If the 19th century had a gold rush, and the 20th century had an oil boom, then the 21st century’s hot commodity is data, your data. And with hundreds, if not thousands, of companies vying to collect and sell your data, you don’t have the leeway to make any privacy mistakes. If you want to protect your privacy on social media, you need to start paying attention!

Here are five of the most common things people risk their privacy doing:

1 – Using Weak Passwords

Do you know what the most common password is? 

123456

Followed up by the evermore secure, 123456789.

And the rest of the top 10 isn’t much better…

Top ten most common passwords include, 123456, 123456789, qwerty, password, 111111, 12345678, abc123, 1234567, password1, 12345
Data Source: CNN Business

Cybercrime is a $600,000,000,000 per year industry, and it’s not hard to see how. When so many people’s passwords are less secure than than almost any other set of data, it’s no wonder there are data breaches every single day.

It’s like walking around with a “HACK ME” sign taped to your back, and forehead, and chest…

It’s risky, irresponsible, and downright absurd. Stop using passwords that, and this should go without saying, are literally as simple as 1234.

And for good measure, don’t use anything that someone with even a basic Google search of your name could find out. That means no birthdays, no kid’s names, your mother’s maiden name, your street address, nothing like that.

Replacing your passwords with phrases interspersed with numbers and special characters is a 15-second fix that significantly improves your privacy and data security.

2 – Not Turning Off Cookies and Location Tracking

Have you ever looked up something, like dog toys, and then immediately seen ads for dog toys on every single website you visit? Or how about when you visit a new city you suddenly begin to see ads for hotels and restaurants. 

Do you have any idea why, or even how this is happening? 

It’s because you got a cookie. And instead of being filled with delicious chocolate chips, it’s filled with code to track your web activity and pass that private data off to advertisers (far less fun than a real cookie, I know).

And this isn’t just one cookie here or there.

Don’t believe us? Here’s just a small snapshot of how many cookies we collected only by not clearing them for one week.

In total, thousands of cookies have piled up on my computer. The cookie jar is now the size of a semi-truck, and it’s filled with ways to track, monitor, and record everything we did online.

Do you want advertisers to be able to know exactly what your thoughts or deepest personal feelings are at any given moment in time? 

Take the case of multiple people in Europe who sought mental health help online. Advertisers watched that activity through the use of cookies and then proceeded to exploit that data to try and sell them products.

Disabling or deleting, or even better, not accepting cookies in the first place is one of the simplest and best ways to protect your privacy online.

3 – Not Opting-In for Privacy Settings on Social Media

Not selecting privacy settings on social media

It comes as a surprise to many people, but you aren’t Facebook’s customer. You’re their product, and they are selling you, or at least your personal information, to advertisers around the world.

It’s only logical then that they want as much of your information to remain public, just like your privacy settings are likely set to. 

Unless you’ve actively changed them, it’s likely much of your personal information is exposed to the internet at-large, from your place of work to your family members’ names. 

It doesn’t take more than a few seconds to adjust your privacy settings to “friends-only”. Just make sure to regularly check your settings as some social media websites have rolled-back privacy settings every time they release an update.

4 – Opening and Downloading Attachments

We’re not just talking about those offers from a foreign prince asking for your assistance with wiring “a little money” to help him regain his throne.

Even innocent-looking attachments can be used to hijack your computer.

Excel spreadsheets are notorious for containing malware embedded in macros to do damage to your computer and privacy. 

By inserting this nefarious software in your system, hackers can do everything from skim your passwords or credit card details to taking control of your entire computer.

If you don’t recognize the sender of a file, don’t blindly open it or you may find yourself becoming part of the next big hack.

5 – Not Reading Social Media Terms-of-Service and Privacy Agreements

Remember those long-winded terms-of-service (TOS) agreements you have to click “agree” on to make them go away so you can use the app you downloaded? That was a contract, and you may have just agreed to far, far, more than you believed.

Take the case of GameStation in 2010, as a joke, they added a small clause to their TOS agreement when users agreed: 

“…to grant Us a non-transferable option to claim, for now and for ever more, your immortal soul. Should We wish to exercise this option, you agree to surrender your immortal soul, and any claim you may have on it, within 5 (five) working days of receiving written notification from gamesation.co.uk or one of its duly authorized minions.”

Though they were kind enough to release everyone’s souls, it goes to show just how much power a company has over you when you sign their contracts without reading them first.

And believe us, it is a legally enforceable contract, though they like to use the term “agreement” because it scares you less.

Of course, most of these companies are more interested in your private data than your soul (though you never know with Jeff Bezos).

Read the terms-of-service, read the privacy policy, and don’t give away your rights without even reading what you’re giving up. Especially on social media websites where you expose far more of your privacy and private life!