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Dublin: 20 °C Wednesday 30 July, 2014

How to keep your social profiles safe and private

You could be revealing more information online than you would think.

Image: Shutterstock

WHEN YOU POST an update or photo online, who can see it? Depending on your privacy settings, it could be just your friends, your family or it could be available for all to see.

Our lives have become more connected than ever but at the same time, we tend to forget just how easily accessible our personal information is.

Thankfully, all of the major social media sites have measures in place to keep both your data safe and your activities private and there are numerous apps and plugins to help. Here’s how you can keep almost everything you do private.

Facebook

Remove your profile from search engines

While you can’t prevent your profile from being found on Facebook graph search, you can stop it from appearing on Google search. When you go into privacy settings (click on the cog icon at the top right-hand corner and you will find the option there), you will find the option at the bottom.

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See how people view your profile

If you’re unsure about what posts on your profile are showing publicly, you can view your profile as a member of the public or as a friend. On the bottom corner of your cover photo, you will find the ‘View as’ option under settings. Clicking this will allow you to view your profile as a specific friend (if you limit certain posts to a small group of friends) or view it as a stranger, showing you just how much information you reveal.

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Hide ‘About’ details

Much like your posts, you can choose not to reveal information on your About page as well. Each section in it has an edit button which will allow you to keep certain information like your email address or location private.

Limit old posts

While you can prevent your future posts from being public, keeping all your old posts private is a lot harder. Thankfully, there’s a quick way of doing this in your privacy settings.  This will make every post in your account visible only to friends.

Remember that once you allow this, you will have to go through each post individually if you want to make them public.

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Remove self from ads

If you’ve liked a page on Facebook and it runs an ad, your name will be included in the description, but you can turn it off by going into settings and accessing the ads section. Underneath the ads and friends section, you can choose to turn off this feature.

On the same page, you can remove yourself from third-party sites as well. This stops your profile photo from appearing in Facebook plugins.

Code Generator

A handy feature on Facebook app is code generator, which adds an extra layer of security to your account and is useful if you access your account through public computers.

To activate it, go into settings and choose the security menu. Once there, you can activate Login approvals and Code Generator, which can be found in the ‘more’ on the app. Code Generator can be accessed even if you don’t have an internet connection.

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Twitter

Apart from the option to make your account private, Twitter doesn’t offer much options for privacy since it’s based entirely around tweets.

Accessing the security section in you account will let you verify logins through SMS – verifying through the app isn’t available yet – stop people from finding you through your email or phone number and turn off tailored ads.

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Google

Access the Dashboard
Since Google owns so many different products, it’s placed the setting for all products on one main dashboard.  If you want an overview of the type of apps and products that you’re using, and how often you’re using them,

Remove yourself from Google+ ads

Similar to Facebook, Google also presents your name and photo beside an ad if you happen to +1 that page. To turn this off, go into shared endorsements and untick the box at the bottom.

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Opt out of Google ads

Again like Facebook, Google shapes its ads on the type of demographic you’re in. Through your search results (and your Google+ profile), it can determine what gender you are, your age group, and your interests.

What’s important is the last entry which allows you to opt-out of ads on Google and YouTube. Opting out means your information won’t be used to present targeted ads.

Activate two-step verification

One of the better security features Google has is two-step verification, requiring you to enter a code sent to your smartphone after you enter your password. When you have it set up, you will be sent a SMS or voice call with the code the next time you try logging in.



(Video: Google/YouTube)

Other

Manage apps
For every account you own, you will have given permission to a number of apps that you would have forgotten about. Even if it was an app that doesn’t seem significant, they can still access your information. Each site has its own section for turning off apps, but the Chrome app, My Permissions is the easiest way to do this. Not only can you get rid of unnecessary apps, but it will also alert you to any new apps gain access to your account.

If you don’t use Chrome, you can access your apps for Facebook, Twitter and Google here.



(Video: MyPermissions/YouTube)

Stop sites tracking your browsing

Since there are so many Facebook, Twitter and Google plugins installed on sites, it means that these sites are able to track your browsing . The easiest way to shut this off is to install Disconnect, a plugin for Chrome and Firefox. Activating it will block any cookies from the major social sites, allowing you to browse in peace.



(Video: disconnectors/YouTube)

Use private browsing

If you feel paranoid about sites tracking your browser’s cookies, you can always use private browsing which will. All the major browsers have this feature so it just a matter of activating it the next time you start surfing.

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Read: Almost half of Twitter users in Ireland tweet once a fortnight >

Read: Global censorship could end in a decade says Google boss >

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