- Many social networking services and messenger apps include settings to control a user’s privacy. These settings can take a number of different forms and can be used to restrict contact from other users on the service (such as who can be added as a friend/follower, who can post comments underneath another user’s posts), limit exposure to different types of content and limit the personal data that others can see about a user on the service. Depending on the features of the service, they may also include settings to control who can join, view or comment on live video calls and live streaming.
- If the service allows locations to be shared, there may also be settings to control this feature. These settings are important to review as some apps can give away live location data to other users, allowing someone to see exactly where a user is in real time.
- Privacy settings are important tools for helping manage online reputations. Search engines can only display information that can be publicly viewed online. By using these settings, a user can limit what (if anything) can be seen publicly or by other users who aren’t friends/followers on a service. Although links to a user’s social networking profile can still be displayed in search results, viewing that link will not display any further personal data unless the user’s settings allow it.
- Some social networks and games have additional privacy features for children. For example, some games and services may restrict the communication between two users if one is known to be an adult and the other is known to be a child under the age of 13. However, these features rely on users being truthful about their age on the service.
- On some online services, privacy settings are turned off by default – it is up to the user to activate the settings. This can make it very easy for personal data to be shared with others online if a user is unaware that the settings are not automatically activated.
- Discuss the concept of privacy settings with your students, explaining what they are and what they can (and can’t do). If appropriate, you could demonstrate where to find and how to use privacy settings on some of the popular apps and games used by your students. Remind your students that, while privacy settings give them more control over who may contact them, they still need to make decisions about who they allow onto their contact lists or to see their content.
- Explain that ‘live’ features are actually live – they can show a location in real time or allow live streaming with no editing or delay. Remind your students to consider what they say or do on a livestream; their actions could impact on their reputation but also on the personal data that could be learned about them.
- Remind your students that privacy settings are not always active by default when a new account is created, it can vary from service to service. Encourage them to work with a parent/carer to look for and check these settings on their accounts.
- Remind your students that privacy settings do not usually affect the way in which the service collects personal data about their users. Some services may provide additional settings to manage personal data collection.