Tuesday, August 23, 2011

How open a book are you to strangers?

This is a question that started being asked while looking through social networking sites.  The article was titled this because of what people are doing through the social networks. It is totally amazing how much information a person posts thinking that only their friends will see it.

We decided to watch what a couple of our friends posted, and boy did we ever learn a lot, even when looking as just an anonymous connection. Examples of what we saw were being able to locate them at various times during the day as well as figure out their upcoming events. One person even posted what they would be doing on the Labour Day weekend, so people knew when they would be home and away, therefore communicating when their house was empty.  This post was sent a couple of days before the weekend instead of after the weekend.  If people want to post their events in their status line, it is best to post them there afterwards.

So many posts are telling people when their house will be vacant. One social network site did tell people to stop posting their whereabouts, but it still continues. These are the people that if something happens to them are going to say I didn't realize what I was doing.  Posting where you are at various times of the day makes you very traceable.  Can someone tell when you leave your home, arrive at work, leave work, attend other events and then arrive home?  If you post your location more than once a day, the answer is likely "Yes".  Some people are even using applications that map where they are at a given time.  If you do this daily, people can monitor it for a couple of weeks and therefore know your daily and weekly routines. 

People want to tell their friends what they are up to, but not everyone on the social networks are there for good. On some social networks, you don't even have to be connected with an individual to see what they post.  Even if you believe your posts are private today, there is no guarantee that they won't be made fully public tomorrow.

The management of posting on social networks needs to be communicated to employees of companies as well, so that staff is not posting confidential information on the social networks. So many people figure that they can trust everyone who can see their posts, but that isn't true. Some people try to friend everyone and some of these people they don't really know, so how can they really trust these people.  How many people friend anyone even if they don't know them, just so they have hundreds and hundreds of friends or followers (too many)?

Another interesting item is that people use their corporate identity for their personal comments. Remember, if you say something in fun to someone, it could damage your professional identity as other people do see it.  Never post comments about a company on the internet if it isn't part of your job, as it could be there forever. A company's identification should be used for professional use, such as announcing different events, example restaurants or retailers announcing events. It is very important to remember that a single comment on a social network could damage a person both professionally and personally, such as get you fired (or worse).

A key piece of information that people don't realize is that if they post their address and/or their date of birth including year or your mother's maiden name, they are giving away enough information for identify theft. If you want to include your date of birth, just post your day and month. Your friends will know how old you are, and other people don't need to know this information. Other pieces of information that you should not post are where your children go to school, activities they are involved in, or their date of birth. Imagine their surprise if, when they try to get credit in the future, they find out that someone has been using their identification for years and no one knew. A second reason for not posting a lot of information about your children is that this information then is totally available for people that could harm your children.

So before you become a victim, please limit what you post on social networks sites because you don't know who sees it.  Remember, even your blog can be read by anyone, so a lot of the tips apply to blogs as well.

A door with a lock is no more secure than a door without one, if the lock is not engaged.  Are you using your locks or are you leaving your doors open with banners overheard saying "pick/steal me"?

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