Overexposing your personal life can be risky business.
We live in a share-happy world. What we eat for lunch, where we go on vacation, whom we hang out with, and how hungover we are—these are all things we freely post on social media.
But when does harmless chitchat become potentially dangerous TMI that can hurt our families, our finances, our homes, our jobs, and our reputations? When are we sharing too much information on social media?
It’s important to warn students, staff, and parents about the perils of revealing too much online.
Here are just some of the ways we’re vulnerable:
Facebook Timeline is an open book for bad guys.
Stalkers, cybercriminals, and identify thieves are eager to get their hands on personal info that can enrich them.
Depending on your privacy settings, crooks can view your post history, see who your friends are, and find out where you live.
The Timeline is a popular resource for social engineers who use the information to launch phishing attacks. For example, they may see you’re a customer at XYZ bank. Then they’ll send a legitimate-looking email persuading you to “log in” with your username and password. With these credentials, they can hack your account.
“Phishermen” cull all kinds of personal morsels from your Timeline, such as favorite music, the restaurant you went to last night, and how you’re caring for a sick family member. With these tidbits, they can write highly personalized, seemingly trustworthy emails that entice you to divulge private info.
Burglars love the Timeline, too. When people “check in” or post vacation updates, they know you’re out of the house—alerting them that now might be a good time to rob you.
Young people who post things like, “Yay! I’ve got the house to myself!” risk putting themselves in peril. It’s never a good idea to announce to the world that you’re home alone.
The Internet is Forever — Sharing Too Much on Social Media Now Can Plague You Later
Posting something you thought was funny (pics of last night’s drinking fest), gossiping, or bad-mouthing someone (“I hate my boss”) may come back to haunt you.
Many colleges and potential employers check prospects’ social-media sites as part of the vetting process. Anything that shows poor taste or lack of judgment can cripple your chances.
Here Comes the Judge
Your entire social-media history can—and will—be used against you in a court of law. Lawyers love Facebook (and similar sites), because they reveal a person’s character, activities, friends, and many other things attorneys would normally hire a private investigator to find out.
Should you get caught up in a legal wrangle, be aware that those angry rants, boasts about stealing or cheating, drunken selfies, and the like will not work in your favor.
Photos are an Open Book
When you snap a photo, it records metadata that includes a lot of information, including your geographic position. While meant to help you document when and where a picture was taken, it can also be used for nefarious reasons.
Anyone can run the image through a program like ExifTool, extract the metadata, and find out, for example, exactly where that new car and gorgeous home are located. It also tells potential stalkers where you can be found.
Tips for Staying Safe
- Set strict privacy settings. Allow only friends to see your posts. Make sure your phone number and email addresses are invisible.
- Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know or don’t like.
- Never post that you’re home alone.
- Angry or inebriated? Stay away from social media!
- Untag yourself in photos that are inappropriate. Remember, what seems funny now could kick you in the rear you when you’re applying to schools and jobs.
- Enable the Tag Review and Post Review features so you can approve (or not) that a post appear on your Timeline.
- Avoid bragging about things like skipping school or calling in sick to work so you could hit the beach.
- Wait until you’re home to post those vacation and weekend-away photos—or disable the GPS settings in your mobile apps.
Finally, conduct yourself on social media the same way you would in the real world: with discretion, courtesy, and good taste.