4 Tips For Handling Privacy Threats On Social Media

This is post 1 of a 3-part series about real world privacy threats.

Twitter Fame And Viral Posts

A friend of mine became Twitter famous senior year of college. She found her niche roasting the self-obsessed 'wife guys' in her classes, the same types she'd soon work with as a writer. She was satirical, unapologetic, and deliciously cruel. People loved it. In the way platforms and algorithms can actually amplify the best content, 100,000+ people clicked 'Follow' and she became a fast and unexpected celebrity.

Having thousands of eyes on you can quickly become a threat - to your identity, privacy, or your well being. We live in a time where influencers are the new celebrities, and anyone's random tweet or post can go viral in minutes: we should know how to prepare and respond. I chatted with viral veterans and researched what they do to protect their privacy.

Here are 4 tips for protecting your privacy while growing your social media following.

1. Platform Basics: Muting, Blocking, Reporting

If trolls start posting photo shopped pictures they dug up from middle school or flood your messages with all-caps hate speech, mute the conversation and block the user. Twitter has good tutorials on how to mute, how to block, and how to report content. Stick to these basics.

Ever notice the 'Lists' section right under 'Profile'? Turns out lists are an efficient way for trolls to coordinate harassment. Dr. Esther Choo tweeted a quick step by step guide to removing yourself from threatening lists because she'd discovered she was on a list titled 'C*nts On Twitter.'

2. Automate & Aggregate: Platform Extensions

Twitter is notoriously poor at stopping targeted attacks and angry virtual mobs. For these situations, a couple new tools just launched. Bot Sentinel's Auto Blocker and Tracy Chou's Block Party are designed to block users in bulk, block followers of the users you've blocked, and set up a separate folder for filtering out spam and harassment from your @ mentions. Celebrity/Model/Chef Chrissy Teigen deals with huge amounts of harassment. She's celebrated these new ways to make Twitter a better place to promote her brand, engage with her fans, and simply, exist above the haters.

3. Power Tools: Data Removal

When trolls decide to take harassment beyond the keyboard, things can become more dangerous and harmful. Tweet about a funny misunderstanding with a cake pop? Your parent's home address could be found, and tweeted out by trolls calling for them to be harassed too. Doxxing is an increasingly common and harmful tactic where your haters use your public info to incite real-life harassment - via widely exposing your phone number, workplace or home address across the interwebs.

Kanary focuses on making it harder for people you don't know to find and share information about you. We've created a way for you to find and remove public information with one click. Reach out to [email protected] to find and remove sensitive info from public searches. Mention you read this blog post to get the first month free.

4. Deep Breath: Combat The Dopamine Rush

“Ironically, it's the positive reinforcement that's more intoxicating and eventually troublesome than the negative response.”

I was surprised my friend said this at the end of our discussion. The privacy and security tech communities rarely talk about mental health. Many products offer you “peace of mind,” but what does that actually mean? Is that product actually protecting your mental health and reducing cognitive load? A threat isn't always an external attack. The struggle with social media addiction and obsession is just as real. I think these questions deserve more thought from our team at Kanary and will share more soon.

Final Thoughts

Getting public attention online requires making careful compromises and quick decisions to protect your offline life. Sometimes the bad outweighs the good and it's best to simply take a break. Pin a message that you're “Offline for a while. Maybe will be back once things calm down. Maybe won't. Reach out another way.” Then, sign out and delete the app. It sucks to be bullied off a platform you have every right to use. It's unfair and not right that a couple loud voices can claim and poison a corner of the internet that's yours. But your wellbeing shouldn't be put at stake to challenge these unfortunate realities.

If you're concerned about missing important messages, ask a close friend or family member to keep an eye on your account for you (Block Party has this feature). If you're using Kanary, we'll keep an eye out and alert you if you information starts popping up on public sites and forums without your consent.

As always, reach out with questions or comments.

[email protected]