What Is the Value of Your Social Identity?

Test your social media savvy. Are the following three statements true or false?

Social media is actually losing popularity.
More adults are on Facebook than teens.
Your social identity isn’t worth much — monetarily.

If you answered “false” across the board, congratulations! But those are just highlights of a much bigger story.

Social media continues to gain users and fans. Though the number of online adults using Facebook has grown steadily (73% as of 2014), 12 to 18-year-olds remain the top age group on that social platform. As far as your online social worth, companies spent $23.68 billion on social media advertising worldwide in 2015, eMarketer reported. Businesses know that strong social identities will share product information with their friends online, potentially influencing others to make a purchase. But it is more than just potential money in the pockets of businesses. Hackers are also profiting from your social identity.

What exactly do we mean by social identity?
Basically, it is the way you represent yourself online. For every online profile you create, you provide numerous details including your personally identifiable information (PII). PII includes your name, birthdate, hometown and much more. Fraudsters can use these facts to harm your reputation and financial wellbeing. Given the very public nature of the Internet, such private information can become known by anyone online if it’s not properly protected.

How public is your private information?
Take the time to consider the information you’ve included in your various online profiles. From Facebook and LinkedIn to shopping sites and forums, did you take your privacy into account when you submitted personal information? Did you consult the privacy policy and terms of use for each of the sites? In addition to creating profiles, review what you are sharing how much care do you take when sharing in your day-to-day posts — could someone use any of the information to compromise your identity? Your own filters for what you share are critical.

In the same way you wouldn’t leave your wallet open on a restaurant table, exercise caution to secure your personal information online. With each online account and Internet interaction you have, keep in mind the possibility that an unauthorized party could access your information. Malware and spam are among the most common cyber intruders.

Why use social media?
The risks of having personal information compromised on social media might deter some people from such online interaction. However, the personal payoffs are often too significant to give up. Take, for instance, the extraordinary benefit of connecting with others. “The average user of a social networking site has more close ties and is half as likely to be socially isolated as the average American,” according to the most recent Pew Research Internet Project.

It’s hard to ignore the convenience factor. Social profiles save time as “…personal information can be imported from users’ social profiles, reducing — if not eliminating — form filling,” said Ant Allan of Gartner, an IT research and advisory company. Gartner projects that “50 percent of new retail customer identities will be based on social media identities” by the end of 2015 — a 45 percent increase in just two years.

Your online social identity also enables businesses to target you with custom advertising, including coupons and promotions based on your interests. While clearly benefiting retailers, this practice does offer special deals that consumers may not otherwise be aware of.

Who controls your social identity?
You do! When you choose to have an online presence, it’s your responsibility to protect your personal information. Fortunately, most social media platforms offer features to help you control how and with whom you share the information. It’s up to you to take advantage and remain aware of these privacy settings, as you may need to reset them from time to time.

Why is EZShield concerned about your social identity?
As a fraud protection service provider, we want you to be aware of how your social identity, integrally tied to your PII, can be compromised so you can take measures to protect your information.

Given the popularity of social platforms — 74 percent of Internet users and over half of all Americans have social network accounts — it is no wonder online hacking risks are high. While a hack may not be delivered through a social media site, cybercriminals may obtain information from the networking sites to create specific attacks, according to the FBI. Furthermore, a breach can impact online databases like that of the recent 1.2 billion stolen passwords and usernames.

The 10-second Takeaway

  • Think before you share — protect your online social identity as you do your SSN
  • Use privacy settings — secure your personal information wherever it resides
  • Read privacy policies — be aware of how your information is handled
  • Create strong passwords and secure them — each of your accounts should have a distinct password

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of EZShield Inc. alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other person or entity, including specifically any person or entity affiliated with the distribution or display of this content.

Laura, former VP of Marketing at EZShield, now a Sontiq brand, is a marketing professional with over 20 years of experience leading marketing and...
Read more about Laura Bruck.

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