Ultimately, it's our responsibility to read and understand each social media website's privacy policies and practices. With that said, trying to decipher what a team of lawyers has put together is not an easy task; especially when the language is intentionally designed to keep everyone in the dark.

Weighing Online Privacy Issues And Social Benefits

While total anonymity on or off the internet is impossible, when it comes to social media we need to weigh the benefit and the price of admission.

Why do we use social media in the first place?

  • To network with other like-minded people?
  • To place links to our blogs, websites and other social networks?
  • To share our interests with our online connections?

What are your internet privacy Issues?

  • Your physical address or location publicized?
  • Your personal identity being hijacked?
  • Stolen financial account access?

Both social media benefits and the online privacy issues that go with them are important but, for the most part, can be controlled with a little common sense.

Your Birthday

My online birthday is not my real birthday. For years I've been using the same wrong birth date for online profiles. The year is correct but the month and day are fictitious and that's to protect myself.

Your Address

Most social media sites don't require an address but if you are going to make a purchase that requires delivery I recommend getting a PO Box. I use my box number on PayPal, eBay, my domain registrations and anywhere else I'm required to have an address. It's a simply matter to locate our actual home address but why advertise it everywhere?

Your Phone Number

There isn't a need to include your phone number with most membership sites. If you are going to list your phone number, I recommend using only a cell phone.

Your Social Security Number

You should not include your SS# for social media or membership sites. Many affiliate,  PPC and CPA programs require your social security number for tax purposes. Use common sense and be certain you are only using legitimate websites with no past online privacy issues.

Social Media Site Connections

It is super easy to register and log-in with many social networking sites simply by allowing connections with other websites such as your Facebook or Twitter accounts. Check the privacy policies and practices of each site before you allow these connections. A simple Google search can help find potential internet privacy issues with sites in question.

Your Picture

Use an image as your avatar if you're not comfortable using your actual photo. Some blogs and forums and won’t allow registration without an actual picture.

Your Name

Personally, I have no problem using my name. In fact, it's part of my brand. Just like your picture, many blogs and forums will not allow you to use an alias or company name. Google+ also requires a real name. If you tell me your name is Steve Scott, how do I know if that's really your name? But if you try to comment on my blog using more than one name using the same IP address, website or email, I'm going to think you're a spammer. Your name certainly isn't "Cheap Water Beds" - that is spamming.

Your Email Address

I know many people are using separate email accounts for various online purposes and I am no exception. Don't use your primary email or your work email if you don't know for a fact that the site isn't going to offer it up to the highest bidder or send you many emails a day. Don't assume you can easily unsubscribe.

Limited Privacy On The Internet

Online privacy issues are real and as we become more and more connected on the internet; the easier it is to gain personal information about us. We, as individuals, have to determine what information we are willing to share. Internet privacy concerns are one thing, paranoia is another.

Use common sense and don't post pictures that are going to come back and haunt you later. Don't launch personal attacks that are going to get you in trouble. Don't share so much information on status updates that you become an easy target or victim.

The Bottom Line

There are always going to be websites abusing our privacy and there are always going to be those that want complete anonymity. We can enjoy our online experience with limited online privacy issues by understanding what is being recorded, how it's used and whether or not we can opt out BUT there is a give and take with everything we do online.