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Social Media - Are you Oversharing?

The popular social media service Instagram announced on Monday that its privacy policy would be updated effective January 16, 2013 to include changes that had its users in an uproar. The new terms featured some wording that was interpreted to mean that the application would be able to sell users' photos to corporations and similar entities for a profit. The actual person who captured the photos would not be compensated or notified of its use. The internet exploded in response to the release of these details. "How to export your Instagram photos and delete your account" became a popular search topic on Google and in blog posts. Within hours, Kevin Systrom, co-founder of Instagram, had written a response to the photo-sharing community and apologized. He explained that the changes were made in order to allow for more innovative advertising on the service. However, he admitted the wording used could easily be misinterpreted and therefore needed to be updated. Instagram later further clarified that the advertising conditions were to be removed completely from any future new terms of use.

Although this issue has been resolved for the time being, the question has to be raised: Are we sharing too much online? Consumer Reports has found that Instagram's parent company, Facebook, has privacy issues which are continuously on the rise. There are privacy controls which can be utilized, but almost 13 million users have said they had never set, or didn't know about, Facebook's privacy tools. And 28 percent shared all, or almost all, of their wall posts with an audience wider than just their friends. It also should be noted that Facebook is constantly changing its format, and posts which you thought were hidden may not actually be. Oversharing can have repercussions ranging from identity theft to loss of employment.

The following steps have been recommended to minimize your exposure online:

•· Review individual privacy settings. Protect your basic information. Set the audience for profile items, such as your town or employer. Keep in mind that sharing information with "friends of friends" could expose it to tens of thousands.

•· Be aware of what you can't protect. Your name and profile picture are always public. To protect your identity, it is suggested to not use a photo or use one that doesn't show your face.

•· "UnPublic" your wall. Set the audience for all previous wall posts to just friends.

•· Turn off Tag Suggest. If you'd rather not have Facebook automatically recognize your face in photos, disable that feature in your privacy settings. The information will be deleted.

•· Block applications and sites that snoop. Unless you intercede, friends can share personal information about you with apps. To block that, use controls to limit the info applications can see.

•· Customize your friends' settings. You don't have to share every wall post with every friend. You can also keep certain people from viewing specific items in your profile.

•· When all else fails, deactivate. If you are still having issues with privacy concerns, it may be best to opt out completely. When you deactivate your account, Facebook retains your profile data, but the account is made temporarily inaccessible. Deleting an account, on the other hand, makes it inaccessible to you forever.

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