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How to Maintain Your Privacy on Social Networking Apps from an iPhone or iPad

The online social networking services are excellent for keeping in touch with your friends, family, coworkers, former classmates, and other people from your past and present. In this article, Jason R. Rich offers some useful strategies for maintaining some level of privacy when using these popular services from an iPhone or iPad.
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How to Maintain Your Privacy on Social Networking Apps from An iPhone or iPad

Literally billions of people from around the world are now active on services like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn, Vine, and countless others. One reason why these services have become so popular is because it’s easy to access and manage your online accounts from anywhere using an iPhone or iPad that’s connected to the Internet.

As these services have quickly evolved, countless new ways to share information and photos have been introduced. However, when using the official iPhone or iPad apps associated with the popular online social networking services, it has become almost too easy to share information that most people might want to keep private or disclose only to their closest confidants.

Understand What Information Is Being Shared and Control the Flow of Information

Unless you take steps to safeguard your iOS mobile device, and then customize the various apps you use to interact with services like Facebook and Twitter, you could easily share information (such as your exact whereabouts, home address, or age) every time you update your account, send a message, or share a photo. You could also wind up sharing personal photos with total strangers, or send a message to someone that you think is private but that winds up being seen by all your online acquaintances, as well as everyone linked to the recipient’s online account.

You must understand that iOS 6 and iOS 7 operating systems now work seamlessly with Facebook and Twitter, but the official apps for other services, such as YouTube, Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn, and Vine, can all tap into information that’s stored on your mobile device as you’re using the app. Plus the apps can utilize the Location Services capabilities built into the iPhone and iPad to discover and potentially share your location.

There are a variety of steps you can take to help protect your privacy when using the various online social networking services from your iOS mobile device. To begin, set up the Passcode feature. By doing this, you can prevent someone from picking up your iPhone or iPad and then accessing your various online accounts to publish information without your knowledge and approval.

Set Up Your iPhone or iPad’s Passcode Feature

To set up the Passcode feature, which means that every time the Lock Screen appears, the user needs to enter a four-digit code to unlock the device, from the Home Screen, launch Settings and select the General option. From the General menu, tap the Passcode Lock feature and turn it on.

After setting a four-digit passcode or turning off the Simple Passcode feature to utilize a longer and more complex alphanumeric password, turn off the virtual switches associated with Siri and Reply with Message. Otherwise, someone can potentially access these features and send out messages from your iPhone or iPad, even if the device is locked.

Adjust Your iPhone or iPad’s Location Services Functionality

If you want to prevent Facebook and Twitter from automatically sharing your location each time you post a message or publish content from your mobile device, from within Settings, tap the Privacy option. Then, from the Privacy menu, you have a few options.

First, you can turn off Location Services altogether. This prevents the iPhone or iPad from automatically detecting your location. If you do this, however, certain commonly used apps, such as Weather and Maps, won’t function properly. Instead, leave the master virtual switch for Location Services turned on, but turn off the virtual switches on the Privacy menu screen associated with Twitter and Facebook. This can prevent the official Facebook and Twitter apps, and the Facebook and Twitter integration that’s built into iOS 6 and iOS 7, from obtaining and automatically sharing your exact location.

Customize the Online Social Networking Apps to Share Only the Information You Want

To prevent the official Facebook app from automatically accessing content from other commonly used apps, such as Contacts and Calendar, from the main Settings menu, scroll down to the Facebook option and tap it. Then, from the Facebook menu screen, turn off the virtual switches associated with the various apps you do not want the Facebook app to access and potentially share content and data from.

Repeat this process for the official Twitter, Flickr, and Vimeo apps, if applicable. Then, from the main Settings menu, scroll down to the other third-party online social networking app listings and adjust the settings associated with those apps and how they share sharing data and content, as well as Location Services information.

Now, one at a time, launch each online social networking app you currently use, and adjust the app-specific settings related to sharing content. From the official Facebook app, access the main menu, and then scroll down to Privacy Settings and tap it. From this menu, tap one option at a time to manually adjust the various options. For example, tap Timeline and Tagging to determine who can add information to your Facebook Timeline and who can view your Timeline.

When you created your Facebook account, you probably included a lot of information about yourself within your profile. All this information is available to the public, unless you adjust certain settings. From the Privacy Settings menu within the Facebook app, tap the Privacy option. This grants you access to a submenu with multiple options that enables you to control who sees specific types of information, including your future posts, your birthday, and the contact information (including your address and phone number) that you’ve provided.

From this same submenu, you can control who can find you on Facebook and who can send you friend requests. As you adjust these Privacy-related options, you can typically choose between Public (meaning everyone on Facebook), Friends of Friends (meaning people you know online and the online friends of those people), Friends (only the people you link up with online and designate a friend), Friends Except Acquaintances (meaning people on your Friends list who you categorize as only an Acquaintance), or Only Me (which means the content can be viewed only by yourself online).

You must also understand that the official Facebook app can access content from other third-party apps. This includes apps installed on your iOS mobile device, as well as online-based apps. To control this flow of information and potentially personal data, from the Privacy Settings menu within the Facebook app, tap the Apps option. Then, one at a time, tap each app that’s listed, and adjust the privacy options so that they adhere to your comfort level. To remove Facebook’s access to an app, tap the red Remove button.

Each online social networking app has its own Settings menu that enables you to customize privacy settings. After you’ve made the necessary customizations and adjustments, be mindful of what information you publish online.

For example, when posting a tweet from the Twitter app (or when using Twitter integration from an app like Photos), if you tap the Location icon within the Compose Tweet window, your location will be published along with your message. Likewise, if you have Location Services turned on for the Camera app, and location metadata is automatically linked to a photo, when you share that photo on a popular online social networking site, the exact location where that photo was taken will be published as well as the image itself. Thus, if you share photos in real time as you visit various places, your exact location will be revealed.

For publishing photos, in addition to location-based information that you may or may not want to publicize, be mindful of image tags and labels. A tag enables you to identify the individual people appearing in a photo. The image then becomes searchable using that person’s name or identity. So, if you are tagged in an image, someone (including a stranger) can perform a search using your name and potentially find the images you appear in.

Meanwhile a label or keyword can be any word or phrase that gets associated with a photo, in addition to the text-based caption you may include when uploading and publishing photos from your iPhone or iPad. These labels or keywords are also searchable and make it easier for your friends, relatives, or even total strangers to find and view your images.

Keep in mind that any information you share with Facebook, Twitter, or any of the other online social networking services becomes public and searchable unless you specifically set content to be viewed only by particular people, such as family members or online friends. This includes information you include within your online profile and your posts, or that you associate with the photos you upload to that service.

Whenever you begin using a new online social networking app to access a popular online service, it asks permission to access Location Services, photos from the Photos app, data from the Contacts app, and potentially other content stored on your phone or tablet. After you grant this access, it must be manually revoked or your information continues to be shared, often in ways you might not realize. So, as you use the various online social networking services from your iPhone or iPad, be mindful of what information you share, and understand how apps can freely share data with each other and then potentially publish some of that information online.

One final thing to take into account is that many of these online services, such as Facebook and Instagram, for example, now freely share information with each other. So, if you post a photo on Instagram, based on how you have things set up, it could automatically get shared with your Facebook friends and added to your Facebook wall (or vice versa), whereas tweets you post on Twitter could be automatically posted to your Facebook wall, LinkedIn page and on other sites as well.

As a general rule, do not post or publish anything onto any of these services that you don’t want to share with the general public, your boss, coworkers, family, and friends. Even if you intend for certain information to be private, if settings are not adjusted accurately, your private posts could accidentally, but easily end up being semiprivate or public. Then after information is accidentally published online, it becomes a challenge to remove it.

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Last Update: November 17, 2020