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Building a secure online identity

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If you use social media to keep in touch with friends and family, chances are you are putting personal information online. Once it’s out there, you may not be able to control what happens to it. This could pose a risk to your privacy.

Before you sign up for a social media account, learn about what personal information is collected and the privacy controls offered. If you’re not comfortable with how a service handles personal information, don’t sign up for it.

If you do decide to create a social media or other online account, take steps to minimize the information being collected to only what is required to use the service.

We know how fun it is to post pictures and comments that friends can see immediately, and to check out profiles and send messages to friends. The good news is you can do all this while building and maintaining a secure online identity.

Pay attention to privacy settings

Privacy settings control what people can see about you. Some sites automatically set them to the strictest settings, while others let anyone see all of your information unless you restrict the settings.

When you’re signing up for a new site, it is a good idea to allow only your friends to see your page, your posts, your photos and your applications.

It’s best to choose the strictest privacy settings because you can’t take back information from people once they’ve seen it. If you decide that you don’t want to keep the settings strict forever, relax them only after you are more familiar with the account and the settings that are available. Learn more by reading our tips for using privacy settings.

Think before you post

Would you say the same things, and show the same pictures, to a teacher or your parents that you would to a friend? Would you want people to see those comments and pictures five or 10 years from now? What would this information look like attached to your resume when you go apply for a job?

A profile that you create on social media will link to your friends’ online profiles. The people who are allowed to see your friends’ profiles may be able to see your profile as well. Everything in your profile – comments, photos and information you post – can potentially be seen by thousands of people and may never be completely erased. You need to think about the impression you are creating and about whether anything you post would embarrass you in real life – now, or in the future. Learn how to stay safe on social media.

Remember this: years from now, you may have to explain the information and photos that you are posting today.

Protect your personal details

Be careful with your personal information. There is no need to post your home address, telephone number, date of birth or where you go to school. In fact, it’s not a good idea to do this at all. Your friends already know all that information, or can ask you in the school hallway. Why do you need to share this information with strangers? Individuals and companies might use the information you post in ways that you may or may not be comfortable with.

Also, be careful about the seemingly innocent information you post. Posting attractive photos of yourself, along with details about where you are going to be at specific times, is not information you want strangers to have. Protect yourself online the same way you would out in the real world.

Protect your password and choose one that no one can guess. Use a different password for each website, account, and device that you use. Learn how by reading our advice on creating and managing passwords.

Important tips to remember

  • Check out a site’s privacy settings and set them to the strictest options
  • Create strong, unique passwords and keep them safe
  • Protect your personal details – don’t post information like your home address, phone number, Social Insurance Number and birth date
  • Think before you post – would you want your parents and teachers to see the information you are posting?
  • Use settings to limit who you share with. Also remember that even if you set your settings to only share with friends, the company is still collecting everything you post.
  • Remember: what you post online can affect your personal safety – especially if you tell people where you are going to be at specific times
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