10 Social Media Safety Tips for Government Employees


This is just a quick post - my opinions only, based on my personal experience - to warn other government employees to be cautious online.

I recently received a tip that seems like it was intended to help law enforcement. I passed it on. And to that person, if you are reading this blog, THANK YOU for caring enough about public safety to send your tip forward. Next time though you may want to simply call 911 because I am not an official conduit for this stuff.

Despite that situation being seemingly good, it also gave me pause. I don't go out there talking about my job - in fact I keep a significant distance from it online and constantly use disclaimers.

Yet as we know from years of experience with social media, the audience controls the conversation and not the speaker.

So as a government employee, one can be targeted for positive things (helping law enforcement) or negative ones (shudder).

Here are some suggestions based on my own practices, thinking and reading to try and help others stay safer on social media. They're meant for government employees but anyone can probably use them.

1. Don't put photos of your family on your profile picture or in your Facebook account. Also on Facebook, lock down the part where other people can tag you in photos. 

2. Don't use social media services that track your location (Foursquare) or that announce when you're going on a trip (TripIt). Turn off geographical tracking on your smartphone device and on your Tweets. If you have a Google account, go into the settings and change the zip code of your location to something else. 

3. Don't click on unknown links, especially short links. Sometimes I get "thank you's" in response. Sometimes I'll get a message that says, "You may find this interesting: (short link)." I have no idea who this person is so I don't click on the link. Remember: Don't click on the link! 

4. Check regularly whether your personal account passwords have been compromised by hackers. (Gizmodo published an article with a search box to help people check on that last week. I'm not vouching for who is operating the search box, but I did use it.)

5. Check your Twitter account under "Applications" and remove any unauthorized settings that allow others to Tweet for you. Last week some Twitter service Tweeted a promotional item on my behalf; I must have clicked "OK" when I shared an article and they ended up with access. Be careful.

6. Lock down your LinkedIn and Facebook contact lists. The entire world doesn't have to see who you're friends with or connected to. On LinkedIn, it's "Hide My Connections" under Settings. On Facebook, this is controlled through Privacy settings.

7. Be cautious about what your family and friends post on your wall or their Facebook walls. Don't be tagged in their photos unless that's something you want. Be especially careful about appearing in photos with minor children.

8. Don't post things online on social media sites from a government computer. Aside from the fact that this violates usual social media policies, it's stupid because the person running the site can, if they wish, track down who visited the site and from what IP address. They will then connect you (or your pseudonym, which could be trackable if they can connect the dots) to your agency directly.

9. Let me say this ten times: Don't use public wifi without a VPN! I use a free one called ProXPN that I think is safe (tell me if it's not). Be careful because I tried another one that seems like it was spyware. Be especially careful because theoretically a so-called "free VPN" may actually be spies sucking up all your data on the other end of that cyber-tunnel.

10. Last but not least, be careful who you friend online. Don't assume that people are who they say they are. Anyone can grab a photo and make a social media profile; it doesn't remotely mean that they're for real.

If you have other suggestions please share them.

Thank you, stay safe, and have a great day everyone!


Image source here


Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal is an author, independent brand researcher, and adjunct marketing professor with 20 years of varied experience. An avid researcher and prolific, creative writer, Dr. Blumenthal's interests span communication, marketing, qualitative media content analysis, political rhetoric, propaganda, leadership, management, organizational development, and more. An engaged citizen, she has for several years worked to raise awareness around child sex trafficking and the dangers of corruption at @drdannielle on Twitter. You can find her articles at Medium, www.AllThingsBrand.com and www.DannielleBlumenthal.com, and she frequently answers questions on Quora. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own.