Social Media: Privacy Friend or Foe?

Like many people, I’m assuming that you have a social media account be it a Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. The list of sites, which encourage you to enter your personal information for the sake of interaction with others, is exhaustive. But just how secure are these sites, what do they use your information for, and how do you make sure that your information is protected?

Aside from entering things such as your personal phone number, address, and other bits of personal information that you’d rather not a complete stranger have access to, there are things which I’m sure you didn’t even know were threats.

It’s no secret that social media has been a big part of the news, with countless stories where individuals have been fired for what they have posted on their personal social media pages, about work, on their own time. We’re now faced with the question of whether or not this is right or fair, and the conversation can go either way. This topic lives in somewhat of a gray area of the Internet privacy debates. Most people will find themselves saying some variation of “well it’s okay in this case, but not in this one,” so the challenge in making legislation if there is indeed to be some made regarding this, is extraordinarily difficult.

So how do you prevent this from happening to you?

First and foremost, prevention.

We may not like the idea that, when it comes to our lives, “Freedom of Speech” is a relative term, but when it comes to your personal social media page or the internet in general, you don’t put anything on the internet, that you wouldn’t want anyone to see. This includes your address, phone number, personal opinion, embarrassing photos, writings, etc.

This sounds obvious but, as someone who works in IT security, you would be amazed at the things that get stolen, found, or otherwise used, all under the impression that “I didn’t think anyone would be able to see that.”

It doesn’t matter where it’s going, who you think has access to it, or what you’re doing. If you don’t want someone to use it in some fashion, then neither should you. Going back to the getting fired for your Facebook posts, this includes opinions that “your job/boss sucks”.

Make your information/posts private.

In recent updates, Facebook has removed the ability to make your profile all but invisible, for anyone trying to find it, a fault, in my opinion. However, there are still ways in which to ensure that, what you do post, is restricted to the audience that you want to see it.

Securing your Facebook is relatively easy, even for those who may or may not be tech-savvy, and Facebook even provides a handy guide on how to customize your profile’s privacy.Under Settings>Security you can find and customize options such as login alerts. Which will send you a notification when your account is accessed, with the time, the device, and the relative location. Review where your account is currently logged in, login approvals, or setting trusted contacts in the event you get locked out of your own account.

Going to the privacy tab will allow you to fully customizes who can see your posts, options to approve what you’re tagged in, limit the audience of your past posts and who can send you friend requests, and control who can look you up on the site or with a search engine.

By exploring your privacy options among your various social media sites, like selecting the ‘request to follow’ option on Instagram for instance, you can control who sees what you post. Understanding and using these tools and settings can help prevent you from being the next person on the news who got fired because they said something that the company didn’t agree with.

Be informed about company policies or regulations.

Many companies, such as financial firms, state as part of their training that you, as an employee, represent the company 100% of the time, meaning that your personal social media accounts are subject to company and/or federal scrutiny. In fact, there are several guides several guides, software solutionsand notices and regulations regarding the use of social media by their employees. Knowing what your company’s policies are, concerning the use of social media, is key.

In addition to company policies, many court rulings have also been made based on what has been found on an individual’s Facebook.

In the case of Elonis v. the United States, Anthony Elonis posted a series of violent rants against his wife, among others. The case made it all the way to the Supreme Court, where a ruling of 8-1 determined that the mental state of the individual was not known at the time and that intent could not be determined. This decision actually skirted the issue, of whether or not an individual can be held accountable for what they post. Rather than making a blanket decision, they made a choice for this one case but, while they sided with Mr. Elonis, I can’t imagine it will be long before the issue presents itself in the Supreme Court again. Full case details.


While the outcomes thus far might not be fair or right, the topic of what’s said on social media is still a hot one. As of right now, with no specific legislation and many authorities skirting around the issue, the only thing that we can do is protect the information that we know is out there. Stay informed about the changes in government and corporate policy, to prevent us from being blind-sided by an employer, or even in the highest court in the land. It’s reminds me of an old proverb that my grandmother use to recite to me.

Grant me the intelligence to protect the information that I post, the knowledge to not post the things I shouldn’t, and the wisdom to understand the difference… at least, that’s how I think it went.