Whether you are just starting a blog or you have been running a Facebook page for years, it is always good to take a step back and reflect on what exactly you are putting out there. Do you talk about yourself? What about your friends? Your family? How much do you say? How do you say it?
Once you put something online it is there for anyone and everyone to see, and some of those people may not share your good intentions. I for one would never want to put myself or my family at risk just so I could have a hobby.
So in today’s post we are looking at some of the basic privacy dos and donts in the Blogosphere and world of social media.
1. The obvious. Your phone number, personal email, address etc. Posting your real name, birth date, address, or any other identifying information online opens you up to potential hacking, and/or in-person danger. You never know who is lurking on the other side of that computer screen, and with today’s technology, it is simple to find out an address based on full name alone.
Identify theft is becoming a large problem, and once your identity has been stolen, the damage done can be permanent. This actually happened to a family member of mine and it took ages to get everything sorted out and get her life back on track. Believe me it is not fun! And while this may seem obvious sometimes people forget. If your blog name is Shannon S. (Which is reasonable) but then your Twitter account it S. Smith, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out your full name is Shannon Smith.
Just as an aside, I know there are many bloggers who don’t share the names of their children, which is completely understandable. However, I often find reading posts full of pen names to be very confusing (which one is potato head again?). So for the ease of my readers, and to help show that my blog is genuine I use real names. What will I do when the kids get older? Haven’t figured that out yet.
2. Your birthday. Watch out for this one. While most people would not actually share their birth date they may inadvertently write a post about it being their birthday, having a birthday party, receiving a birthday gift or turning another year older. Be careful that someone with bad intentions cannot put things together and figure out your birthday/ year.
3. Vacations. People love to talk about their vacations. Where they will be going, sites they will see, planning for the trip. Some even post while they are away with updates and pictures so their readers can share in their experience. Watch out. You have just told burglars when you are going away or that you are away and thus the best time to rob your house. I never go on vacations (someday….sigh) but I get around this type of thing by airing my posts on a 2-4 week delay or out of order so that by the time people would read about me planning for the trip, I am already back.
4. Your Job. More and more workers are being reprimanded and even losing their jobs because of what they said online. Today most larger companies have social media policies so make sure you know what they are before you post. If you work somewhere that doesn’t, use your common sense. Anything you say or post online that involves your employer could get you in to trouble so why take the risk? Then there is the safety aspect. Depending on what you do, you may not want people to know. I had an issue where a colleague was in a band. After becoming enraged with him a client googled his name, found out about the band and started stalking him at his shows. Hopefully, this case is one of the more extremes, but it is a relevant example of the danger that can come from talking about the work you do, where you do it, and also when you do it.
5. Photos. Photos. Photos. Whether they are slightly suggestive or showing illegal activities, if you would not show them to your Grandmother, do not post them online. Anything that goes online stays there, permanently. If you do not want a certain picture haunting you for years to come, then simply do not post it.
This can include photos of your children as well. It may seem harmless posting a photo of your little one splashing around in the bathtub, but those photos can be used inappropriately by others on the web. With the use of the cloud and other servers dedicated to storing information for years to come, it is increasingly important to remember this when sharing online.
Another thing to watch for is that with today’s wonderful technology most photos are now geotagged, which means they contian within them the time, date and location where they were taken. So not only does someone have a picture of your pretty garden they know exactly where it is and where you are. Truthfully, most of the time this information is not uploaded but you can’t be too careful.
I would also recommend that if you do elect to share photos you watermark them to help ensure they stay yours, as well as placing a copyright or website name in the description or caption. I know I would be furious if someone took my pics and passed them off as their own.
6. Screenshots. While these are also images they are not quite the same as photos so I gave them their own category. Lots of people love to use screenshots today, especially from their smartphones to capture anything from a humourous message exchange to a picture of their favorite web page. Be aware of any information that you have unintentionally included. Even I have almost posted ones without realizing I had vital information lurking in the background in a secondary window tab, or in the status bar etc.
Cyber crime is increasing at an alarming rate, so protecting yourself and your family is extremely important. While social media and other sites make communicating easier, it also makes you more vulnerable to identity theft or other crimes.
Protect yourself and your loved ones by keeping all personal and identifying information off the web, and out of the hands of hackers and other criminals.
The idea to write about online safety came to me from Sam over at SingleHop. They are a global provider of the types of cloud and dedicated servers mentioned above, and are based out of Chicago. During the Heartbleed bug, SingleHop’s servers were not breached due to having up-to-date security measures in place. (If you are interested in learning more about SingleHop’s secure servers, you can do so by clicking here.) Sam recommends when using a website that you make sure the site is encrypted and secure before providing any identifying details about yourself. If you’re unsure, contact the website’s support/technical team because it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to Internet safety!