The Web is an information playground, and everyone is eager to share. And with the recent addition of sharing tools – those little icons that allow you to like, post, and more across various social media platforms – users can “share” easily and instantly. But while those seemingly innocuous buttons make it easier to post that hilarious cat video or share your friend’s interesting blog post, there are hidden risks every time you click.
Sharing Tools: What’s the Problem?
As social media dominates the online landscape, everyone wants to jump on board. If you want to gain exposure, you must be present on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Therefore, every article, online post, and more is packed with sharing tools that encourage users to spread the word. Using these tools to share might seem harmless to the average user, but these tools may actually be violating your privacy.
Anytime you try out a new Facebook game, participate in an online poll, or vote for a contest, you are downloading a social media sharing app. At times, “liking” and posting can be dangerous too, depending on how it is implemented.
Attention: Facebook pops up a permissions screen when this happens, and if you accept, you have downloaded that application and given it access to your private information.
How does this affect your privacy? That app can track your online activity, compile a consumer profile about you, and then in turn sell your information to marketers.
According to Facebook, 10,000 websites integrate with the site each day through sharing tools and users install 20 million social media apps. This flurry of activity leaves plenty of opportunity for third parties to access your information. Most of the time, you are unaware of the type of information these apps are collecting or how it is being used.
With no oversight, your personal information can be jeopardized. For example, many apps require a new account/password to access them. Because many users use repeat usernames and passwords, thieves could easily use the information to access more sensitive accounts, like your bank account.
At this time, there is little regulation when it comes to online privacy, particularly on the mobile devices that frequently run these apps. Though lawmakers have called for stricter policies, it is still up to the user to safeguard their online activities.
How to protect yourself
So how do you protect yourself when sharing? Consider the following tips the next time you plan to use one of these apps:
Do your research: If you plan to use sharing apps, do your research to find out which ones are safest and most reputable. You can find free online tools at sites like Unsubscribe.com and Reputation.com that track apps, rank them for safety, and help you manage them by offering tips like reminding you to deactivate apps you’re not using.
Use different account information: If you need to provide information to access the app, create a username and password that is very different from those you use for other accounts. This will decrease the chances your info could be used to violate your privacy in other ways.
Remove apps that you no longer need: Within Facebook, select Account / Privacy Settings. From there, click “Edit your settings” under “Apps and Websites” and then choose to “Remove unwanted or spammy apps.”
Privacy concerns are a serious issue in this digital age. Despite current efforts by lawmakers to safeguard our online activity, users remain vulnerable. That’s why it’s up to you to make sure you’re doing all you can to share safely.