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Do you know who’s watching you on social media?

One-quarter of Canadian internet users never check or change their privacy settings, a recent survey shows. Here’s how to lock down your posts.

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A magnifying glass and magnifying the word 'Privacy settings' on the Facebook siteKnowing your privacy settings—what is shared publicly, and what is meant for a chosen audience—should be a priority (Shutterstock/pixinoo) 

While you blissfully share photos and stories on your social media accounts, it’s important to remember that it might not just be your friends and family who are watching your adventures.

That’s why knowing your privacy settings—what is shared publicly, and what is meant for a chosen audience—should be a priority. But according to a recent survey by the Social Media Lab at Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University in Toronto, Ont., a quarter of Canadian internet users never check or change their privacy settings on social media. 

There are many reasons to limit what you’re sharing publicly, says one of the report’s authors, including that potential employers will be googling your name. Released in June 2018, the survey also points to insurance companies, journalists, political parties and even border protection officers accessing information about individuals through their social media accounts. 

“We have to realize that all of these third-parties are turning to social media for insight, just the same way they turn to other types of data,” said Anatoliy Gruzd, an associate professor at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University and director of research at the Social Media Lab.

Even for those who have personalized privacy settings, it’s important to keep up-to-date. 

“Because social media platforms change regularly, people may not be aware that new a new feature was incorporated, or that new settings allow you to modify the visibility of certain content.”

KNOW YOUR SETTINGS

While there is a strong push for social media platforms to think about how to protect users data and privacy, users have a responsibility as well, says Gruzd. 

“We, as users, should take as much control over profiles and settings as possible,” he said. “That we at least know our privacy settings, and set it in the way that’s most comfortable to us.”

Here are a few tips for some popular platforms:

FACEBOOK

In the company’s Help Centre, there’s thorough information on everything from choosing an audience for your posts, to selecting when others can tag you in content. For a quick review on how you’re currently sharing your information online, click the question mark icon at the top right of your News Feed page and select Privacy Check-up. 

On desktop: Click the arrow icon at the top right of the page and select Settings. On the left side menu, click Privacy. 

On iPhone: Tap the hamburger icon on the bottom right and select Settings & Privacy.

On Android: Tap the hamburger icon on the top right and scroll down to Settings & Privacy.

LINKEDIN

Clicking on the privacy tab covers what can be seen about you, how information is used by LinkedIn and how to download your data.

On desktop: Click the Me tab at the top of the page and choose Settings & Privacy from the drop-down menu.

On iPhone: On your profile page, tap the hamburger icon in the top right corner and then the Settings icon at the bottom. Then scroll down to Privacy and Security.

On Android: On your profile page, tap the gear icon on the top right, then tap the Privacy tab.

INSTAGRAM

Learn how to set photos and videos so that only approved followers can see them. But Instagram’s privacy settings allow for even more control, like removing images from a Google search or filtering and removing comments on your posts.   

On desktop: Go to your profile page by clicking the person icon at the top right of the page. Select Edit Profile and choose Privacy and Security. 

On mobile: On your profile page, tap the menu icon on the top right, and scroll down to settings. In options, scroll down to Privacy and Security.

TWITTER

If you’re not posting for professional reasons, you may want to protect your tweets. The Help Center shows how and when your tweets can be see publicly. 

On desktop: Click your photo icon on the top right of the page. From the drop-down menu, select Settings and privacy. 

On mobile: Tap your photo icon on the top left corner and select Settings and privacy.

PROTECT YOUR DATA

It’s hard keeping all your data private—read how companies can even track you deleting their app. And protecting your information is an important issue that extends beyond social media—learn more about the recommendations from the CPA Canada roundtable that discussed the need for frameworks around data privacy and trust.