Social networking via MySpace, Urban Chat, Facebook, LinkedIn, Black Planet and Friendster has become a way of life. People are more than eager to share their thoughts and views through them. But then, beware of sharing too much information (TMI). It’s simple to become engulfed in the social aspects of Facebook and the likes, what you share is for all to see unless you don’t restrict the viewing of your information by people. A study conducted by Pew Research established that almost 40% of users have open access to their profiles making their information open to all whilst only 60% of users chose to restrict the viewing of their information to family, friends, and colleagues. It can be perilous to share your personal information with strangers. In this article, we will do a countdown of 10 things that should definitely find place in the list of information you should never share.
- 10: Personal Conversations
On Facebook, users can post notes, videos or images on user’s wall or send private messages. While messages are private conversations between 2 users, wall posts are open for all to see. Abstain from sharing private and personal matters on your wall. Just like in real world you don’t go around announcing your private issue to the world, the same holds for internet. Although, there is no handbook for this, but it falls under the murky world of social networking etiquette. Use your judgment to decide what all should go to your wall. If it’s something you are not comfortable sharing in person with acquaintances, extended family, work colleagues then it should definitely not go on your wall.
- 9: Social Plans
It is not a good idea to share your social plans unless you are throwing a huge bash and planning on inviting all the users on your network else some of your friends might feel left out. Security issues are at stake here too! Imagine a situation where your envious ex-boyfriend is aware that you are going out with a new date that night. He can choose to show up and cause a scene or worst still get violent, what then?! Exactly! So a wise thing to do is to send out private “e-vites” to friends who you want to invite for your party or plan an outing with.
- 8: Linking Sites
More than 50 percent of social network users are making use of more than one site. Hence, crossovers from one site to another are bound to happen more so in case of linked profiles. Posting something innocent on Facebook can cost you your job because your Facebook page is linked with your LinkedIn work profile! If you have various profiles linked together, be conscious that whatever you post in one profile is available for others to see on all other profiles. In case of linked profiles, it becomes difficult to separate your work-life from your private-life. Take the 2009 fiasco of an employee being caught lying on Facebook. The said employee happened to have asked for an off from a weekend shift stating illness and then posted pictures of himself at a party the same weekend on Facebook! News travelled to his employer faster than he thought and before he could do some damage control, he was fired!
- 7: Company Information
So you have finally got your much awaited promotion at work and you are dying to share this with the world. But before you post this, consider if this news is in any way advantageous to your company’s competitor? If yes, then it is best to not share this piece of information. Any news pertaining to a big project or planned expansion kept under wraps or anything related to your workplace should ethically be kept private. Sophos, a security software company, conducted a survey and concluded that 63% of the companies were fearful of the information their employees were choosing to share on social networking sites. If there something you have to say, send private emails or private messages. Many companies prohibit the use of sites like Facebook, Twitter at work for the fear of being talked about. The IT departments of some companies even firewall the URL’s to prohibit the access to such sites so employees cant give in to the temptation of logging onto these sites.
- 6: Photos of Your Kids
People love to share pictures of their families and friends on Facebook. But if you fall in those 40% of people who don’t take care to restrict their profile, then those pictures are open for everyone’s eyes. It’s sad but true that people use internet for stalking people too. If you post photos of your family and couple it up with information like, “all alone at home this weekend” or “little Fred is old enough to stay alone at home without a babysitter,” then you are jeopardizing your child’s safety. So it’s always a good idea to be careful of what you share. You can always upload pictures and set restrictions to allow only those people to view them whom you can trust.
- 5: Your Address and Phone Number
This is a major security risk. If you have your phone number or address up on a social networking site, you have given an open invitation to burglaries, thefts and even identity thefts. If you make a post about going on a vacation and your profile has your address posted, then notorious people know what house to head for. Your credit card can be stolen from your mailbox by identity thieves. Burglars could flick something valuable from your home. You think posting only your phone numbers is safe? There are reverse lookup services available that can provide anyone with your address if they give them your phone number.
- 4: Personal Finance Information
Many a times, unknowingly people share information about whom they are banking with their stock portfolios. Especially in the recent times of recession in 2008-09 and many banks filing for bankruptcy and stocks plummeting, it’s easy for a harmless and innocent Facebook post to reveal a lot about your personal finances. Consider this setting: you are discussing the financial crisis on a friend’s wall. You post something like “we are safe because we bank with teacher’s credit union,” or maybe, “we can still ride the high wave because we put all our money in blue chip stock!”. Again, if you belong to that 40 percent category allowing open access to all their information, then you have just successfully revealed to the world where you bank and where your bulk of investment is. See how an innocent comment that you would not even remember revealed a lot about your personal finances. So stay clear of such talks altogether.
- 3: Your Password
This is a no-brainer. Yeah? Then why is it listed in the no. 1 slot of the list of things you should not share given by Facebook? It happens. Giving your friends your password to log on and check something can be risky too. For some reason, couples choose to show their true love for each other by sharing passwords. Now consider this: you give your loving boyfriend your Facebook password because darling wants to help you upload the pictures from the vacation you two just took. A couple of months later, you two have a huge fall out and Mr. Nice Guy is suddenly noy nice anymore. So now there’s this person who has your login information is not really fond of you. And if that account is linked to other profiles, all your information in those profiles is at risk too. Time to get a new account and cancel the existing one. But to begin with, if you had kept that information to yourself, you could have simply moved on without any hassles. So always keep your passwords to yourself and save yourself from the trouble.
- 2: Password Hints
As a security measure, most websites containing personal secure information requires you to provide with at least one password hint in case you forget your password. Typically, it is like this: you sign up for online banking. You get a log in id and password. Then you are asked to choose a security question to help you in the event you forget your password. The questions are typically- what is your mother’s maiden name? What is the name of your first pet? What is the surname of your best friend? What was the name of your first school? You may give these away on your Facebook wall or updates and don’t treat it as any big deal but for an identity thief you just provided him with the last piece of the puzzle and enable him to hack into your bank account. Be very careful about compromising this information.
- 1: Anything You Don’t Want Shared
You can be very careful and enable all the security settings on your social networking accounts, but still whatever you post can still be seen by someone you don’t want seeing them. Take Facebook, you fill out so many polls, fun quizzes, applications. University of Virginia conducted a study and found that out of the top 150 applications available on Facebook, 90% needed access to irrelevant information for the app so that it could function properly. So when you eagerly take the quiz to find the day you will die, the quiz-makers get access to all your personal information. The basic aim of social networking is sharing, so if you are confident that something cannot be shared, it has the potential to be shared over and over again and before you know it some complete stranger has access to some private information. “When in doubt, leave it out” is a motto you should abide by. And always bear in mind, whatever you share has the possibility of being leaked in some way.