Do you read every single “Terms of Service” you come across before clicking “I Agree” to? If you’re anything like me, the answer is no. In fact, I’ve agreed to hundreds since I first started using AOL 14 years ago, but I haven’t read one. Should we be more careful?

I try to align myself with respectable websites — using services that many others use. And this leaves me with a sort of “someone else will catch it if something’s wrong” mentality. So far (I think) that has worked out okay.

But as online industry grows, and we sign up for one social network after the other, we can’t forget that we’re trusting our sensitive information to corporations. Most TOS include a clause that allows companies to change their TOS whenever they need to. So, in an effort to not be paranoid, but cautious, here’s a list of 8 things to check up on in social media. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be surprised by what you’ve agreed too.

1. LinkedIn

By default, LinkedIn can use your name and photo in its advertising campaigns. If you don’t feel like endorsing linkedin.com, uncheck this box. It’s not terribly hard to find, so login and go to: Username > Settings > Account > Manage Social Advertising.

linkedin 520x248 10 risky default settings in social media that you need to checkTheir reasons for using your likeness are obvious. LinkedIn provides a free service, and in exchange, you provide a personal touch. In the end, however, this is probably not what many users expected upon signing up. LinkedIn has yet to comment back to us on this.

2. Facebook

Facebook is infamous for its nebulous privacy policies. Visiting facebook.com feels more like you’re visiting your own community and less like a service, which gives off a false sense of comfort. Its extremely open philosophy on web identity has spawned protest, anger and attempts at alternative services (See: Diaspora). One particular setting allows Facebook to use you in advertisements targeted towards your friends. It doesn’t actually do this yet, but says it might in the future. This setting, which is similar to LinkedIn’s, makes perfect sense for a company and little sense for a community. I would be angry, but I already expected this from Zuckerberg and friends, and I’ll continue to use Facebook for no reason other than because that’s where my friends and family are.

Manage your inclusion in ads: Account > Account Settings > Facebook Ads

facebook 520x168 10 risky default settings in social media that you need to check

3. Facebook (again)

While you’re at it, you may want to do two more things:

1) Check out your active Facebook sessions and end any that seem risky. This might prevent those prank status updates from your less-than-tasteful friends…

Account > Account Settings > Security > Active Sessions. Click “End Activity.”

2) Review the list of apps that you’ve authorized to interact with your account. If you’ve been using Facebook for a few years, you’ll find remnants of the past like the honesty box and bumper stickers. Notably, you can even connect to Myspace this way (a pretty sad sign of defeat). Removing the apps one at a time will be boring, so brace yourself and click here!

4. Twitter

Twitter’s popularity makes it a common choice for linking with external websites. Everything from Twitter’s own applications to Twitpic, Disqus and blogs like TNW do it! Luckily, we haven’t heard of much abuse involving Twitter’s API, and managing which applications have access to your account is easy. Go here to tidy up a few loose ends by ending the connections you don’t even remember making.

5. Google

Like Twitter, it’s easy to connect your Google account to third parties. Google officially explains why you might have done this here. Go to your account settings to see what websites have access. Your list probably includes harmless things like Stack Overflow and analytics plugins, but you might as well be extra safe.

6. Hulu

By default, Hulu shares your recent movies and queue. And by connecting with Facebook, you can get extra social with your movie/TV watching. This is great, but potentially embarrassing for some. I don’t mind letting my coworkers know I’ve stayed up all night watching every episode of Dilbert, so I’ll leave that box checked. That same theory might not ring true to how many times I’ve listened to “Stereo Love” on Spotify.
Username > Account > Privacy and Settings > Sharing what you do on Hulu…

7. Google+

Google+ has done a decent job balancing the public and private aspects of a social network. By being late in the game, it’s learned from a lot of Facebook’s mistakes. One enticing feature is its limited posts, which allows you to customize what each of your Circles can see. Now all we need is an extension that excludes circles based on the use of curse words and drug references. Take a look at Google+’s privacy settings and understand the benefits and risks of limited posts.

Screen shot 2011 08 18 at 12.47.15 PM 520x120 10 risky default settings in social media that you need to check

8. Yahoo

Yahoo, like Facebook, keeps track of your recent locations. Review them and make sure there isn’t any suspicious activity on your account by visiting their location management page. It’s kind of creepy to see a list of all the places you’ve been, so maybe clear everything anyways.

9. Gmail

Gmail also tracks your recent activity and can be set to alert you of any abnormalities, including if your account is simultaneously open at another location. Take a look by logging in and scrolling to the bottom of mail.google.com. On the right, click “details” under “Last account activity: # minutes ago.” Google officially explains how you can use this feature here.

10. Flickr

Your photos can say a lot about you. If you’re creating work that you want to protect, you’ll need to make sure you limit access to your original image. Otherwise, you might end up seeing your work floating around Tumblr, unattributed. Watermarks can help you play it safe. It’s also important to remember that many cameras now store your GPS location for each photo taken. Power-users are extra vulnerable, because your data could eventually reveal your daily routine or home address! That said, Flickr makes it easy to avoid these issues. Go here to manage your privacy and property.

This is, by no means, an end-all list to dubious settings in social media. Let us know what other risky defaults you have found so we can add them above! Practice safe browsing!