In this third part of our Safer Social Networking series we look at ways to have a more trouble-free social media experience. Being more aware of how we use sites such as Facebook is essential in keeping our sensitive information private…

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(Image via

‘Tag’ with caution

Does the person you are tagging in a photo know about it? It is good practice to never tag your friends, family or colleagues in images with their real names, particularly without their knowledge. Before you post an image – ask if the people you are about to tag are comfortable with their real names being linked to it. Don’t post pictures of your children on social networking profiles as you can never be certain who has access to them. If you choose to do so however, never tag your children with their real names on social media profiles.

Be aware of Facebook’s ‘Timeline’ feature

Facebook’s now mandatory Timeline feature is a virtual chronological scrapbook which allows other users quick access to all the things you’ve ever posted on Facebook since joining. This makes it easier for Facebook users and advertisers alike to trawl through years of posted material in one easy swoop. The issue of privacy has rightly been raised by security experts that this feature can easily be exploited by cyber criminals in identity theft. The Timeline feature asks users via drop-down menus increasingly personal questions, such as where we’ve travelled to, the state of our mental and physical health, and gathers all sorts of information about us; what we’ve ‘liked’, places of employment and education, all public interactions throughout the website, and worryingly – the ‘Map’ feature records where we’ve travelled to and at what date, creating a kind of visual trail of locations we’ve travelled to. As the Timeline feature is now a mandatory part of Facebook, users who want to carry on using the site should check their privacy settings and adjust who you make the Timeline accessible to. Moreover, use common sense and good judgement; there are features which make it easy to overshare and reveal too much personal information. Before submitting any information, think – is it really necessary?

Spring clean your online ‘friends’

With social networking sites developing features such as Facebook’s Timeline, we may reveal very personal information about ourselves, making it necessary to re-examine our online ‘friends’ and determine who we’d trust with access to such information. Many users on social networking sites accept ‘friend’ invitations from hundreds of other users and perhaps even submit some themselves. It makes it harder to limit access to our personal information and as a precaution we should re-evaluate which users are really ‘friends’ and which are just acquaintances or even totally unknown to us. View every ‘friend’ request and message from an unfamiliar sender with a sceptical eye; consider what might be their motive for contacting you and ‘adding’ you as a friend?

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‘Google’ yourself

Every so often search your name on Google. Such a search will normally bring up all those websites where your name is mentioned and thus make it easier to monitor where your personal information is being used. A Google search gathers bits of information about you scattered across the Web, bringing up information which could affect your reputation. Current and potential employers will often conduct a search for your name and gauge your employability partly based on your online reputation. If you want to monitor the information on the web linked to your name you can use one of the many online monitoring services available. Google Alerts is one such free to use service, which emails you whenever your name or information pops up anywhere on the internet.

Your search may bring up any unwanted material, such as undesirable pictures or comments posted in the past, uploaded either by you or another user. If the information is on a site you control, such as on your Facebook profile or any other social media account owned by you, then you can manually delete any pictures, statuses or comments. In the case of information found on sites you have no control over, or if material about you is posted by others; you’ll need to contact the site administrators to remove the content. If the information is copyrighted, such as a picture, you can look into the ‘Digital Millennium Copyright Act’. Section 512(c) states “upon receiving proper notification of claimed infringement, the provider must expeditiously take down or block access to the material.” If you are still unable to get harmful content about you removed then consult a lawyer.


By following these simple steps you can help protect yourself and others on social networking sites. For further information on the topics discussed in this post visit:,2817,2387174,00.asp

And this excellent article about the dangers of oversharing on social media:

This blog posts dozens of fascinating articles concerning a variety of topics from online reputation to social media oversharing:

For tips on ‘Googling’ yourself:

See also Safer social networking: Part 1 & Safer social networking: Part 2

[ Emma, Library Assistant ]