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At a time when we’re all thinking about refreshing or changing things that we’ve always done, or trying something completely new, why not see the turn of a new decade into 2020 as an opportunity to take better control of your online life.

If you’re an avid poster to social media, be a bit more mindful about the information you share and with whom you share it. Make sure your “friends” are really your friends before you tell them all that you’re going away on that trip to Bora Bora, or before you post a picture of the gifts you received at Christmas, or of your adorable French Bulldog Fifi wearing cute festive clothing.

What did sharing really bring you?

Aside from reducing the chances that non-“friends” could build a picture of your life and then potentially use it against you online somehow (read what we’ve said about that before), take the new year as a time to re-assess whether you want to be just that little bit more personal, more private.

Did sharing as much about your life as you did last year bring you – or others – personal happiness?

If it did, then that’s fantastic.

If it didn’t, then take the time to question what you are doing online and why you’re doing it. Aside from how your posts might make others feel, consider for a minute what an intimate picture someone you don’t know (very well or at all) could be able to put together about your life from what you’ve shared.

Could they tell when you’re going to go away on holiday? Could they write down all the names of your closest family and pets? Have you talked about birthdays across your family? Even though they could easily find out where you live from a combination of fairly basic clues you might have provided and public records, have you made someone’s life easier in finding that out if they wanted to?

No need to be scared – take control

This is not to scare you into thinking that someone is going to turn up at your front door – putting private information out there online to people you don’t know doesn’t need to bring the threat of something happening “offline” – online threats from personal information you give freely to those you don’t know, or can’t trust, are real enough to cause all of us to think more carefully about what we do online.

So if you’re in the mood to get that new broom out this January and start to sweep clean, here are just two simple things I would start with, and that will cost you absolutely nothing (after we’ve all completely over-spent in the last month):

1 – Be more mindful

… about the personal information you put out there online. That doesn’t mean that you have to close-down to being a hermit, but you should take the time to think carefully about who can see “everything” you post.

The same goes for the personal information you might previously have been happy to share with businesses and companies. Give them the bare essentials only. If any data they ask you for has “optional” written beside it, or doesn’t have a red asterisk next to it, don’t offer it. You won’t lose out. In fact, if that company then loses or shares your data by mistake, you’d be much better off for not having shared it.

2 – Up your password game

… if you only use one, or a few, or just very similar passwords to make signing-in to sites and services easy, take time to reflect how easy you’re also making it for someone else to access your online life too.

We have a full case study in how your data can spread rapidly across the internet without you knowing but, in short, using strong, different passwords for as many different log-ins as possible dramatically reduces your exposure to online fraud and risk.

Why wouldn’t you think about it? You wear a seat belt while you’re driving, right? You always check the traffic before crossing the road, surely?

Neither of those completely stops accidents from happening, but they both dramatically reduce the chances – that is exactly the same benefit that taking a sensible approach to passwords will bring you in 2020, if you take the initiative.

2020 – not just perfect vision – it’s your opportunity to take better control of your online life!

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