become infected with a virus that may be spread to your other Facebook friends. These links, once they have been clicked on, can be automatically posted on your friend’s walls or sent to them in a message allowing the infectious virus or malware to spread to their computer, too. These links can be especially awful if they contain inappropriate content, and it looks like you sent it.

Using your head and these tips, you can enjoy Facebook and other networking sites without worry. Remember, it’s always better to be safe than sorry!



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