Some people live their lives very openly on social networks choosing to share all sorts of details with the world. Others take a more conservative approach and keep their private lives private. Most people are somewhere in between, but no matter where you are on the spectrum there are a few things everyone should be aware of, especially if you are a big user of social networking sites.

Here are 10 tips to make sure you are keeping yourself safe on the web:

1. Check how your profile is displayed to others who are not your Facebook friends, even if you lock down your Facebook profile. Some 3rd party applications used to upload photos or post your Facebook status make these visible to everyone and you may find your Facebook privacy settings have not been applied.

To see how your profile currently appears to one of your friends, take the following steps:

  • Navigate to the Privacy Settings page.
  • Select the “Customize settings” link towards the bottom of the “Sharing on Facebook” section.
  • Click the “Preview My Profile” button that is located in top right side of the page.

When you have reached this preview mode, you will automatically see how your profile looks to most people on Facebook. To view how your profile looks to a specific friend, just type his or her name in the field.

2. Be notified of Facebook logins from other locations.  Facebook has a notification to alert you if your profile has been accessed from a different location (full instructions are here). Go to the Account Settings page and click on the link next to “Account Security” at the bottom of the page. If you select the option to receive notifications for logins from new devices, when you log in, you’ll be asked to name and save the various devices you use to access Facebook. 

3. Hide your date of birth. A lot of organisations will use your date of birth as an identification question. If this is visible on Facebook then suddenly it got a lot easier to impersonate you. To hide your date of birth from your profile go to Edit Profile > Basic Information and select the setting to hide your birthday in your profile.

4. Use https for browsing Facebook and Twitter. If you are ever on a public wifi network (eg library, conferences, cafes, airports) then you should always be using https for browsing Facebook and Twitter. This helps to protect yourself from someone accessing your profile while connected to an unsecure network. Both these sites have recently introduced this as an option (not as the default) so make sure you switch it on. Instructions for Facebook and Twitter are here – note that mobile Twitter does not have this option.

5. Google yourself to see how much information is digitally available about you. You might be surprised! Setting a Google alert to send you an email when new information is published about you might also be handy.

6. Passwords – who can keep track of them? If you have the misfortune of sitting within earshot of me on any given day you will know how I curse when I see a password field. Some people use the same password for everything – noooooo people, that is so not a good idea! Get one password and you’ve got them all. One easy way to structure your passwords is to use different passwords for different applications according to their level of risk. For example, you might have one password that you use for registering on websites that send newsletters, emails etc. A different password for social networking sites, and separate one for email. And always use a completely separate password for internet banking, not to be used for anything else. Ever.

7. Keep your antivirus software patched and up to date. Always.

8. Be mindful of your Foursquare or Facebook Places checkins, there are plenty of stories like this one of people being approached by strangers after a checkin using a location based service.


9. Beware of scams – like this scam that TradeMe have issued a warning for at present, where goods are sold very cheap, and the buyer sends money overseas – never to see the goods or their money again.

10. If you get phishing emails telling you that your password has been compromised or hacked or locked out, the easiest thing to do is to go to the site yourself (by typing the correct address into your browser) and logon to see if it has been! Also report the email to the website so they can take action.

There are many more tips on keeping yourself safe on the internet – please share yours with others in the comments below.