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I don’t think you need us to tell you by now about the risks of revealing too much on Facebook. In light of the NSA revelations The NSA Can Spy On Almost Everybody, Google Buys Songza, And More... [Tech News Digest] The NSA Can Spy On Almost Everybody, Google Buys Songza, And More... [Tech News Digest] Online book sales have overtaken retail book sales, the UK is investigating the Facebook experiment, IFTTT makes Yo useful, Oculus Rift experiment gives third-person perspective, and Google tests our general knowledge with Smarty Pins. Read More , people are becoming more security-conscious and being more careful about what they say and reveal online. However, despite knowing the pitfalls, some people still insist on telling the whole world via Facebook what they did with their day.

From a security point of view, telling everyone you ate Sugar Puffs for breakfast, or posting a photo of your belly button lint, isn’t going to get you into hot water. But the following might.

Checking In And Making It Public

I’ve been guilty of this one before until someone told me to make my check-ins “friends only”.  It’s perfectly normal to want to share your intrepid adventures with your Facebook followers but if you highly publicise the fact that no-one is at home, then an opportunistic burglar might come around to your house and become the new owner your TV and next-gen games console.

Solution

Keep your check-ins “friends only” or limit it to family and trusted friends. Or even better, don’t do the check-in thing at all. Do you really want Facebook to have a list of all the places you’ve visited?

Revealing Home Addresses & Phone Numbers

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In the “about” section, there are spaces for you to reveal all kinds of personal information, including your sexual orientation. It also invites an address and phone number to be entered. This is where you really start to get into murky waters.

For a start, matching your name up to an address and phone number opens you up to all kinds of spam – Facebook is selling your name and address to marketing firms. But more importantly, revealing where you live enables weirdos, lunatics, and positively dangerous people to track you down. If they don’t like something you said on Facebook, they would just have to check your about section to get your address and phone number. Cue heavy breathing and hang-ups at 3.00am.

Solution

Don’t put your address and phone number on Facebook! If you MUST put something down (say for business purposes), get a post box number, and instead of a landline phone, put down a mobile or Skype phone number How To Get A Skype-In Phone Number For Free How To Get A Skype-In Phone Number For Free Read More . One that you wouldn’t mind abandoning if people start calling you up.

Showing Your Kids (For All The Perverts To Drool Over)

If you have been using Facebook for quite some time, then I am sure that you will have witnessed this one. Proud parents showing off their kids by posting photo after photo after photo…..

Obviously it is normal to be proud of your kids (“awww, look at Calvin! He has his brother Timmy in a headlock!”). But if the status updates are set to public, right away you are providing new material for pedophiles to drool over. Combine that with the address in your “about” section….well, you don’t need me to draw you a picture.

Solution

Seriously limit the number of photos of your kids on Facebook. If you must put them on, set the status to “friends only”, and make sure you’re aware of how the site’s privacy settings work Make Sure You're Secure With Facebook's New Privacy Settings - A Complete Guide Make Sure You're Secure With Facebook's New Privacy Settings - A Complete Guide Facebook also means two other things: frequent changes and privacy concerns. If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Facebook, is that they’re not really concerned about what we like or our privacy. Nor should they... Read More . Oh and please don’t do what some people have been doing which is deciding to set up your kid’s Facebook account for the future, so they get the username they want.  There’s plenty of time for that. Besides, Facebook might not exist when your kid turns 13.

General Information Which Leads To Targeted Advertising

If there is one thing which Facebook is universally hated for, it’s advertising. Even though they are a public company which needs to make money, people still object to ads which they say is intrusive and “in your face”.

Let’s look at some of the ways that are dangerous to you if you say the wrong thing on Facebook. They’re not “it will kill you” dangerous, but instead dangerous in terms of your reputation, your finances, etc.

  • You tell your followers that you are feeling down and possibly depressed. Facebook sells your info to an insurance company, and when you try to apply for life insurance, you are denied. On Facebook, you get constant ads about making your peace with God, and making up your will before you go. If you were hesitating about making the final leap, ads like that might persuade you.
  • You gripe that you have a bad back and you are on long term sick leave from work. Suddenly you get ads about medicine, wellness spas, etc. What’s worse is that your insurance premiums go up. Don’t believe that something like this  would happen? It was strongly suspected this year that fitness tracker Fitbit was selling user information to insurance companies, who were then seeing if any of the users were customers. If so, they used the fitness information to adjust the premiums accordingly. Fitbit strongly denies the charge but who knows if they are lying or not? Now if Fitbit is suspected doing it, do you think Facebook would have any qualms about trying the same if the price was right?
  • You are discussing NSFW subjects with a Facebook follower, while at work. Suddenly you get ads for dildos and sex dolls. The boss walks past and sees it. Suddenly it’s “can I see you in my office please?”. Next step – the unemployment office.

Now these are three things that instantly came to mind. I am confident there are numerous others, and I am sure you can cite some in the comments.

Solution

Be extremely careful what you talk about, and always keep that kind of conversation “friends only”. Even better, get off Facebook altogether and discuss your hemorrhoids elsewhere.

So the moral of this story kiddies is : be careful, be suspicious, and be paranoid. Because sometimes they really are out to get you.

Image Credits: Hand picking a book Via Shutterstock

  1. Susanna
    October 10, 2016 at 6:39 pm

    You make a preety good point i just found out that a man was fritening a girl with photos of her neiked a 12 year old on facebook i dont have a facebook yet but when i do i will becerfull of what i put on facebook and what i write.

  2. Denise E
    July 22, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    On another article on MUO (sorry! I can't remember which!!), but there was a suggestion by the author of that article to only use facebook in a specific browser, and open links in another browser, or in incognito mode. I haven't tried this because frankly, the opening of links in another browser is a bit too much effort.

    Having said that, I use the Adblocker extension on my browser, so the ads don't affect me.

    thanks for the reminder about not over sharing on facebook - quite a few of my older relatives will need this....

    • Susanna
      October 10, 2016 at 6:40 pm

      Are you from Hihgate school ?

      • Denise E
        October 11, 2016 at 4:35 am

        Nope.

  3. Jim L
    July 22, 2014 at 2:08 am

    Solution: Assume everything you do on social is transparent. Stop kidding yourself.

  4. Jeff
    July 22, 2014 at 12:28 am

    Does this apply to conversations on FB messenger?

  5. net
    July 21, 2014 at 10:10 pm

    If you want to preserve more of your anonymity and privacy, consider using usenet. It's a bit old fashioned but lets you communicate with lots of people, doesn't demand personal information or constantly blast ads at you.

  6. Gregory A
    July 21, 2014 at 9:55 pm

    Now that we have an idea of whats going on, i hope we all take measurable actions. Cos with this, some people wont still believe.

  7. Anonymous
    July 21, 2014 at 7:34 pm

    Mark O. ............. to each his own.

  8. hotshot1
    July 21, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    BTW: Don't take my word for it, just do a search for:

    "reasons not to use facebook"

    .... and then open some of the results.

  9. hotshot1
    July 21, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    I took a break a few months ago and decided not to go back to Facebook.

    Facebook makes too much money from user information and doesn't give a damn about user privacy.

    I now block everything that I can about Facebook and also Google.
    Google seems to be another entity that is quite invasive of user privacy.
    Startpage is a much better search engine.

    • Mark O
      July 21, 2014 at 6:21 pm

      Have you ever tried DuckDuckGo? That's the search engine I use and the results returned are pretty much the same as Google!

  10. Bud
    July 21, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    Mark O, maybe you should make sure to UNCHECK any FB posts while on Amazon, a problem I've never had !

  11. Bud
    July 21, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    Get FB Purity....it has a very long menu list of things u can do to clean-up your FB page and eliminate or block a lot of FB crap!!!

    I use FB to wile away time playing a few games as a retired guy, and occasionally use it to chat with a few selective friends. The rest of FB's "in your face" marketing I've found to be drastically reduced, if not completely eliminated since FB will NOT listen to their subscribers !!!

    • Mark O
      July 21, 2014 at 6:18 pm

      Bud, you have to bear in mind one thing - you are not a "subscriber". A subscriber is someone who pays for a service. We're not paying for Facebook (not in money anyway). So Facebook, as a public company, has to make money. As I said in the article, I understand this to a certain extent. But a line has to be drawn somewhere, because Facebook are taking serious liberties now.

      As for FB Purity, I am not a fan of too many browser plugins and extensions. I tried it out a while back, had a bit of a "meh" reaction to it, and uninstalled it.

  12. Ann S
    July 21, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    I wish business colleagues would invite for LinkedIn and reserve Facebook for friends and family. There is always some overlap, and there are exceptions, of course, but venues for different interactions make sense.

    • Claire
      July 21, 2014 at 5:26 pm

      Did it occur to you that Linkedin is using similar tactics as well? If not, THINK about it, of course they are! What started out as an interesting idea is now ALSO a way of tracking you. Do you really want anyone to have your work history avaialbe so easily? As a hiring manager, it is simple to go and look up people on Linked in to find out what they have posted there as a quick backgound gathering tool.

    • Mark O
      July 21, 2014 at 6:15 pm

      Yes unfortunately, all "social networks" are the same. They are all collecting information on you in one respect or another. It's either your work history, or your health history, or your fetishes.....LinkedIn is definitely not absolved of any dodgy dealing.

    • john doe
      May 11, 2015 at 2:37 pm

      your terriable at life

    • john doe
      May 11, 2015 at 2:38 pm

      just kidding buddy very good response I am using this for my college class.

  13. Tim F
    July 21, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    Doesn't this also apply to WhatsApp?

    • Mark O
      July 21, 2014 at 6:13 pm

      In what way? I use Whatsapp all the time to communicate with my wife and with friends. I don't see any parallels between WhatsApp and Facebook.....

      Please tell me now. I am curious :-) Am I missing something?

  14. olad
    July 21, 2014 at 3:09 pm

    please do not take offence, but the word is "definItely", not definAtely - look at the roots... finite, finish... hope you don't mind. it doesn't take away from an excellent article, though

    • Mark O
      July 21, 2014 at 6:12 pm

      Where would I be without my army of spellcheckers?! :-)

      I've been writing for so long that I stopped long ago being offended by anything anyone said to me. You need a thick skin to be a writer. :-)

  15. Heywood Giablomi
    July 21, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    This article, along with many of the experiences shared in the comments, just reinforces my guiding thesis: Facebook is for morons.

    • Mark O
      July 21, 2014 at 6:10 pm

      No, no, I wouldn't go that far. Facebook can be used for a lot of positive reasons such as businesses promoting themselves, or charities trying to raise awareness for their cause. So no, it isn't for morons. :-)

    • Heywood
      July 21, 2014 at 7:47 pm

      Mark O - I will grant you that businesses & charities can create specific pages that may help facilitate their missions; however, IMHO, Twitter and LinkedIn can do a much better job of targeting their intended audience (namely, adults) for these purposes. Once FB openly began courting 13-year olds, it became clear where their bread was being buttered!

  16. Philip Bates
    July 21, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    Great article, Mark. I've always been concerned at how much information everyone puts on Facebook (well, obviously not ALWAYS), but particularly the checking-in thing. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's just a huge slab of paranoia, but I don't want everyone (even my friends) knowing where I am all the time. Does no one like Where's Wally/Waldo anymore?!

    And what's worse, people can check you in without you doing anything...

    • Mark O
      July 21, 2014 at 6:09 pm

      Yes, it's the part where people can check you in without your prior permission which really bothers the hell out of me. My wife has a friend who checks us into EVERYTHING whenever we go out someplace. I always have to diplomatically tell her to stop it. But she never listens and keeps on doing it.

  17. Jc R
    July 21, 2014 at 5:44 am

    Use TOR as often as possible.
    Don't say anything that you would care if your 'other' friends knew about. Make sure all your privacy settings are set correctly, which means NO posts go to 'public' and set to 'friends only'. Don't put a friend on your friends list and then talk sh*t about them on FB. Don't use your FB login for anything other then FB. Make sure to turn on '2 step authentication ' for FB, Gmail, and anywhere else it's available. People don't realize all this data is going to be stored for at least a decade and probably much longer then that as space gets cheaper. 99% of any info you publicly disclose, will probably only come back to hurt you in some fashion or another unfortunately. You can't really express yourself on the web anymore, without drawing someone's attention. It's BS, but not much you can about it. Be careful, use TOR, and educate yourself.

    • Mark O
      July 21, 2014 at 9:59 am

      Great ideas. It pays to be a bit paranoid :-)

  18. Ms Hanson
    July 20, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    I have never missed FacePlant - er, FaceBook.

  19. darsi
    July 20, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    Thank you for some much needed information for all of us . I am so happy you brought this info to my attention.

  20. fifi
    July 20, 2014 at 4:28 am

    I search a certain topic on google or youtube and ads for it come up in facebook and other sites I use. No escaping them...

    • Mark O
      July 21, 2014 at 10:00 am

      For me, it's Amazon. I search for something on Amazon and suddenly it's all over Facebook! It's insidious!

    • so special she doesn't have a name
      February 2, 2015 at 2:22 am

      SAME!!!! Ever since christmas, my mom was looking online to buy a micheal kors bag for my older sis and to this day, micheal kors bag sales keep on popping up! Its sooooo annoying

  21. thatguy
    July 19, 2014 at 3:35 am

    I've noticed Facebook is definitely using cookies and browsing habits to show ads like that. Not to mention the thing on your timeline that asks you to enter an address. I'll brush up on their privacy policy, but it's still unsettling.

  22. dragonmouth
    July 18, 2014 at 10:39 pm

    Limit your "friend list" to actual friends. Don't have more names than the Tokyo telephone book.

    • Mark O
      July 21, 2014 at 10:02 am

      DEFINATELY! I only add a person if I either know them in person, or if I have extensively interacted with them online (i.e. work colleagues). I don't understand people who brag about having 1,000 "friends".

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