Is your private information really private when you use social media? Not really, as it turns out. Over the last few months, the media has been flooded with stories about privacy hacks and breaches within the major social media platforms—often by the social media companies themselves!

How Private is Your Information on Social Media

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The most recent problem and breach of privacy to come to light is Facebook’s scanning of users’ supposedly private messages. Yes, you read that right: the private messages you’re sending to your friends on Facebook are being scanned by the company in an attempt to learn more about you so that they can increase their marketing efforts. Bloomberg has a great synopsis of the situation.

But that’s not all!

A few weeks ago Twitter tried to “revamp” its block feature by turning it into more of a “mute” feature—allowing those who had been “blocked” to still see and share messages published by the Blocker but removing any trace of the abuser’s activity from the Blocker’s feed. This decision was reversed within hours after users threatened to jump Twitter’s ship by the millions.

Or what about the greatest threat to personal safety of them all: Foursquare? Foursquare is a social media network that allows users to “check in” to a variety of places and then those “check ins” are published publicly online. It’s like shouting “here I am, all of you people I’d rather avoid! Come find me!” Or “Hey! My home is unattended! Help yourself!”

Have We Become Desensitized?

Last summer, CNN posed the question “Are We Sharing Too Much Online?” The op-ed talks about how quick we are to share incredibly private things with each other via these social networks which, in spite of the magic curtains they say they put up, offer us very little privacy at all.

It’s easy to get caught up in the quick and easy ability to communicate and reveal more than we really want to. Making matters worse, advances in hacking and hacking-friendly software (like those apps that you can download “invisibly” on to someone’s cell phone to spy on what they’re doing), are making it so that we remain vulnerable even when we really do try to take steps to keep private stuff private.

What Can You Do?

Obviously, you know that you shouldn’t publish anything online that you wouldn’t want brought up in court. But what else can you do?

Start with your security software. You likely already have some pretty hardcore security software on your computer(s). It is important that your mobile devices have that type of protection as well (especially on Android devices).

Protect your cloud. The cloud is a marvel in contemporary technology, but it is also vulnerable to threats. The good news is that most security software companies create some form of cloud security that can be used to protect your data. Trend Micro cloud security, for instance, uses a Smart Protection Strategy to continually upgrade the kinds of cyber security it can offer.

You must also realize that the technology and strategies behind cyber protection are changing every day. Stay informed on changes as they happen by reading the work and social media updates of industry insiders. The Trend Micro experts also recommend real time security and the use of a virtual data center.

Always use two-step verification on your social media accounts. Two step verification is a fantastic security measure that many social media networks have put in place to help give you an extra layer of protection. In addition to having to enter your password whenever you log in, you have to enter a code that is sent either to your email or your cell phone. It keeps people from breaking your password and stealing your account.

And always always always always log out! Never leave a social media account signed in—even if you’re using your own computer. Accounts that are permanently in “signed in” status are more vulnerable to threats than those that have been logged off.

What things are you doing to keep your private life private while using social media?