Are you sharing your privacy away?

Think about the kind of things you share on Facebook. Most things people post are not necessarily super private moments, but what seems like no big deal information at the time could really be opening you up to substantial risk online.

Here’s a few examples.

#1 Pictures and personal details of your children

We tell our kids never talk to strangers. But what happens when a stranger approaches them who knows their name, what school they go to and can reference details from a recent event like a birthday party or trip to the zoo. Odds are they will be able to influence a child armed with this much personal information.

What you should do about it?

Facebook is a great way to share family photos and special moments with friends and extended family. Especially when they live far away and can’t be in regular contact. So if you are going to share pictures of your kids on Facebook, really think about the details you are including and then make sure you have applied the appropriate security and privacy settings so that only those people you want to see the post, do.

#2 Personal identifiable information: Don’t post a picture of your credit card online

This should be a no-brainer. But it isn’t. It’s amazing how the people actually do this to show off their brand-new credit card perhaps with a special team logo on it or something. This goes for any other piece of personal identifiable information and not just cards in your wallet. It could include the license plate number of your car or your home address.

A lot of people use fitness apps that show the route of their daily jog or bike ride that clearly show the location of their home and the path they regularly take including times that they may be alone in secluded areas. Sometimes these apps post a Facebook automatically and include way too much detail by default.

What you can do about it?

It’s fun to share exciting moments with your Facebook friends like getting a brand-new car, just make sure that picture you share is taken from an angle where the license plate is not visible. A good rule of thumb is to really look closely at anything you about to share that includes numbers of any kind and then think to yourself, “what could someone find out about me if I give them this information?” It’s also very important to keep track about what your apps are automatically sharing and lock down anything that may be exposing you to financial or personal risk.

#3 The “please rob me” Facebook status

Everyone loves to share pictures of their stuff. Most news feeds are full of pictures of new cars, trucks, TVs, jewellery and other expensive personal belongings. But they don’t just show up when we’re showing off. Often our stuff shows up in the backgrounds of pictures. For instance taking a picture in your kitchen of Grandma’s birthday party or in your family room from last weekend’s house party can actually reveal a lot of details about your home and your stuff. A picture like this can identify what valuables are in the house, where they are and how easily accessible they may be from windows and doors.

Why does this matter? Because the next post after the one of you’re new 3,462 inch TV in your feed just might be how excited you are to be at the airport headed to the beaches of Acapulco for two weeks leaving your brand new TV home all alone. Combining the information from the two posts, you’ve told the world where all your good stuff is, how to get at it and that you’re not at home so “come help yourself”.

What you can do about it?

Again be very careful about what you include in pictures and status updates unintentionally. Take enough pictures inside your house and you may inadvertently be pointing out which rooms have motion sensors for your alarm and which ones don’t. A trained criminal eye can pick up on these details very quickly. You also need to think about what can be determined about you, your family and your home from the combination of pictures and status updates you post to Facebook.

How not to get hacked…

We shouldn’t be afraid to share things on Facebook. It’s just important to do so with a little caution. Making sure your privacy and security settings reflect your true wishes are an important first step. But realize that these settings should not be counted on to fully protect you. You need to take personal ownership for your own privacy and security by thinking about what not only each individual pictures and status update are really sharing but also what story the posts taken together unintentionally reveal.

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