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How To Properly Set Up Your Social Media Privacy Settings

Scammers, stalkers, and hackers can use public information on your social media profiles to target you — unless you change your privacy settings.

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      How Can You Protect Your Privacy on Social Media?

      From cryptocurrency scams to account hacking, scammers have more ways than ever before to steal your personal information and exploit you via social media. 

      According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) [*]:

      Americans lost more than $1 billion to social media scams in 2023 alone. 

      Because of the growing risks, social media privacy settings are crucial to your online safety. By protecting your private information and keeping your social media accounts secure, you can make yourself a much less susceptible target for cybercriminals.  

      In this guide, we’ll cover how to manage your social media privacy settings on all major platforms in order to help deter fraudsters and protect your privacy and sensitive information. 

      {{show-toc}} 

      What Do Privacy Settings Do on Social Media? 

      Social media privacy settings allow you to control who can see your posts, personal information, and contact details — such as your date of birth, address, and full name. With stringent privacy settings, you help protect your personal safety, reputation, and digital identity.

      Unfortunately, the default privacy settings on most social media platforms leave you vulnerable to hackers and scammers. 

      Social media profiles are often public by default, as social media platforms benefit from easy access to user data. But sharing too much personal information on social media can expose you and your loved ones to cyber threats — such as phishing, romance scams, and online shopping scams

      The good news is that you can take control of your personal security by adjusting your social media privacy settings. 

      Here are a few things to consider when exploring your settings:

      • Who can view your profile? The most basic privacy setting on social media platforms determines who is able to view your page. For example, you can limit visibility to the public, to friends only (or friends of friends), or to a closed circle of trusted contacts.
      • What details can contacts and non-contacts see? With certain settings, you can limit the information available to different people. For example, some connections might be able to see your complete profile, while others can only see a few details, like your name and profile photo. 
      • How and where can you be found on social networks? This feature allows you to control how and where you’re found, from search engines to recommendation lists.
      • How secure is your account against hacking? You can reduce the chances of an account takeover by tightening your defenses with two-factor authentication (2FA) and a stronger password.
      • Can people see your location? This setting lets you hide your geolocation when you use social media. Many social networking sites include location data automatically on posts and photos. 
      • What kind of personal data does the social network collect? Many social media sites share data with advertisers. As you take charge of your social media privacy settings, you can review and control the personal data that social networks collect.
      • How safe are your children from the risks of adult content? Parents want to protect their kids from interacting with online predators or viewing explicit content. Most social media platforms offer privacy settings that can help you block access to certain pages or features, like chatting with strangers.
      ⛑️ Protect your online accounts, identity, and privacy — with a single app. Aura combines identity and fraud protection with advanced digital security, 24/7 support, and up to $1 million in insurance coverage. Plans start at $3/month.

      Checklist: Follow These Steps To Protect Your Privacy on Social Media

      Privacy settings differ based on social media platform and device (desktop, iOS, Android, etc.). However, there are some general best practices you can follow to keep your accounts secure and private. 

      Here are nine steps you can take to make your account as private as possible:

      Review and update your social media privacy settings 

      Each social networking site has a different set of privacy options — but in general, you’ll want to set your account to “private” to limit who can see your personal information and contact you. A public social networking profile gives scammers deep insights into your private life that they can use to target you and your family.

      Check the social network’s data collection policy

      When you share information on social media, there’s a chance it could be leaked in a data breach or sold to data brokers. Before creating a social media account, read the platform's privacy policy to understand how it collects and shares information.

      View your profile in incognito mode to see what strangers can see

      Use the private mode in your web browser to view your profile as a stranger would see it. This step can help you understand what information is visible to the public — and what you need to hide.

      Clean up your friends list

      Take a few minutes to review with whom you're connected on each platform to make sure you're sharing information with people you actually trust. Hackers often try to gain access to old social media accounts in order to scam connections. 

      💡 Related: How To Properly Set Up Your iPhone's Privacy Settings

      Disable location-sharing

      You might not think there’s any harm in showing your location on a social media post. But fraudsters look for any useful information about you to make their scams more convincing. It’s wise to turn off all location services and avoid geotagged photos.

      Restrict access from third-party apps 

      Most of us have logged in to another website or app using our Facebook account. While this feature is convenient, third-party access comes with security risks, especially if the apps have any software vulnerabilities. 

      Limit the personal details you share in your profile 

      Think carefully about what you need to display on social media. Hiding your full address and phone number is smart. You can even include fake details to throw scammers off.

      Set up parental controls for kids' and teens' accounts 

      Aura’s research revealed that two-thirds of parents report that social media negatively affects their children. With parental controls, you can use content filters and website blockers to restrict kids' and teens' access to mature content, and protect them from cyberbullies, predators, and scammers. 

      Make sure you’re using strong passwords and 2FA 

      Always use unique, strong passwords for each social media account. Also, enabling 2FA adds an extra layer of security to your accounts. 

      ⚡️ Get warned fast if scammers have your personal information. Aura’s award-winning solution constantly monitors the Dark Web, public records, and more for your most sensitive information and warns you if its been compromised. Try Aura's privacy-first plans today.

      How To Update Each Social Media Site’s Privacy Settings 

      The steps above give you a general idea of how to protect your privacy on social networks. But each platform has different settings that can either help or harm your privacy and overall cybersecurity. 

      Let's dig a little deeper into how you can protect your privacy on each platform:

      How to update your social media privacy settings on Facebook

      In 2020, Facebook encouraged users to take more control of their online privacy on social media by introducing a Privacy Checkup Tool. Two years later, the platform launched a dedicated Privacy Center to provide more transparency into how Facebook uses user data.

      Facebook’s Privacy checkup page showing options on how to change your privacy settings on the social network.
      Facebook’s Privacy Checkup tool can guide you through the steps of how to secure your account.

      You can access this hub through the Settings and Privacy menu. There, you can view helpful information about five common privacy topics — sharing, security, data collection, data use, and ads — and learn what you can do to control your privacy [*].

      Here’s how to best set up your Facebook privacy settings: 

      • Use the Privacy Checkup Tool. You can use this tool to change who can view your profile information, who can tag you in photos, where your phone number and email address show up, and much more. You can find the tool by clicking on your profile picture and then going to Settings & privacy > Privacy Checkup.
      • Decide who can view your profile in the Audience Selector. This tool offers a drop-down menu, allowing you to choose who can see your posts and send you friend requests.
      • Set up a Privacy Checkup reminder. Running a Privacy Checkup is the quickest way to keep your Facebook account's privacy and security settings up to date.

      💡 Related: How To Recover a Hacked Facebook Account Step-by-Step

      How to update your social media privacy settings on X (Twitter)

      In 2023, a blind user lost $1,000 on Twitter after scammers reached out through a hacked account [*]. By default, everyone can view tweets from your Twitter account, whether they are connected to you or not. If you want more privacy, you’ll need to adjust your settings. 

      Here’s how to best set up your X (Twitter) privacy settings: 

      • Protect your posts. To limit who can see your posts, navigate to Settings and Privacy section > Privacy and Safety. Then, under Audience and Tagging, select Protect Your Posts.
      • Control email and phone discoverability. Many fraudsters use social media profiles to access your phone number or email address. To prevent scammers from doing this through your X account, go to Settings and Privacy > Privacy and Safety. Then, under Discoverability and Contacts, adjust your settings accordingly.
      • Limit contact with people you don’t know. Many online scams begin with unsolicited messages from strangers. You can filter unwanted messages by going to Settings, and then Privacy > Content.

      How to update your social media privacy settings on Instagram

      On Instagram, everyone can view your profile and posts by default (as well as tag you in their photos). However, you can make your posts private so that only your approved followers can see them.

      Instagram’s privacy settings with an arrow pointing at the Account privacy selection set on Public
      Changing your Instagram account to private prevents non-contacts from viewing your photos.

      Be aware that many of these settings are only available within your mobile app (or via the Meta Accounts Center). 

      Here’s how to best set up your Instagram privacy settings: 

      • Turn off activity status. Your activity status on Instagram tells others when you’re on the app, so switch this feature off to keep your scrolling habits private.
      • Consider locking your account. If you want to stop strangers from viewing your photos, you can lock your account so that only people you approve can see your posts. To do this, select the three-bar menu > Settings > Who can see your content. Then, below Account privacy, tick the box next to Private account. Click on Switch to private to confirm.
      • Block or restrict individual accounts. This is a good option for blocking specific people or accounts. Once you block an account, your profile won’t appear in that person’s feed or searches.
      • Disable tagging. Your friends can view and comment on your pictures, and tag you in their own photos and posts. By disabling this function, you ensure that people can't find out as much about your life through Instagram.

      💡 Related: The 10 Biggest Instagram Scams of 2024

      How to update your social media privacy settings on LinkedIn

      Adjusting your LinkedIn's privacy settings differs slightly from Facebook and Twitter. To change your privacy, select the Me button, and then Settings & Privacy. Here, you’ll find many different settings and sub-menus. 

      Here’s how to best set up your LinkedIn privacy settings: 

      • Stay anonymous while browsing. By default, the Who's Viewed Your Profile feature lets other users know when you've looked at their LinkedIn page. If you'd rather keep your browsing habits private, you can choose to remain anonymous.
      • Regularly clear your history. You can improve your data privacy by periodically clearing your search history on LinkedIn. Go to Data Privacy > Search history to wipe your activity. 
      • Review advertising data practices. In the Advertising Data tab, you can adjust the settings to control how LinkedIn collects and uses your information. If you don’t want personalized ads, you can tighten all these settings for more privacy.

      How to update your social media privacy settings on Snapchat

      The vanishing messages and playful lenses make Snap's app a lot of fun — attracting many younger users. However, while only friends can view your stories, there has been a spike in fraud and sextortion scams on this platform [*]. 

      Snapchat’s content reporting window with options to report content as hate speech, inappropriate, overly sexualized, or violent.
      Snapchat offers easy ways to report scams or content you don’t want to see. Source: Reddit

      Snapchat has multiple security features, including a reporting function to flag content that breaks community guidelines.

      Here’s how to best set up your Snapchat privacy settings:

      • Restrict who can see your location. Whenever you open Snapchat, the app collects data about your location — this is one of the first features you’ll want to adjust.
      • Change who can see you in “Quick Add.” Snapchat may recommend you to others via its “Quick Add” feature. Limit visibility on this feature to stop strangers from adding you.
      • Set up Snapchat Family Center. This in-app tool lets parents monitor their kids' use of the platform. First, you must set up your account and add your child as a contact. Then, you can invite your child to the Family Center by going through Settings > Privacy Control > Family Center

      💡 Related: Don’t Fall For These 7 Devious Snapchat Scams

      How to update your social media privacy settings on TikTok

      After hitting 1.5 billion users in 2023, TikTok cemented its status as the fastest-growing social media platform [*]. Unfortunately, the popularity of TikTok attracts scammers who prey on vulnerable young users. Also, TikTok has been accused of collecting and selling users' data [*]. 

      On the plus side, the app offers many customizable options for adjusting your privacy settings.

      Here’s how to best set up your TikTok privacy settings:

      • Manage your video permissions. You can determine who is able to see your videos and comment on your content.
      • Hide your following list and liked videos. You can adjust your privacy settings to control who sees the accounts you follow and the videos you've liked.
      • Control your direct messages. Most scammers reach out via unsolicited direct messages (DMs). To filter out the scammers, adjust your settings so that only people you approve can send you DMs.
      • Don’t share your contacts. TikTok repeatedly asks you to share your smartphone contacts, or link to your Facebook account. Avoid doing this to protect yourself and the contacts saved on your device. If you've already synced, you can remove access by going to Settings and Privacy > Privacy > Sync Contacts. Switch off both toggles for Facebook and smartphone contacts.
      ⚠️ Is your information on the Dark Web? Aura scans billions of data points across the internet, Dark Web, public records, and more to alert you if your identity, accounts, and finances are at risk. Try Aura’s privacy protection plans for as low as $3/month.

      How to update your social media privacy settings on YouTube

      YouTube helps you protect your identity while you share your videos online. By adjusting your profile privacy settings, you can control the exposure of your content and the interactions others have with you on the platform. 

      Here’s how to best set up your YouTube privacy settings:

      • Delete your watch and search histories. When you’re signed in to your Google account, YouTube keeps track of the videos you’ve viewed — you can disable this feature to maintain greater privacy.
      • Keep your videos private. While this option won't work if you use YouTube to build a brand or business, it may be suitable if you use the platform to reach a select audience. For example, let's say you share travel videos and clips of your kids for your parents to watch back home. You can keep your videos private and limit viewers to 25 select people.
      • Manage where your videos can be viewed. If you're concerned about your videos being reused on untrustworthy websites or networks, you can adjust the Embedding and Syndication options on the Settings Overview page.
      • Carefully monitor the content of your videos. One of the most important steps is to be careful about what you share in your videos. Don't overshare information, like your home address or car's license plate. Also, avoid making yourself a target by being overly controversial or bragging about your wealth. 

      💡 Related: How To Keep Your Kids and Teens Safe on Social Media

      The Bottom Line: Privacy Isn’t the Only Social Media Risk

      Public social media profiles aren't just a risk to your privacy — they can also present easy opportunities for scammers to target victims. You can adjust your social media privacy settings on each platform to limit what people can see, who can contact you, and how much of your data each platform collects and shares. 

      While this vigilant approach improves privacy, people can still fall prey to identity theft via other websites or apps. The risk of getting scammed online is especially high for young kids who tend to dismiss the rules, and also for older people who are less tech-savvy and may miss the warning signs. 

      Aura’s all-in-one digital security solution provides the best way to protect yourself and your family from scammers, hackers, and identity thieves.

      Here’s how Aura protects you from fraud:

      • #1-rated identity theft protection. You’ll get 24/7 three-bureau credit monitoring with rapid fraud alerts that are up to 250x faster than other providers3.
      • Online privacy protection. Aura protects your identity online and helps reduce the amount of spam and scams you receive with online account monitoring and automatic data broker opt outs.
      • AI-powered digital security tools. Aura offers a virtual private network (VPN), antivirus software, scam phone and text protection, and a secure password manager to shield you from malware, spyware, and ransomware threats across all devices.
      • Up to $1,000,000 in identity theft insurance. All adult plan members have coverage for eligible losses due to identity theft, such as stolen money and legal fees.
      • White Glove Fraud Resolution. Aura’s dedicated U.S.-based specialists provide 24/7 support to help you recover from the impact of fraud and handle challenges with banks, vendors, and government agencies.
      Stay safe, private, and secure online. Try Aura risk free today.
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