Fact sheets

Good use of social networks

The global success of social networks – Facebook in the first instance – brought the society; all classes included, to a new era, one of “digital exhibition”. True phenomena, these social networks provoke extreme reactions. You either love them or hate them. Yet on closer inspection, social networks can also have as many advantages as they have inconveniences.

Therefore, the main asset of these interactive platforms is without a doubt the networking both social (as they make it possible for members to stay in contact with their friends and family) and professional (as some of them make it possible to make useful contacts and to find work).

Also, these sites make it possible to send and receive messages, download pictures and videos, to acquire public notoriety by creating a blog or a YouTube channel to create a buzz and to get a number of “views” and “likes”.

Furthermore, they are also very effective promotional tools for companies, services, products, or event sites.

On the other hand, among the main risks, there are:

-          Account piracy that can go as far as identity theft;

-          Burglaries when a person has indicated not only his or her address, but also his or her holiday dates;

-          The voyeurism when purely private information, such as pictures or videos are published;

-          Online harassment or bullying as can happen, for example, in schools where adolescents threaten their school friends to reveal private pictures;

-          The sharing of sensitive information with complete strangers;

-          The unconsented use of data collected for advertising purposes;

-          The risks of addiction, especially among the younger generation who cannot go to bed without first connecting to social networks.

However, there is often no intermediary position between the followers of public outpouring and those who choose to follow the saying “To live happily, live hidden”, the solution is perhaps to simply learn to work with these social networks, which are now an integral part of our daily lives. This includes:

-          Knowing the main networks and their functionality;

-          Adopting good practices;

-          Security and advertisement settings.

Description of the major social networks


Created in 2004, Facebook is without a doubt the social network the most well-known. It allows its users to publish content (images, pictures, videos, files, and so forth), to exchange messages, and to interact with other users’ messages.
It is also an extraordinary marketing database for companies as all age groups and population categories are assembled therein. Therefore, the network offers advertising campaigns (Facebook Ads) to companies with very specific targeting based on users' interests, behaviour, or even their socio-demographic and geographical characteristics. Furthermore, Facebook provides the possibility to analyse all impacts of these advertisements thanks to very detailed statistical tools.


Created in 2006, this microblogging platform allows users to send and read short messages called “tweets”. These messages of a maximum of 140 characters are a source of information in real time, which corresponds to the expectations of the new generation. This network is especially used by influencers (leaders, reporters, bloggers, politics...) to transmit information speedily. Twitter can also broadcast ads to a specific target according to the users’ interests and socio-demographic or geographic criteria, and to analyse the results.


Created in 2010, Instagram is a social network very easy to use that allows the sharing of pictures and short videos available on mobile platforms. Since 2016, users can also make and distribute “stories” that disappear after 24 hours. It is very rare to put a lot of text, a few words and hashtags are enough.


Created in 2005 and now owned by Google, YouTube is the first large-scale hosting and video sharing platform. It allows its users to send, watch, evaluate, comment, and to share videos on other social networks.


Created in 2011, this application is very popular among the 25 year-olds. It can send pictures and videos that only appear for a few seconds. This application also allows users to make and broadcast stories (a succession of pictures or videos) that are visible as needed, but only for 24 hours.


Created in 2003, LinkedIn is a professional social network that has for mission “to connect professionals around the world to make their business more productive and prosperous”. Members of this network share their identity, communicate with their network, exchange information and professional viewpoints, publish articles, and find commercial and professional opportunities.

The content of some of these services may however also be visible to visitors.


Created in 2010, Pinterest is a social network aiming at the sharing of high quality pictures whose audience is nearly entirely female. After a member has uploaded and shared the pictures that she finds of interest, these pictures are converted to “PIN” and can be positioned in any order, and this, according to different themes, giving free rein to the creative spirit of users.

The most popular subjects on this network are fashion, jewelery, crafts, travel, food, and creative hobbies.

The good practices to adopt on social networks

The principle of social networks being primarily to exchange with the rest of the world, anonymity is therefore almost impossible.

On the other hand, by following good practices, it is possible to protect your personal data and to reduce the risks of revealing more than necessary aspects of your private life.

Although each network is different, they are all likely to collect 4 types of data:

·         Profile information (name, age, profession, education, etc.);

·         Traces of your activities (likes, shares, comments, group membership, etc.);

·         Your silent activity (each of your movements is recorded even when you are silent);

·         The geolocation of your device (used inter alia to generate targeted ads).

To prevent these data from being shared without restriction, social networks have put in place their own security policy with configuration of privacy settings. To learn to know and configure these parameters is therefore the first good practice to adopt to avoid any unpleasant surprises.

Each network strives hard to improve them. They therefore change constantly, hence the importance of regularly checking that they still correspond to what you want.

As an example, it is possible on Facebook to configure each element separately. Thus, you can create groups of friends to determine who can see what or even allow or not your profile to appear in search engines such as Google.

On Twitter, all messages are public by default and cannot be deleted. It is therefore recommended to be very careful before tweeting. Moreover, to avoid receiving too many mails from social networks, configure the notifications in the settings of your account.

It is also very important to keep separate personal life and professional life on any network. With Twitter, you can create two profiles and choose which people you want to follow according to your interests. Likewise, if you use Facebook and the professional online network LinkedIn, you can use the first one for your personal relations and choose the second for your work relations.

But before going into more detail about setting rules for the major social networks, the following table summarizes the most common practices to adopt regardless of the platform used.


  • Never disclose your user name or password
  • Never publish your full date of birth, which can be used by advertisers
  • Never indicate your vacation dates (responsible for some burglaries)
  • Never indicate all the time where you are
  • Do not accept anyone as a friend
  • Never reveal everything or communicate your political opinions, your religion, or your phone number
  • Never comment indiscriminately, what is written on the net remains even years later
  • Do not allow friends to speak of you about everything and anything
  • Never publish embarrassing pictures of you and/or of your friends, family because once published they become uncontrollable
  • Do not subscribe to third-party applications associated with Facebook (Like button for example)
  • Do not read the acceptance conditions with new versions
  • Never leave children alone on social networks
  • Never click on just any shared links because they can be infected
  • Do not connect from public Wifi terminals


  • Separate “personal” and “professional” profiles
  • Choose a safe and unique password that you change regularly
  • Have a different password for each account (messaging, bank...)
  • Adjust the privacy parameters to your needs, and do not keep the default conditions
  • Make sure the correspondent is a friend and not someone impersonating him (check the account, messaging...)
  • Regularly remove unwelcome friends
  • Ask yourself the right questions before publishing potentially dangerous content
  • Use antivirus software
  • Install the latest version of your browser (such as, Internet Explorer, Firefox...)
  • Delete cookies after disconnecting from the network (via the option “Clear Browsing Data”) to not be traced, even when disconnected
  • Prefer a secure connection (prefixed with “https”)
  • Enable login notifications to stay informed of any connections to your account
  • Regularly type your name in a search engine to check what information is circulating about you

Security and advertisement settings

As social profiles are extensions of the real identity of each user, it is therefore important to be careful of them by mastering the parameters, filters, and other security options at your disposal.

In general, there are 3 basic rules to follow:

  • A reasonable activity;
  • A strong authentication (a unique and strong password, composed of lowercase characters, uppercase characters, numbers, and special characters);
  • Security and privacy settings adapted to your needs.

The first two being the sole responsibility of each individual, we will show you the security and privacy settings of some of the major social networks.

Security settings Facebook

The most popular network with about 1,7 billion members, Facebook is also the network the most attacked and criticized. Yet, it is possible to limit the distribution of your personal data since the network was forced to adapt its privacy policy following diverse actions against it.

Today, Facebook provides clear and precise explanations in the section Account Security settings. Furthermore, the privacy parameters can be consulted and modified easily by clicking the down arrow in the upper right-hand corner of any Facebook page. Then, select Settings in the dropdown menu, and in the displayed page, select Privacy in the navigation panel on the left.

Among the parameters to configure, you can choose to:

Ø  Receive notifications when a connection is made from another device

To configure this option, go to Settings, Security and Login, and then scroll to Extra Security and enable Get alerts about unrecognized logins. To increase this protection, it is possible to ask the social network to send a security code to your mobile at each new connection made from another browser.

On the same page, the history of your connections is available. It indicates the times at which your account was connected, geolocates the position of the connected user, and identifies the device used. It is possible to establish a list of browsers from which you want to connect and to exclude others.

You can also choose trusted contacts from your list of friends who can help you if you encounter difficulties accessing your account.

Ø  Privacy parameters

By default, a status in Facebook is public and any pictures that you may publish are visible to everyone. Therefore, it is up to you to configure your account so that only your friends can see your pictures and what you choose to write on your wall.

To do this, go to Settings and select Privacy and decide who can access your publications, future ones as past ones. Facebook provides you with the option to create lists of friends to distinguish between your “close friends” – with whom you want to share all your videos, pictures, and share contents – and your “distant acquaintances”. Simply classify your friends as “friends” in a dedicated list on Facebook, and configure which content you want them to see according to the access you grant them.

In case of cyberstalking or repeated invitations to play an application, you can also totally block the unwelcome person or the application.

Ø  Secure access to your publications

The social network offers many security options that are not enabled by default and which allow for example to control access to your pictures on Facebook that you publish or to tagged photos posted by a third party.

To prevent pictures taken from your SmartPhone being automatically published on Facebook, disable the option Sync photos from Settings on the application.

Another interesting feature, Facebook allows the use of pseudonyms (aliases) when creating an account, you can decide not to use your real name to guarantee guarantee your anonymity.

Facebook knows everything about you

Remember! In 2007, Max Schrems, a law student was behind the largest class action lawsuit filed in Europe against Facebook. The young Austrian's crusade against the exploitation of personal data on the Internet was born after he asked Facebook to send him a compilation of his information collected on the social network. He was then shocked to receive a file of 1,222 pages carefully listing all of his information on the site, even information that he had thought deleted.

What Facebook knows of us is in fact vertiginous as anyone can find out easily. To recover your own file and find out what is the concrete information that Facebook has on you, simply go to the Facebook site, select Settings, and click Download your information.

You will be required to confirm your password

You will then receive, within a variable period of time, an email containing a link where you can download the archive. After clicking the link, all your data will be downloaded to your computer's hard drive.

Twitter security

What you say on Twitter is visible anywhere in the world instantly. You are what you tweet!

By default public, this social network can include photos, videos, and links to other sites (that may also be public by default).

The privacy policy of Twitter is however rather transparent and protective of your visual identity. Indeed, most options are not hidden; they are available in the same place and their default setting is often optimal in terms of security. So, there are not a lot of changes needed.

To start with, you need to go to your account, click your picture in the top right and select Settings and then click the Security and Privacy tab.

Among all proposed options, you can:

-          Check connection requests (this option is disabled by default);

-          Reset your password (this option is disabled by default);

-          Connect with a code (useful in case you forget you password);

-          Always request for a password to connect to your account;

-          Limit to only those people who you know can recognise you on a picture;

-          Protect your tweets by using the protected mode, which will allow you to share your tweets with only your subscribers only. These will also disappear from Google search, so you will not have to worry about being found via this means.

-          Disable the detection feature that allows other users to find you by entering your phone number or your email address.

LinkedIn security

The professional social network updated its terms and conditions on the 8 May, in particular, to allow a better control of data shared with advertisers and to regulate uses to avoid harassment.

As indicated by the social network, content shared by its users can be found outside of its services since “for example, previews or extracts of content can be found in search engines of other providers”. A control is however possible to manage the way in which these contents are shared. “In accordance with the available settings, we will respect your preferences regarding the visibility of the content and information (for example, the content of the messages you send, the content sharing only with LinkedIn relationships, limiting the visibility of your profile for the engines or not notifying your network when updating your Linkedin profile). By default, no notifications are sent to your relationships or the public for job search activities”, we can read in article 2.5 the new terms of use.

Furthermore, the dedicated Privacy section of LinkedIn offers useful information to allow users to manage their preferences and enumerates some good practices for account security, including:

-          Regularly change your password;

-          Do not enter your email address or phone number in the Profile Summary section;

-          Activate the two-step verification;

-          Report inappropriate content or security issues.

Instagram security

At the end of August 2017, the social network Instagram publicly announced that it had been the subject of a massive piracy of the personal data of its users, relating to phone numbers and email addresses of about 6 million accounts, including celebrities.

The hackers are said to have taken advantage of a security breach to sell data online, at multiple sites. The flaw has since been corrected but it has had the beneficial effect of reminding users of the importance of protecting their personal information. You can find all useful information in the help pages of the section Privacy and Safety Center, like for example to learn:

-          How to control your visibility;

-          How to solve breaches and block people;

-          How to share pictures safely;

-          How to report pirated accounts, identity theft, and so on.

If there are very few privacy settings, you can still secure your account by activating it as a private account, which allows you to limit access to your pictures to only those users that you have previously accepted.

Furthermore, it should be noted that by default Instagram pins your pictures to a map visible on your profile, which enables all people who are following you to know exactly where you are. This functionality can be disabled.

Finally, a little originality to highlight, you can also change the settings of your Instagram account on Facebook. To do that, click the down arrow located in the top right of your Facebook page, select Settings, in the left column, select Applications. Beneath the Instagram icon, all you will need to do is click the Cog icon to open the settings of this account.