3 Online Privacy Basics

“Privacy” is becoming more than just a buzzword – it’s becoming a serious concern, especially among real estate agents.  While agent safety when out showing homes and meeting clients is an important topic, and one that technology can help with to some extent, it’s imperative that your privacy concerns extend to your online activities.  Here are three basic ways you can start to watch and protect your online privacy:

(1) Be aware of what information you’re putting on the web.

Thumbs DownDo you completely fill in profiles on your social media accounts?  Do you often post pictures of where you are and what you’re doing, usually with a location tag attached?  Are the answers to security questions for sites like your online banking accounts things that can be readily found on Google?

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, you may have an online privacy concern.

Information you give websites and social media profiles like Facebook isn’t just used to target advertising and be sold to third-party companies.  Things like your birthdate, your children’s names and pictures and more can be used to create fake profiles in your name to collect information or to scam people, as well as to create false records and possibly damage your identity.

You may have already heard that posting pictures can let thieves know you’re out of town.  However, it can also let people know exactly where you are, where you live, what your habits are and even, yes, whether you’re working or not!  Whether it’s just a curious client or someone with less-than-honorable plans in mind for you, be aware of what locations you share, both in tagging and in photographs.  (I often post these types of photos after the fact – so after I visited some place or later on in the day.)

As for security questions, don’t tell everyone that your favorite pet was Muffy, your kitten when you were growing up, and then use it as a security question for your email account or bank account.  With just a little research, a savvy hacker could tap into your accounts and do a lot worse than making fun of you for naming your pet “Muffy.”

(2) Invest in a password management system.

I don’t really know what I think about the most commonly used passwords of 2014, but none of the thoughts that come to mind are good.  First of all, don’t use a password that’s easy to guess – expanding from the list I linked to, that includes using your name, your town, your office, your street address, your phone number and your birthdate (or your partner’s and/or kids’ birthdates).

Since more and more systems require unique passwords, with special lengths and characters, and often make you change those passwords on a regular basis, it’s understandable that people get frustrated and end up using the same password over and over again: “Password!”  “Password1!”  “Password2!”  An easier way of managing these, however, is through a password management system.  In a modern day real estate agent’s life, these password management systems are truly lifesavers.

Yes, you will have to take some time in the beginning to set the password management system up.  When I started using mine (Dashlane), I had over 200 passwords to sort through and potentially change.  Stick with it – it’s worth it.  Not only do most of these programs alert you as soon as there’s a possible security breach on a particular password, but they also allow you to quickly and easily change that password and create new, unique passwords.  You can also access these passwords no matter where you are.  Some even allow for secured notes and payment systems as well.  Besides Dashlane, take a look at LastPass and 1Password.

(3) Understand your privacy settings for everything you log in to online.

Facebook blockingIt can be tempting once we sign up for a new website or a social platform to just dive right in and start contributing.  Besides filling out our profiles, claiming our names and uploading our profile pictures, there’s one step many people neglect – figuring out the privacy settings.  Sadly, privacy settings on most sites aren’t a “static” thing – you can’t just set them and forget them.  Privacy settings change.  There are security breaches that necessitate changes,

Privacy settings change.  There are security breaches that necessitate changes, new code that arises and moves things around and policy decisions that can jeopardize information or settings you once thought safe.  Whether joining a new site or continuing to use an old one, make sure you understand all of your privacy settings.  This includes ways to lock down your login options (i.e. through two-step verification) and making sure things you post is reaching only the people you want it to reach.

With a heightened awareness, a small investment of time and money and a modicum of caution, you can easily achieve these three online privacy basics.

What are your biggest online privacy concerns?

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