Social networks and smart devices allow you to do some pretty amazing things. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter, for example, enable you to communicate and connect with anyone in the world through text, photos, and video. Devices like home security systems make it possible to check on your home remotely via video streaming, while products like Philips Hue allow you to turn on your lights from anywhere in the world.
Services such as IFTTT enable you to do many of your social networking or control smart home devices automatically. Unfortunately, when the two are combined, disaster can strike.
Here are some of the ways not to automate your social network accounts.
What is IFTTT?
Before getting started, it’s important to summarize what IFTTT, or “If This Then That” can do. The free service allows everyday users to create chains of statements, called “recipes,” which are triggered based on changes to other Web services such as Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.
One of the reasons IFTTT is so popular is its simplicity. To develop new recipes, all you need to do is create an If/Then statement via the IFTTT website or app.
One of the reasons smart home devices are truly smart is their ability to detect when you aren’t at home using your smartphone’s GPS capabilities.
For example, you can set your Nest Thermostat to turn the temperature down whenever you leave home or turn it up when you return. Smart webcams such ones from Nest, Canary, and Logitech can perform a similar task, turning themselves on and off depending on your location.
These are great tools to have. Still, you should keep this sort of convenience to yourself.
With IFTTT, you could feasibly have Nest alert your Facebook friends every time you leave home or tell Twitter followers when there is motion detected on your video cam. Most of your social contacts don’t want to see this play-by-play of your day. Others might, however, but for nefarious reasons. The reality is that criminals have turned to social networks to figure out when they can target potential victims.
Instead of telling the world when you leave home, try these IFTTT recipes instead:
- Turn off your lights when your Nest thermostat is set to away mode
- When you exit a specific area set your Nest Thermostat to ___ degrees
- When you’re near home your thermostat will automatically set
The Automatic car adapter is one of the most popular smart devices on the market. For $99, it unlocks the data in your vehicle’s onboard computer and alerts you whenever there is a problem. Automatic also tracks your daily trips, giving you insight on your car’s fuel economy over time. This tracking feature, while useful, could also get you into trouble.
With IFTTT, you can create a Facebook status message or sent a tweet on Twitter every time you reach a destination. Does everyone on your social network need to know where you are in real-time? Or more specifically, that you aren’t currently at home? Not likely.
More broadly, you should never use automation tools to “check in” at your current location. By doing so, you’re intentionally announcing to the world that you aren’t at home. Also, you’re location details could be used to falsely implicate you or otherwise used against you in some way.
One Final Word on Location
You should never give out your physical address or phone numbers through social media — even if you think the communication method is private. Data breaches and account hacks happen all the time. There’s no reason to make their job easier by making your personal information readily available.
Be Careful With Those Photos
There’s nothing wrong with posting photos online, as long as you follow some discretion. You may love your body, but posting naked photos for the entire world to see is not a good idea. You also shouldn’t post images of yourself indulging in alcohol or drugs. Randomly sending embarrassing photos of your friends is also unnecessary.
You should also refrain from automatically posting photos to your social feeds. A lot of IFTTT recipes break this rule, including “Instagram video to Twitter,” “Share Your Instagram photos as native Twitter photos,” “Upload photo automatically to Flickr,” and “Upload all new photos to Flickr.”
Your smartphone images are likely to have geotags attached, which others may use to find your current location. You might be okay with giving this information out to a small group of friends on Facebook, but probably not to some random guy who started following you on Twitter.
A better approach might be to send all of your photos to your Google Drive or Dropbox account where you’ll have a little bit more control over who can see the files. Among the IFTTT recipes we recommend:
- Upload new iOS Photos to Google Drive
- Save new photos you take to Google Drive
- Save your new Instagram photos to Dropbox
You Bought What?
Amazon Alexa offers various shopping tools. One of those is the ability to add and remove items to your shopping list. IFTTT offers recipes that will alert your social networks whenever an item on your list is purchased. This might not sound like a big deal and in most cases, it really isn’t. (If you really want to tell your friends the next time you buy shampoo or conditioner, go for it.)
However, it’s probably not a great idea to tweet that you just bought a new iMac or pair of expensive headphones. Do you have Christmas gifts on that list? Again, certain eyes probably shouldn’t see this.
Keep your lists to yourself. Some of the IFTTT shopping list recipes we recommend:
- Email yourself your Alexa Shopping List every time you add a new item
- Receive Notification when item completed on Shopping List
- Add Alexa Shopping List to Evernote
Final Thoughts and Suggestions
Posting automatic countdown clocks to your social feeds is a great idea when the event is something like New Year’s Eve or the number of days until your kids go back to school. You shouldn’t, however, use IFTTT to post the number of days until you go on vacation. Doing so alerts people when you aren’t going to be home.
Social networks serve many useful purposes, as do smart devices. However, when the two are combined with automation tools like IFTTT, problems happen. Avoid the may pitfits to protect you and your family.
Have you ever gotten yourself in trouble automatically posting something to social media? Share your own experiences and tips in the comments section below.