The internet is awesome. It has connected me to people from all over the world. It helped me land a job. It gives me the ability to be an entrepreneur. But it can also be a little scary– especially if you haven’t been exactly diligent about guarding your identity and your information online.
But don’t worry; it can be done and you should get started now. I mean, right now. While you read this article. Seriously.
Remove your location from social media.
Every social media platform has a way to track and show your location. How to disable the GPS tracking is different on each platform, but it is possible to do it. So do it. And be careful, even if you’re making up locations, some social media (like Instagram) will still chart where you are when you made up that location. Just stay away from geo-location if you want to be anonymous.
Disable followers on your Facebook account.
You might have locked down your profile so that only your friends can see your posts, but have you disabled the “follow” option on Facebook? If you haven’t, people can follow you to see any public posts that you make available. (Sounds creepy, right?) Here are Facebook’s directions for how to shut down that option so that randos aren’t reading your posts.
Practice PERSEC and OPSEC responsibly through your social media presence.
Ever post a status like, “Home alone for the evening! Yes! A bottle of wine all to myself!”? If you have, you’re not alone. It’s pretty innocent, right? Absolutely. But it still puts out valuable information into the ether. Whoever has access to your status now knows that you’re at home (and even that you might be a bit… well, sloshed). When you post, make sure that what you’re sharing is innocuous and can’t be used to build a profile on where you frequent or what your schedule is.
And it goes without saying– keep deployment and homecoming details and those awesome cruise vacation dates to yourself.
Get rid of those old accounts.
Remember Xanga? Google Buzz? Up until about a year ago, I STILL had information about myself on those channels just floating around. (Yep, I kept a Xanga page in college. I feel old. And shame-faced.) Think about the sites and profiles you used to use but no longer maintain and then shut them down. For Xanga, it was super easy– I just emailed their customer service, and, after seeing that I had last logged in 8 years ago, they deleted the account entirely.
Give your online identity a once-over.
I never post pictures of John in his uniform where his name tape is visible. It makes me feel icky– and it could put us at an increased risk for identity theft. (Military families are more likely to be identity theft victims than their civilian counterparts.) Decide together what’s okay for you both to share– and then make sure that you profiles and online identity align. If not, it’s time to start deleting.
Keep an eye on your credit reports.
Military families have an increased risk for identity theft. But I wrote a whole article on that. Read it here.
Put a Google Alert on your name.
I know, it sounds crazy. I’m cringing even a little writing about it. A Google Alert on your name will let you know if your name comes up for any reason (even a good one). Put an alert on your name and any variations of your name in quotations (maiden names or unique nicknames). It takes just a few minutes, and you can do it right here.
Use 2-step authentication.
Not all online programs allow you to do it, but if you’re given the option, enable it. It adds an extra level of security and, unless your phone is stolen too, it makes your your accounts very secure. Make sure that you especially enable this measure on your Google account.
Don’t be afraid to block and report creepy and spammy users.
Twitter and Instagram are hotbeds of weirdos and spambots. Keep an eye on who is following you and, the minute you think that there’s something wrong, block and report them. Twitter and Women, Action & the Media have also released a tool to report online harassment. Use it if you’re feeling threatened.