If you have some free time and would like to be amused — or angered — take a look at your favorite social media website’s Terms of Service page. My favorite is LinkedIn, which states under the Data Controllers section, “If you have any concern about providing information to us or having such information displayed on the LinkedIn services or otherwise used in any manner permitted in this Privacy Policy and the User Agreement, you should not become a member of LinkedIn or visit our website. If you have already registered, you should close your account.” That’s right, LinkedIn recommends that you don’t sign up or close your existing account if you care about your privacy.

Facebook, Google, Netflix — you name it, they have entertaining ToS, to say the least. If you’re like most people, your tendency is to just click to accept the ToS without actually reading it. This can have an adverse effect when you’re dealing with clients’ confidential information and are bound by privilege. While I’m not an attorney, it seems to me that by disclosing information to third-party sites containing unfavorable disclaimers in their ToS with regard to their privacy policy, that privilege might very well be affected.

Cookies are often used to identify the websites you have visited. Browsing history can be both shared and sold. Email accounts can even be scanned by servers for targeted content.

Fortunately, there is help for individuals who regularly skip reading the ToS. A downloadable browser add-on entitled “ToS; Didn’t Read” ( http://tosdr.org) rates ToS from Class A (very good) to Class E (very bad). It’s not yet available for Internet Explorer, but it is compatible with most other browsers.

There is a big difference between data being collected and shared without our knowledge, and information we freely share. In fact, it’s amazing what some people say on social media sites, many of which are ablaze with activity from the legal industry. How many LinkedIn requests do you receive each month? And if you’re on Twitter, it’s amazing how many people want to hear what you have to say and perhaps even comment on it.

Social media can be beneficial, but there are precautions you can and should take to ensure a greater level of privacy. I’ve listed a few of the popular services such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook; however, most services have privacy settings that can be configured to enhance your personal data privacy.

LinkedIn Privacy Settings

The privacy settings for LinkedIn are stored in two places: Account Settings and Privacy Settings. You can find them by hovering the mouse over your picture in the upper-right corner of the window and clicking Review next to Privacy and Settings. Here are settings I recommend.

  • Select who can see your activity feed: The options include “everyone,” as well as “only you” (if you have a paid account). If you’re looking for a new job, consider turning off your activity feed during the job-search process.
  • Select what others see when you’ve viewed their profile: If you don’t have this option configured properly, any time you view a LinkedIn profile, your name and company are listed as having viewed that LinkedIn member.
  • Select who can see your connections: If you’re connected to someone and they haven’t set this privacy option, you can see all their contacts and request that they connect to you. In other words, people can poach your contacts.
  • Show/hide viewers of this profile also viewed: This determines which, if any, other profiles are typically displayed either before or after your profile is displayed.
  • Privacy controls for applications: You can turn off Data Sharing with Third-Party Applications as well as turn off the option to Manage Settings for LinkedIn Plugins on Third-Party Sites.
  • Manage advertising preferences: You can opt out of third-party website ads, as well as ads based on third-party data.

Twitter Privacy Settings

Twitter is one of the more transparent companies when it comes to privacy policies, but you should still take a few minutes to set options for greater protection. Click the gear icon in the upper-right corner of the window and then click Settings.

  • Account: Add Location to My Tweets — this option is off by default and you must opt in to enable it. That’s a nice change from most companies’ sharing policies. Just be careful what you tweet, to avoid adding location to tweets sent from your home computer, because longitude and latitude are part of the information captured and shared with others. Don’t forget to share this information with your teenager, who may tweet up a storm without realizing the danger they are putting themselves in by oversharing.
  • Take notice of these two: Tailor Twitter based on my recent website visits, and “Tailor ads based on information shared by ad partners.”
  • Under Email Notification, consider whether you want “Someone from my address book joins Twitter” to be enabled or not. According to Twitter’s privacy policy, you can delete your imported address book from Twitter at any time by going to https://twitter.com/who_to_follow/import.

Twitter’s privacy policy states that they drop cookies on the system you use to access the web. While you can disable these cookies, they claim that the service may not work properly if you do so. Cookies track location even if you are not signed in to a service. In terms of social media, if you visit a website that has Like, Tweet This, or Follow Me, your information is harvested even if you don’t click any of these buttons.

Part 2: Facebook Privacy Settings.

Donna Payne is CEO of PayneGroup, based in Seattle. Email: DonnaPayne@thePayneGroup.com.