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All of us we know the internet can be an obnoxious place, and the sharing culture of social media often runs counter to security and privacy best practices. Most of us have at some point shared our birthdays, photos of our loved ones, information about where we live and come from, and other content that perhaps shouldn’t be made public online.

In a worst case scenario, information you share online could be taken advantage of to pose a threat to your security or even physical safety. The fundamentals of securing your online presence are much the same regardless of what online services you use.

In a worst case scenario, information you share online could be taken advantage of to pose a threat to your security or even physical safety. The fundamentals of securing your online presence are much the same regardless of what online services you use.

In general you should ensure that mutual friends/followers with access to restricted accounts are people you trust. Search your post history for personal information that could be used for identity theft, to access your accounts, or to locate your physical address. If necessary, take measures to remove them en masse. Plus you can check for photos of you that others have shared on tagged, removing any tags if they are unneeded.

When it comes to protecting your physical address, this can be exposed in a number of ways. If you’re an eBay seller and have shared links via personal accounts, note that your address is generally published alongside your auctions. The same may apply to other business listings, such as records at Companies House, as well as some academic listings.

If you’re being actively threatened, it’s best to immediately restrict access, set private or, if necessary, suspend, delete, or unpublish your accounts. While doing so you should screenshot and report any threats that have been sent to you, before blocking those who are responsible.

Other steps you can take are: disabling automatic location sharing, enabling two-factor authentication to protect your accounts, back up and delete old posts wherever possible, and consider closing non-essential social media accounts that you don’t use anymore and particularly those associated with your real name and identity.

Now for some specifics.

TWITTER

Twitter

Twitter’s security recently came under scrutiny when someone social engineered their way into the site’s admin panel, allowing them to access and post cryptocurrency scams from some of the site’s biggest verified accounts.

Within Twitter itself, make sure location tagging is off on your tweets in Settings > Privacy and safety > Location information. This can get turned back on accidentally if you re-install the mobile app, for example, so it’s worth checking every now and then.

Under Discoverability and contacts, disable email address and phone number discoverability. This will stop people looking up your account using your other personal information – something that’s crucial if you’re wishing to post anonymously.

If you tick Protect your tweets on the main Privacy and safety screen, only people who follow you will be able to see anything from your account, past or present. They also won’t be publicly searchable. Receive messages from anyone in the Direct messages section is unticked while you’re here and disable photo tagging.

Twitter is aggressively hard to work with if you want to delete many tweets or unfollow lots of people – to the point where the official recommendation is to create an entirely new account and swap usernames.

However, a number of third-party tools, such as TweetDelete and Tweepi, make it easier for you to unfollow multiple users and delete large numbers of tweets at once. Be aware that limitations to Twitter’s API mean that it may take a significant amount of time to unfollow hundreds of people or fully delete a long-lived account’s posting history.

Back your posts up before any such tools by downloading your Twitter data via your account settings and remember to revoke any such tools’ access to your account once you’ve finished with them.

Various tools also exist to export your followers. The Twlets Twitter to Excel Chrome extension is a conspicuously easy option, but you’ll have to register and, if you want to download the details of more than 1,000 followers, either subscribe or buy credits. Martin Hawksey’s Twitter-exporting Google Sheet is free but requires you to set up a developer account and create an API key.

Alternatively, create a new account and just go through everyone you’re following on your old account before deleting it or locking it.

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