Remember, it isn’t private, ever. 0

MegaphoneWhen using social media services, the biggest mistake folks make is to believe – even for a minute – that anything they say is private. That leads to embarrassment, possible employment termination, and lots of other consequences.

For example, many users believe that their Twitter direct messages are not shared with anyone but the recipient. That’s not necessarily the case.

When you DM someone on Twitter, the message can be seen by everyone who subscribes to their timeline if:

– There is an image attached to the DM – image services are not private, and will carry the text of the message as a caption to the image on the photo-sharing site.

– There’s a link or you use a tweet shortening service (like TwitLonger). This one burns people even more than the image services, as you may have a shortening service enabled for all tweets in a 3rd-Party Twitter product on your desktop or phone. Bit.ly links and other URL shorteners are also public, so links in tweets can become public very easily.

– They retweet it. Twitter will try to stop them from doing that, but there lots of ways around that.

– You accidentally replied instead of sending a DM. It’s easy to do, and you’d be surprised how many times it happens.

On Facebook, all the default security settings make nearly everything in your profile and posts public information. Even if you think your data is shielded, a change to profile information policies can flip things to public without warning – it’s already happened several times.

The same goes for Pinterest and other sharing sites. Even though you can try to keep everything private, the sites are designed from the ground up to share, and with one wrong click the world can see whatever you posted.

Just before this went to post, Eileen Brown posted an article that proves the point. Twitter is allowing 3rd-Party companies to mine historical data from their archive, which means that your tweets could be used by another company. While they don’t seem to want to expose DM’s, one poorly-coded script could make that happen.

So, use social media wisely. Remember that it’s supposed to be SOCIAL, and that sites and networks are designed to facilitate public communication. Even if you think something is private, there’s a good chance it’s not – or it may become public later.

Photo Credit: floeschie