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What Are the Long-Term Consequences of Over-Sharing Online?

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Consider this...

You have an open Facebook profile meaning it appears to anyone in the world in search engine results. The fraudster now has your name and what you look like. For your birthday, you’re having a BBQ in your front garden with some pals to through back a few cold ones. Your daughter posts a couple photos from her iPhone of your wife bringing out the cake and you blowing all 43 candles out. The fraudster now has your date of birth. Naturally she tags you and everyone else who are in the photo. The fraudster now has your residential address.

From only an open profile and a couple of innocent snaps, the fraudster now has your name, your date of birth and your home address – key information needed to apply for loans or credit cards, helping them commit identity fraud against you.

You’d probably be surprised what people can gather about us online and then use against us. 1 in 10 teenagers have posted their mobile number publicly online [2] and 35% of employers have found information on social media that they’ve used to justify not hiring a job candidates [1]. Social media is great. It really is. I use it and enjoy it! But some people do share too much online and this can have consequences for them further down the line…let’s look at what some of the longer term consequences of sharing too much online can be.

What are the risks?

Would it surprise you to hear that the following can all result from sharing too much online? Increased risk of;

  • Financial fraud
  • Higher insurance premiums
  • Higher likelihood of phishing and malware attacks
  • Kids being targeted by sexual predators
  • Finding it difficult to get a new job
  • Below I’ve created some scenarios and explained the long-term consequences associated with each.

• “I hate my life!!” Sharing personal vulnerabilities is particularly risky as not only will it put potential employers off, but fraudsters specifically target vulnerable people so you could automatically become a target.
• It blows my mind why someone would share this, but people have been known to post things like “My dad has just been diagnosed with cancer 🙁 ”. Not only may your dad not appreciate this being shared, but when you apply for health insurance in the future, pieces of information like this could be enough to increase your premium or used to reject your insurance coverall together.
• Kids sharing too much about their personal lives like their age, interests, where they live, etc. with people they don’t know leave them vulnerable to sexual predators.
• “I hate [insert your bank here]!! They just charged me another overdraft fee. These bankers are ethically corrupt!!” You’ve just publicly declared which bank you’re with, making you particularly vulnerable to phishing attacks. You’ve also advertised the fact you seem to keep missing payments so could be vulnerable to ‘get-rich-quick’ type scams.
• Sharing political or religious views publicly has been seen to get people into hot water later on in life. In some cases, this has been used against people in their personal or business lives, like job interviews. Did you know 35% of UK recruiters have turned away a job applicant (rightly or wrongly) as a result of their online presence ?

Top Tip: Did you know that most smartphones by default attach the GPS coordinates of where the photo was taken to the data within the photo? This means if you don’t turn this functionality off, anyone can find the metadata of an image you’ve posted online and find out where it was taken. Kids taking photos at school – they now know what school they attend. Taking a selfie of yourself at home. They now know where you live. At the bottom of this post I explain how you can turn this off.

How do we know when we are over-sharing?

If you’re doing the following you’re most likely over-sharing;

  • Posting (either in written or photo form) your date of birth, phone number or home address. This includes posting personal information or pictures about your friends and family
  • Announcing when you’re going on holiday
  • Sharing hate or discriminating posts/messages
  • Posting your life step-by-step (e.g. what you had to eat for each meal of the day)
  • Sharing pictures of inappropriate content
  • Sharing every little accomplishment your children/pet have achieved
  • Venting about family or partner arguments
  • Posts about your finances

What can we do about it?

Here are some practical tips.

1. Lock Down Your Social Media.

Having a social media profiles which are open to anyone in the world to view and browse through is never a good idea. Follow the tips below to ensure that you have sufficient privacy setup on your social media;

  • Tighten privacy settings of social media accounts and set to ‘private’ so only your friends can find your profile, ensuring your profile doesn’t show up in search engine results.
  • Assume all photos you share can be viewed by anyone in the world (friends, family, parents, recruiters, employer). Even if your parents for example aren’t able to see the photo you’ve posted (maybe because you’re not friends with them on Facebook) they can still come across the photo via other means, e.g. somebody screenshotting it and sending it directly to them, someone else tagging them in it or posting it to their own wall.
  • Never post any of the following information online; date of birth, mobile/landline telephone numbers, home town, relationship status, school/work locations, graduation dates, pet names and other interests and hobbies (these can be used to guess security questions or passwords).
  • Photos taken from smart phones give away much more information than you’d think, like the GPS coordinates of where the photo was taken. Try the tool at this link http://exif.regex.info/exif.cgi - it extracts the metadata (hidden information) that’s captured by your smart phone or camera every time you snap a shot. Go to the camera settings on your phone and turn this functionality off. See the Basic Protection Plan at www.simplecyberlife.com for step-by-step instructions on how to do this!
  • When you or your kids create new profiles on a social media site;

o Don’t create usernames or IDs that include your full name, date of birth or any information that is part of your password.
o When completing the ‘My Details’ sections of the registration forms, think – does this site really need this information? Just because there is a space asking for your DOB doesn’t mean, necessarily, you have to complete it! Only fill in mandatory fields marked by an asterisk.

  • Your date of birth (DOB) is a key way financial organisations validate your identity so you don’t want this to be publicly available. So, should your finger slip on the keyboard and accidentally miss key the day entry then you will have better privacy in the long-run…Usually the social media websites mandate in their Terms and

Conditions that you must provide accurate information when registering so be aware you would be contravening their rules if you ‘consciously’ did this. The key point for them is that you confirm you are old enough to use their service. Therefore, they need the year and month of your birth only. There’s no good reason for them to know the day of the month that you were born!

  • Don’t use the geo-tagging or the ‘checking-in’ features (which track your real location) as this could be an open invitation to criminals to target your property when you’re evidently out of the country or exacerbate the information available to cyber bullies or stalkers.

2. Think, Then Click.

Get into the routine of asking yourself the following before pushing the Submit! button “is there anything in what I am posting (typed/photographed/video) that could potentially be used against me or my family?” If anything but an absolute and immediate “definitively not”, then stop and adjust. It doesn’t have to stop you posting it altogether, maybe the photo just needs to be cropped or the text tweaked slightly.

3. Get Rid of Dormant Accounts.

If you have over time stopped using any social media profiles or email accounts, then just like you would with a credit card, ensure you close the account down and delete it. Otherwise, the account lays dormant, unused, making it an ideal account for a hacker to exploit. Once exploited, your personal information (historic posts, videos, images, etc.) could be released into the public domain. Under the new GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) which came into effect on 25th May 2018 you can now permanently delete your social media profiles for good (and other personal information companies hold about you) so I suggest exercising this ‘right to erasure’ when required.

4. Review Current Content.

It’s worth reviewing all social media content (photos, videos and comments) to ensure you haven't posted sensitive information (home address, email address, mobile phone number, etc.) in the past. Use the built-in review tools on sites like Facebook to remove any compromising information posted in the past. On Facebook go to your Privacy Settings and Tools > Review all your posts and things you're tagged in.

And that’s it! Four relatively easy steps you can take to ensure that in this social media age you’re not over-sharing. Any questions? Just drop me a comment below and I’ll be sure to reply back!




[2] https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/new-infographic-shows-how-companies-target-unemployed_n_918816

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