Virtual Private Networks are handy tools you can use to hide your identity and protect your private data from falling into the wrong hands. Like the Swiss Army knives of security apps, they help you access every corner of the online world while minimizing your online footprint. But, can a VPN hide your identity on social media, primarily on hugely popular sites such as Facebook and Instagram?
Unfortunately, a VPN can’t hide your identity on social media if you’re voluntarily sharing personal information with it. It will create a safe and encrypted tunnel around your connection, but the data you’re sharing will be visible to the site itself.
What Does a VPN Hide From Social Media Websites?
Before we delve deeper into the subject, it’s essential to distinguish between privacy and anonymity. Most people don’t understand the difference between the two, so they often come across privacy-related problems. If you want privacy when using social media websites, a VPN is the way to go. If you also wish for anonymity when online, you shouldn’t log in to any social media website in the first place.
With that in mind, you should be aware that a VPN offers limited protection when using social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram. It will hide your real IP address from the site and encrypt any information from your ISP or third-party sites but can’t keep you anonymous from the site itself.
Taking Facebook as an example, they’ll still be able to see what you like, the people you follow and interact with, and every bit of personal or financial information you give out on their platform. This means that the site will know your real name, location, likes, and preferences, as well as credit card data if you’ve ever purchased anything through the platform. The only difference in your user experience will be that the VPN will protect the data shared between you and the site from any possible interception attempts.
Social Media-related Privacy Concerns
With the popularization of social media platforms, there’s also been a growing concern regarding the lack of online users’ privacy. The biggest social media-related privacy concerns include:
Likely the most worrying privacy concern of sharing information with social media sites, social profiling supposes users’ worth by measuring their influence and interaction on social media sites.
This is a dangerous practice, as it leads to creating one-dimensional profiles of a user. It also implies that if someone doesn’t have a well-developed social presence, they have a lesser worth in terms of their social value and value as a contributing member of society.
Third-party Data Access
The majority of social media users aren’t aware of how much information SM sites actually gather on them. As the most prominent social media site globally, Facebook is also the most invasive site in the industry. It was one of the first companies to use facial recognition. Not only this, but Facebook is known for collecting a long list of data on its users, including:
- Personally Identifiable Information
- Location History
- User Phone Contacts
- Texts and Calls
- User Interests
- Device Information
- Credit Card Details
No company should have this much information on you, especially considering the many incidents SM sites have encountered over the years, including selling user data to third-party sites and advertising companies. The GDRP and CCPA acts have helped establish a more user-friendly online environment, though social media tracking is still widespread on nearly every major platform.
Although cyberstalking primarily implies online stalking, this form of harassment very often spills over into real life. Unlike “traditional” stalking, which mostly affects women, cyberstalking impacts both men and women nearly equally.
And, due to the ease of access to information available to any online user, cyberstalkers can often pinpoint your exact location from your social media activity and the information you share online. Cyberstalking is one of the most severe consequences of oversharing information on social media sites.
How to Protect Your Identity on Social Media
Protecting your online privacy while maintaining an active social media presence is a difficult task. But, if you’re willing to juggle between the two, there are a few practical ways on how to protect your identity on social media:
- Employ Two-factor Authentication – Setting up a multi-step log-in verification system will add a layer of security to your social media profile and deter anyone from trying to breach it.
- Don’t Cross-connect SM Accounts – Nearly every site offers you an option to link your account with multiple social media platforms. Although this might seem convenient, you should always stray from doing so, as you’ll only be revealing more information and allow sites to compare and exchange data on you.
- Customize Your Privacy Settings – Tailoring your privacy settings will allow you to keep your SM profiles as private as you want them to be. In line with this, consider revoking access to any third-party apps or programs you no longer use.
- Use a VPN – Connecting to a VPN service while using social media sites will protect your valuable information from falling into the wrong hands.
How to Hide Your Identity on Social Media Apps and Sites
If you can’t stray away from social media sites but still want to ensure maximum privacy and anonymity, there’s only one way of going about it. That is to create a throwaway profile that’s in no way tied to your real identity.
Here’s how to hide your identity on social media:
- Use a proven and trusted VPN (NordVPN recommended)
- Connect your network to a VPN server
- Open up the website in Incognito mode or Use an Open Source browser to do so
- Register with the site using fake information
- Before logging into the site every time, make sure to complete steps 1 and 2
If you’re a highly privacy-conscious online user, this method is as effective as it gets when it comes to hiding your identity on SM apps and sites. When using social media in this manner, you should also keep in mind that you can’t add any friends, locations, or interests that the site could use to target your real geographical location.