Imagine that you finally saved up enough money to backpack around Europe for a couple of months. You’re so excited that you can’t help but keep posting updates on Facebook. “Only three days left! Europe here I come! #SoExcited!”. When you arrive at your destination, you just can’t wait to get home to show your friends all the cool sights that you’re seeing, so you upload your pictures on Facebook right away, “standing in front of the Eiffel tower! So awesome!”. However, you notice that things are not so awesome when your trip is over and you’ve returned back home: someone broke into your apartment and stole everything you had of value. You call your insurance company and let them know what happened, but they are no help at all: they state that they took a look at your Facebook profile and noticed that you were basically asking to get robbed by letting everyone know you were on vacation, so they refuse to pay you.
Though this scenario is a bit extreme, it does exemplify the kind of outcome that can occur from not being careful with what you post on Facebook. From identity theft to losing your job, security experts warn users about the repercussions of using minimal privacy settings on social media. The following is a list of 10 things you should never put on Facebook, in order to keep you and your assets safe.
10. When You’re Leaving Your Home
According to the Huffington Post, you should never post a status letting people know when you are leaving your home, whether it’s for a long vacation or a short night out. Though Facebook does encourage letting people know where you are (using features like Facebook Places), you should be weary of telling people where you are, as your friend list may contain some untrustworthy people. For example, posting “going to the movies with my sweetheart tonight” lets potential thieves know that you will be away from your home for a few hours, which is enough time to physically break into your house.
9. Your Phone Number
It is safer not to put your phone number anywhere on Facebook, whether in your profile or in posts. A few years ago, the Huffington Post published an article describing developer Tom Scott’s app “Evil,” which searches Facebook groups for friends’ phone numbers and then displays them publically. “Evil” is just one example of how your phone number can be obtained to then be either scraped, used in a public phone directory or used by marketers. You should thus beware of “I lost my phone! Please send me your numbers!” posts.
It is best not to post any private information that could be considered incriminating evidence. Even if you post a comment which only your closest friends can see, it can be quite difficult to erase all traces of it or prevent it from spreading. It would also be a wise decision not to includes any activities which could be deemed “risky” by insurance companies: more insurance companies are taking to the web in order to find out which of their clients are placing either their own lives or their properties at risk. Therefore, you may want to think twice before you rant about how you hate your boss or posting any pictures of you committing any unintelligent or illegal activities.
7. Your Relationship Status
According to security expert Andy O’Donnell, it’s safest not to show your relationship status on your profile. Being newly single gives stalkers a pretext to start talking to you as you’re now available. It also lets people know that, as you no longer have a significant other, you are most likely to be home alone. If you want to protect your physical safety, it’s best to simply leave your relationship status blank.
6. Your Date and Place of Birth
According to CBS News, you should never post your date and place of birth. Of course, you can let people know when your birthday is (who doesn’t like getting a ton of birthday wishes?). However, it is not a good idea to let people know the year you were born nor where you were born: doing so gives identity thieves enough information to usually accurately predict most of, if not all the numbers of your Social Security number.
5. Your Current Location
Many people enjoy tagging themselves wherever they go to let their friends know where to find them 24/7. Unfortunately, despite this being a fun feature, it’s also a problematic one as if you tag yourself away from your home, potential thieves know you are out. You can still tag locations in your pictures later, once you get home. Your friends will still be just as jealous to see you having a blast whether it’s happening right now or if it was a few hours ago.
4. Inappropriate Photos
It has become common knowledge that potential employers sometimes take a look at their candidates’ Facebook profiles in order to know who they are really dealing with. You are thus most likely aware that posting any incriminating pictures is not a good idea. However, if you are thinking of simply deleting your illicit photos when you are unemployed, you may want to reconsider; according to the Huffington Post, it is possible for users to store deleted phot0s.
3. Your Password
As unbelievable as it sounds, people do sometimes share their passwords on Facebook. Sharing passwords has actually become such a problem that Facebook has listed it as the number one thing not to share. Even sharing it with someone you trust is a risky move, as you never know what can happen to jeopardize your relationship. For example, if you give your password to your girlfriend, and you eventually go through a rough breakup, you suddenly find yourself in a situation where someone that dislikes you now has complete access to your account and your information; that is not a good place to be.
2. Your Home Address
This one may seem like a bit of a no-brainer, however, it is worth mentioning as CBS news reported that as much as 40% of people have listed their home address on social media sites. Of that 40%, 65% did not block strangers from viewing their information with their privacy settings. Moreover, a shocking 60% also stated that the people on their friend lists were not people they necessarily trusted, but just acquaintances. According to a study conducted by the Ponemon Institute, social media site users are more at risk for identity theft than non-users. It is, therefore, important to give strangers as little information as possible on social media.
1. Tagging Pictures of Your Children
Most parents are proud of their children and so it’s natural to want to show pictures of them to their friends. However, it is important to remember that you never know who you might be dealing with on social networking sites. According to How Stuff Works, if you want to protect your children, you should not tag or post pictures of your children if you do not restrict your profile. It’s a sad truth, but predators often use the Internet to stalk and find children. Beware of posting pictures and/or captions such as “Jr.’s first time walking to school by himself!”. The safest options if you want to share your family photos is to restrict your profile and send pictures to a trusted few who you know won’t share the pictures.