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Social media lockdown: 4 privacy features you won't find in your settings

Caitlin McGarry | Jan. 23, 2014
Remove geotags, revoke app permissions, and send encrypted messages to keep your life story on a need-to-know basis.

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You use a social network--at least one, maybe a few. Everyone does. You probably know all about your preferred network's privacy settings, enough to make sure that the whole world doesn't know your business. But if you're paranoid--aren't we all?--you can find ways to lock down your privacy that go above and beyond even two-factor authentication.

You have to start with your social networks' settings, of course. If you don't bother to limit the visibility of your posts or to make sure you're not being tagged all over the place (thanks, facial-recognition technology), then there's no point in proceeding. Facebook has the most convoluted settings of all the social networks, so follow our how-to for complete instructions.

After you confirm that your photos, contact information, and political musings aren't on display for the world to see, you can take a few extra steps to safeguard your privacy.

Keep an eye on permissions
Every time you download a smartphone app, you allow its developers to see some of your information. Sometimes it's as basic as your name. Other times it's your address book, your Facebook or Twitter account information, your location, or your photos.

So how do you know which apps are raiding your contact list or have access to your photos? iOS apps must ask you upon installation for permission to access your contacts, location, Facebook account, and microphone, and you can easily grant or revoke such access from the Privacy section of the iOS Settings.

Android briefly had a hidden feature called App Ops that let you tightly control each app's permissions, but Google withdrew the feature three weeks after its launch late last year. Nonetheless, in Android versions 4.3 through 4.4.1, the basic App Ops settings can still be accessed via third-party controllers like App Opps 4.3/4.4 from Color Tiger. You can use this app for granular permissions control of a wide range of Android apps (social or otherwise). Just be aware that App Ops is not an official Android feature, and third-party controllers have the potential to break the apps they hook into.

An app developer would like nothing better than to have access to all of your data, and sometimes such an arrangement makes sense. For example, if you want to share your Instagram photos on another social network, it's logical for that network to request permission to see your camera roll. But that app doesn't need access to your address book, which is why you should consider using MyPermissions as a central monitoring system to keep track of the permissions you've granted.

The service, available as a desktop plug-in and as an app for iOS, Android, and Kindle Fire, monitors any app connected to your Dropbox, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, and  Twitter accounts. If you use one of your social networks to log in to another site or app, MyPermissions will issue a notification.


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