A Guide to Protecting Your Social Media Privacy

Posted on Nov 24, 2022 by Trey Charles

You might not be as secure as you think on social media. Many platforms offer options to keep your account private, but the risk of data breaches and other attacks is still prevalent. And that’s not counting in your anonymized personal information getting de-anonymized by data brokers or by advertisers who buy your data from brokers.

Around 80% of social media users said they were concerned about advertisers or businesses accessing the data they share on popular platforms. Worse, 91% of internet users feel they have little to no control over how their information is shared. Social media privacy is a real concern for many, for obvious reasons.

If you’re on social media platforms, your personal data is at risk. Thankfully, you can keep your information more secure by making a few changes to your social media habits. Don’t worry, this guide will show you exactly what to do. 

Why Should You Worry About Social Media Privacy?

Your data is like gold to marketing companies. Its value means people will do almost anything to get their hands on it. Info like phone numbers, addresses, names, hobbies, and even job titles are as good as money in the eyes of many marketers.

And this is not factoring in cybercriminals, who have honed their skills as tricksters online. Some are even slick enough to coax you into giving them your sensitive information. They’re quite content with stealing personal data or illegitimately gaining access to accounts to reach their goals. 

With access to your data, cybercriminals can do real harm, as you’re at risk of identity theft, fraud, and empty bank accounts. 

Social Media Data: What Is It & Why Do Companies Collect It?

Social media companies use your data to fuel their growth and help advertisers figure out the best ways to push their products

Social media apps use cookies to track your behavior and information, both of which are sold off to data brokers or marketing companies. Some of the most commonly collected data includes your:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Location
  • Photos
  • Contacts
  • Voice/face recognition
  • Purchase history
  • Active hours

Chatting about a product with friends and then seeing an advertisement for it on social media is hard to digest. How did they know what you were thinking or talking about?

Realistically, it all comes down to coincidence and cookies. You’ve likely looked up tweets or Facebook posts about the product at one time or another, which were then imprinted on your cookies. Marketing companies refine their campaigns to target specific demographics with this information. 

Social Networking Sites: Which Ones Ares the “Worst” for Privacy?

Who knew facial recognition data would be so valuable?

So, which social media giants are the worst? Facebook and Instagram are obvious frontrunners for the most intrusive social networking platforms since they collect just about every piece of personal information possible. 

TikTok is also a major culprit, as it openly collects facial, environmental, product, and voice recognition data. Then there’s Tinder and Grinder, some of the most popular dating applications with millions of users combined. Although they don’t implement product or voice recognition, they certainly collect everything else

Brands want to know what you’re interested in, what you purchase, and even how you look or sound. Social media applications even take your facial recognition data from picture or video filters to re-create your likeness.

Can I Control What Social Media Platforms Collect?

You may reject certain cookies, but it doesn’t do much in regard to privacy. Of course, you still have to agree to mandatory cookies social media platforms implement, otherwise you can’t use their services… which is actually better at the end of the day. 

Other than disabling your device’s location services or using a VPN, you have no other way to stop social media apps from collecting your information. When you sign up for a site, you’re essentially giving them permission to collect whatever they like.

Social Media Privacy Issues: The Risks

Online fraudsters are versatile; they attempt to steal your personal information in more ways than one

Social Media Data Mining

When you use the internet, it’s as if you leave a trail of breadcrumbs. Whenever you activate a new social media account, you usually provide personal information to these platforms. 

Many use a fake moniker, but sometimes it’s impossible to avoid – for example, Twitter uses your mobile number to verify accounts. As real data is often required, data mining on social media platforms has become the go-to for marketing agencies and even cybercrooks.

Many people provide social media apps with a date of birth, address, phone number, real name, or even personal interests. Social media platforms sell this information to marketing companies, which is why you see so many directly targeted ads these days. 

Cybercriminals target social media platforms because they have so much information recorded, with most of it being incredibly personal. 

Phishing Scams On Social Media

Cybercriminals use phishing scams to access your personal information. These traditionally come in the form of an email or text message, with phone calls being the last resort. Phishing scammers pretend to be a legitimate company to earn your trust. 

Scammers trick you into giving out your passwords, credit card details, and even banking info – most of these attacks happen on social media platforms. The number of phishing attacks has soared in recent years. In June 2022 alone, we saw an 88% increase in the number of targeted phishing attacks.

Cybercriminals target Facebook or Instagram users by prompting them to sign in to a fake application for two-factor authentication. The email looks legit and appears to come from Facebook themselves, but it’s not true – it’s merely a way to steal your account information.

Social Media Malware and Viruses

Hackers and scammers attempt to access your social media accounts and use them to spread malware. Some of the most common culprits are:

  • Spyware –  Tracks your activity and steals personal information.
  • Ransomware – Used to extort money from individuals by locking their computer.
  • Adware – Hackers profit by infecting your computer with invasive ads you didn’t agree to.

Social media platforms are an ideal delivery system for any form of malware. Once your account or computer is compromised, cybercriminals use it to distribute even more attacks to your entire network of family and friends

Social Media Bots (Automation)

You may have noticed plenty of bots on social media. Look at your favorite Instagram profiles, and you’ll notice the automated replies. When many bots are run under one network (often by one entity), it’s considered a “botnet”.

Both botnets and individual bots automatically follow, comment, and interact with individuals on any social media platform. Bots are frequently leveraged to implement phishing scams, steal personal information, and send spam. They also launch wide scale DDoS attacks and attempt to access your devices or data

Harassment, Cyberbullying, or Imitation on Social Media

Have you ever received a friend request on Facebook from one of your close friends, and you wonder why you haven’t already added them? Hackers and fraudsters online download entire profiles and impersonate someone in an attempt to access personal info from others.

Cybercriminals also use personal data to harass and bully other users online. Social media is riddled with cyberbullying and cyberstalking, and even worse, most people doing this don’t even need to be seasoned hackers. Anybody with an internet connection can, theoretically, do it.

Whether it’s competing businesses trying to ruin reputations, or children bullying others online, social media presents a major risk for dealing with online harassment. 

5 Ways to Protect Your Social Media Privacy

Minimize your exposure by taking a few precautions

We share personal views or news about our lives on social media, but this comes with consequences. Social networks are a marketer’s playground and are perfect for launching campaigns, which makes social media and privacy an ill-fitting combination. 

Take a look at these tips and use them to regain your social media privacy once and for all.

Follow these five top tips to protect your social media privacy
    ➡️ (Try to) Read Through Social Terms of Service

Despite popular belief, reading through the terms of service is important. Imagine signing up for a social network and agreeing to let them sell your most personal information? 

Well, you already do it. You should always take a look at the terms of service in depth before you click “Agree” while signing up for a website. For the most part, you’ll see privacy is not prioritized on any platform. 

Hastily agreeing to dozens of pages of conditions is the intended goal, as the odds of anyone sitting down to read all that fine print is slim to none. In the end, you inevitably end up granting permission to sell your personal data to third parties to gain access to the platform and be able to use its services.. 

    ➡️ Don’t Use Your Real Information 

When signing up for a social network, try not to use your real name or information. Although it might be tough for something like Facebook or LinkedIn, it’s still somewhat possible. This is a hard wall for cybercriminals being able to access some of your most personal information.

Note that not using your real information to sign up might be against certain the terms and conditions you have to agree to. This might get you banned from the platform, and we do not condone breaking the terms or rules of any service.

    ➡️ Be Careful What (and Where) You Post on Social Media

Be cautious when posting online and take care in what you leave up for the public to see. Whether it’s photos, videos, or just a tweet, always consider who is viewing the content and whether the information you share may be used against you. 

Approximately 25% of adult internet users admitted to posting personal information on a social media network annually. That means a quarter of the user base is willingly exposing themselves to the risk of data breaches or identity theft, simply by not thinking twice about what they’re posting.

    ➡️ Keep Social Media Your Profile Private

Keep your profile private and prevent potential scammers from having easy access to your personal information. A public profile filled with real information is a phishing scammer’s favorite sight! After all, they don’t even have to work for your valuable information.

Private profiles prevent unwanted parties from seeing your information or activity on social networks. Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean they won’t use hidden trackers to keep tabs on your activity

    ➡️ Use a VPN

An efficient way to protect yourself from hackers and scammers online is with a VPN. 

A VPN encrypts your connection and prevents hackers from launching DDoS attacks on you to access your personal information. 

With a VPN, everything you do online is invisible. A VPN keeps you safe from tracking and monitoring when you’re not logged in, because no one can see what you’re browsing through or which websites you’re visiting. This makes it much harder for hackers to get access to your information, because very little is available. 

However, remember, any information you post on your social media platforms is still visible regardless, so you’ll still need to apply some common sense. In addition, being logged in to a platform enables them to track your behavior, as per their terms.

Take Control Over Your Privacy on Social Media

Get PIA VPN to protect your personal information when you go online. Technology has a lot to offer nowadays, and it’s only right for you to enjoy it with confidence. 

Connect with your friends and family on Facebook without the worry of accidentally leaking your personal info! Use our guide to secure the likes of your real address, name, and other data marketing companies and cybercrooks thrive on.

It’s time to stop letting these big social media companies sell your data at will. Take back your social media privacy by following our tips, so you can connect with your friends and family worry (and hacker) free.


How does social media affect your privacy?

Putting sensitive information out for public consumption is never ideal, but social media has made it a “normal” thing to do. Not only that, but marketers are tracking your every move. They collect data about your browsing habits and online activities to build personal profiles about you. 

Then, you get targeted by ads, emails, and other annoying marketing material. Thankfully, you can limit monitoring and tracking with a VPN. A VPN encrypts your data to keep it invisible – that means nobody can tell what you’re doing when you’re not logged in to your social account.

Is online privacy possible on social media?

It’s possible to achieve more privacy on social media, but you’ll never be 100% private. Start protecting yourself by making your profiles private, thinking about what you post, and minimizing the amount of personal information on your profiles. Read more on how to browse online anonymously for some extra tips and tricks.

What are the biggest social media privacy issues?

Scammers, hackers, viruses, and data breaches are some of the largest social media privacy issues at the moment. Identity theft, emails full of malware, and phishing scams are also prevalent. 

Use a VPN to limit these threats. VPNs encrypt your data and hide your IP address, helping you stay anonymous online. 

How do you protect your privacy on social media? 

Setting your profile to “private” will fix some issues, but not all of them. Practicing safe social media sharing is also ideal – for example, never post personal information for the public to see. Unfortunately, if you’re posting anything online, even setting your profile to private isn’t always enough. 

Use data encryption to stop websites from tracking your activity and access social media with more privacy. Get PIA VPN to stay safe and minimize your risk to online threats.