August 21, 2023
When you have a loved one who’s at greater risk of online harassment, seemingly harmless things can cause real problems. Whether they’re a journalist, or influencer, or academic — or perhaps they just accidentally ended up going viral— as a member of their inner circle, you may be putting them at risk if you’re not careful with your social media usage.
Here’s a few practical steps you can take to reduce any past exposure, and some best practices to keep in mind for the future.
Particularly when thinking about long-time friends and family members, it’s important to think back through everywhere you were active, even if you aren’t any longer. If you knew the person before they were prominent, or before you were aware of the potential risks of online sharing, you may have posted stories or pictures that are embarrassing, represent an out-of-date viewpoint, or that could be easily misinterpreted or in contemporary context. Spend extra time looking for photos and video.
This will protect both you and them if they’re facing sustained harassment. The more images of them are on the internet, the more training fodder for generative AI to use in creating deepfakes. And if attackers know you’re close, you could become a target yourself.
Most social media platforms make your friends lists public by default. Go fix that everywhere you can! LinkedIn, Facebook, and Venmo are all good places to start.
Not only could an attacker confirm that you’re close via a public friends list, but if you’re also connected with other friends or family, you could also lead a bad actor to them as well.
If you are married to this person or share a child with them, see if your baby or wedding registries are still online. Not only do these confirm your relationship, but they also often reference your location and other very sensitive information that could be used against both you and them.
This is most important if you live with the person or are easily identified as one of their closest loved ones and might be in danger yourself. Data brokers sell access to your address and contact information by default—but you can opt out of those sales. You can either invest in a tool or service to handle data opt-out for you, or you can do it manually by following a guide like this. But be warned: data opt-out is intentionally difficult and time-consuming.
Consider using a tool like Privacy Party —or following a manual guide like this one—to go through your other social media settings to identify and fix other privacy risks.
The theme here is to avoid sharing sensitive information publicly. In particular, you want to avoid exposing where they live, where they hang out, and who they care about. These details are the easiest for attackers to weaponize against them. To play your part in keeping them safe going forward:
Wondering what other problems are lurking in your social media accounts? Don’t have time to dig through settings pages? Privacy Party can help identify risks, offer expert recommendations, and fix privacy issues for you, to save you time.