The Information You Should Never Share or Post on Social Media
Social media sites (sometimes called social networks) are a great way to get back in touch with people and to make new friends – whether old buddies from high school or the neighbor down the street. Everyone seems to have at least one social media account and many people have multiple accounts.
But there are a number of risks associated with being active on social media. It is often said that if an Internet service is free, you are not the customer, you are the product. It is wise to keep this maxim in mind especially for social networking sites and online forums.
What Not to Post
Given the open and fun nature of social media, it is all too easy to let your guard down when posting and sharing information. Regardless of how careful you are with your privacy settings and limiting access to your profile and posts, you should never share the following information on Facebook or social media:
- your full date of birth
- your address
- your phone number
- your middle name(s)
- your picture
- your vacation or away plans in advance (it’s OK after you’ve returned)
- any similar personally-identifiable information that could be used to help someone pretend to be you online
- any similar information about friends and family
Risks of Posting Sensitive Personal Information
In official-speak this category of information is sometimes referred to as sensitive unclassified information. If you have uploaded and made public too much of your personal information, this may facilitate identity thieves, hackers and similar crooks, or make you vulnerable to doxing.
Identity thieves could use such details to reassemble and assume your identity. Offline thieves could use your away plans to conduct a hassle-free robbery.
Doxers could widely publish the information and cause you headaches for years to come.
Spoofers and other troublemakers could use the above information to set up realistic fake pages or accounts under your name or cause other mischief. For example, they could create a fake account using your name (or a variation of it) and photo, and communicate with people from your openly visible friends list.
Hackers could use the information to correctly guess the answers to your forgotten password questions for other accounts.
Some people find the recommendation not to post your picture difficult to accept, but with the introduction and growing use of facial recognition technology, this recommendation is more important than ever.
You should do everything you can to make sure that the gold nuggets of personal information listed above do not enter the public domain. Once “out there” you never know who may be collecting and trading or sharing in your personal information or when or how this might come back to haunt you.
- Related: consult our detailed walk-through of Facebook privacy settings to ensure at least an adequate level of social media privacy protection
3 Quick Privacy Checks You Can Do
In addition to frequently checking your Facebook Activity Log (discussed next), you can do these 3 quick checks to get an initial idea of whether and how much of your personal information may already be public.
- do a Google search on yourself and set up some Google Alerts to detect and monitor future online information about you
- do a reverse image search at TinEye (select the up icon) or Google (select the camera icon) by uploading your social media profile photos, current and past
- visit your Facebook profile page in your browser's incognito mode to see what strangers can see. You can also visit your Friends pages the same way to see what they may be accidentally leaking about you.
Frequently Review Your Facebook Activities (View your Activity Log)
Every now and then, look back over your Facebook activities to ensure that you haven’t overshared or shared something by accident. Remember, there are lots of websites and apps that use deceptive or misleading practices that can trick you into sharing information on your Timeline. It is becoming increasingly common that posts people think they are reading in private are being broadcast on their Timelines, leading to embarrassment or much worse consequences. This is described in detail a little later.
To review your Facebook activity, explore your Activity Log. You can access your Activity Log in three ways:
- directly by visiting https://www.facebook.com/me/allactivity,
- by selecting it from the triangle icon in the main drop down menu (at the upper-right) – see screenshot below
- by visiting your profile page (not your default Timeline stream page) and select the View Activity Log button floating atop your cover photo.
Top Tip – Think before selecting links sent to you in social media messages. There are many hoaxes and fake messages that lead to pages and apps trying to sell you something or to entice you into installing or downloading something risky. Even if the link is sent to you from friends, remember that malware and hackers can get into social media accounts and send fake or malicious messages to everyone in their victims’ lists of friends.
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