Online Privacy: Do You Share Too Much Information?

1 Online Privacy Intro Image   Online Privacy: Do You Share Too Much Information?Sharing has always been a prominent part of what the Internet is and how it functions. And with social networks exploding in popularity in the past several years, sharing is probably the one aspect we utilize the most on the web. We share news, information, pictures and experiences, and by doing this we can build and maintain relationships as well as create new connections that we would have otherwise never met or worked with. But can this have adverse affects? Can you share too much information?

In my opinion, yes, and I get the feeling that most of you would agree (of course if you don’t, I’m open to your thoughts). On many websites, especially social networks, there are literally text fields for every bit of information about you – phone numbers, where you work, where you live, where you go to school, your occupation, age and birthdate, who you know, other methods of contact such as email addresses and other online profiles….the list goes on.

Rule #1: Don’t Post Anything You Don’t Want Everyone To See

This is a fundamental that should almost be taught in school alongside Algebra and Biology. It’s important to realize that even if you’ve created filters for your contacts or have your information restricted to only those who follow you or who you approve of, that you should still watch what you share.

2 Facebook Status   Online Privacy: Do You Share Too Much Information?

Try to refrain from statuses such as the one above. But don’t just limit this philosophy to complaining statuses. Apply this to your photos, location-specific posts and personal profile information.

Rule #2: Be Aware & Concerned About Potential Dangers

Being aware is one thing – sometimes it could just be a lack of knowledge. However, it’s just as important (if not more) to be concerned about those potential dangers. For example, let’s say you know that where you live, you’re at high risk of a break in or robbery – you’re aware. But, you take the approach that you’ll be fine and so you don’t lock your door. You have just increased the odds of your house being broken into tremendously. Now let’s add another aspect – you have a family. You most likely will now lock your doors all the time.

The Internet is the same way. It can just be just as dangerous, just on different levels. In fact, in some ways it can be even more dangerous because we don’t think of it in the applicable sense that it can be a tool to pry into lives. We think it’ll all be fine, but there are numerous stories of tragedies because someone allowed a little too much information to be shared with the wrong person.

Location-Specific Statuses and Posts

Do you use Foursquare or check-in to places on Facebook? Are you aware of who can see these posts? Do you share them publicly? These are important observations to be making. It’s all apart of being concerned and not assuming that you’re safe.

3 Facebook Location Status   Online Privacy: Do You Share Too Much Information?

Oversharing Personal Information

Some things are just best left unsaid unshared.

Sharing your location somewhat falls into this category, however being cautious beyond sharing your location is important. Do you consider who you’re sharing with? Twitter is a rather open platform. There is the option to only show your tweets to those who are following you, who you approve to follow you. However, I find this rather counterproductive to engaging with other users on Twitter. The whole reason you follow someone is because you find what they say interesting. How are you supposed to know if they’re interesting if you don’t know what they’re tweeting about?

creditcard   Online Privacy: Do You Share Too Much Information?The only exception to this would be if you know them on a personal level and they aren’t a complete stranger. Which brings me to my second point – Twitter is full of strangers. I follow and communicate with more strangers on Twitter than I do actual friends. But I don’t share any personal information. I have a short bio about myself and my tweets typically consist of things based on my interests, not….my debit cards, for instance (yes, some people tweet their debit cards). Once you understand this, it’s easy to see how those who treat Twitter more like a private social network, such as Facebook, are immediately setting themselves up for an attack – online or off. Both are scary.

Sharing on Facebook is a little different. Like I previously mentioned, it’s typically more private, but that’s not necessarily true. Your privacy depends on you. If you don’t have things properly set and properly hidden, then you could be exposing yourself to the entire Internet. Sure there are things that you definitely should not post and share on your profile, but sometimes it’s deeper than just not sharing things.

Facebook’s security settings can be somewhat overwhelming due to all of the options there are to help you remain private and secure. But there is a particular setting that I want to mention that can be deceiving and that is the “Friends of Friends” setting. Many times you might think that you would approve of all of the people that your friends are friends with, but keep in mind that with this setting, you are actually giving up a huge chunk of your privacy and depending on your friends’ judgment to stay secure online.

Rule #3: Don’t Trust Anyone

Please Rob Me   Online Privacy: Do You Share Too Much Information?

The website Please Rob Me takes a somewhat sarcastic, yet still serious approach on the matter of posting too much information. The overall message that I got was that you should never trust anyone on the Internet. Don’t publish your Foursquare updates to your public Twitter account. Don’t tell the world that you will be away from home. Don’t think that it won’t happen to you. These things do happen and if the proper precautions aren’t taken, it could be you too.

Be responsible about who you share with and what you share. Think of the Internet as a giant space where people of all sorts roam. If this space was a real place that you were in, would you trust everyone with all your secrets, personal information, etc.? Probably not. Another interesting fact is that sites such as Twitter and Facebook and even companies, like banks, aren’t legally obligated to notify you if your information is shared with the Government. According to an article in the Huffington Post:

In 1976, the Supreme Court in United States versus Miller ruled that a bank did not have to tell a customer that his financial records had been sent to a government agency, in this case the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. The Supreme Court ruled that the customer did not have to be informed that his records had been turned over to the government, because the records were the property of the bank and, therefore, the customer had no reasonable expectation of privacy.

Yes – it’s not just burglars and stalkers to worry about – there’s also the Government. Now, I’m not superstitious or a conspiracy theorist, but at the same time, I don’t necessarily want the Government to know everything about me, although they probably already do. It’s just one more aspect to consider and remember that they too, could abuse this power. Are you willing for that to happen to you?

Conclusion

Now that I have pricked your conscience and you’re panicking about being robbed, arrested, followed and stalked, remember that although it’s scary, you do have control. You can do something about your online privacy. You don’t have to have technical skills, just take the time to familiarize yourself with your different accounts’ privacy policies and settings. If you have any questions regarding them, most services and websites would be more than happy to help clarify and answer any questions or concerns you may have.

Do you feel that you share too much? Have you already started the process to making your online presence more private? Let us know and also, if you have any questions regarding security and privacy, we’re happy to help!

Image Credit: Robber In Mask With Money via Shutterstock

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60 Comments -

Shakirah Faleh Lai

Some things must be keep secret, no sharing.

Aaron Couch

Couldn’t agree more! We (Internet users, including myself) often find it temping to share everything, but there has to be a line drawn.

Thanks for the comment!

ferdinan Sitohang

It is all the truth that you write on your post. It is like there is no private or privacy in internet anymore.

Aaron Couch

Thank you for reading. It’s sad isn’t it? I feel there still can be privacy online, but it must be carefully managed.

ferdinan Sitohang

Yes you correct, but most of users do not aware of this, all they know is surfing, giving information which actually they don’t need to give. Most of the victim is a teenager and children, who have a high willing to know and they don’t realize that the information they give is misused by other people.

Ron Morrow

Rule #4 don’t sign up for sites that don’t let you sign up anonymously and force you to register with facebook ;)

Aaron Couch

Absolutely Ron! I usually use my Twitter account before I register with my Facebook account, just because my Twitter is my public online presence, where as Facebook is more “private.”

Matt Cruz

“Don’t trust anyone” is really just sad. Is that what we’ve become as a society?

Aaron Couch

Matt, you’re right. It is sad. Unfortunately, I think we’re like that outside of the Internet as well, but that doesn’t mean that we always keep a distance. We can use our common sense, discretion and logic to avoid many of the risks.

Terafall

I always use fake identity when a site want me to sign up

Aaron Couch

That’s probably not a bad idea! I usually just use my first and last name, which I’m not really sure if that’s good or not. However, there are quite a few “Aaron Couch’s” in the world, so from that aspect, I’m not too worried.

Ben

I follow Rule#1 to the letter!

Aaron Couch

Right on Ben! Thanks for reading!

Stephen Mitchell

I think you make a really good point about treating the Internet as a big public space where everyone can see everything. Although I’m making an effort to share more since I’m trying to get into the IT industry and want to get my name known, I am extremely careful about what I share and when. Even on sites like Facebook which do offer privacy settings, I always assume that at some point in the future the information I’m sharing might become public, and that the privacy settings are more of a convenience than a guarantee.

The general rule of thumb I use when publishing anything that could potentially be linked to my real identity is, “would I be comfortable standing in the middle of my local city centre shouting about this?” If I even have to stop and think about the answer, it doesn’t get published.

Melainy LYNCH

Good point.I will seriously bear what you have just said in mind,everytime I post.

Aaron Couch

That’s a good practice Stephen. I do the exact same thing and would like to just echo what you said. Thanks for reading!

Regi Polk

I am just beginning to learn how to make myself more private online. Thanks for the assist!

Aaron Couch

Glad to help Regi! It is somewhat of a skill to learn the balance between “open” and private. I’m willing to help with any questions you may have.

Heather S Chaffer

I would love more information! Maybe you call me, or mail it to me at….Haha…RIGHT. Totally kidding, obviously.

I tend to spell my name just slightly wrongly for sites that I am not sure I can trust, and I have a few ‘throwaway’ email addresses that I use for those questionable sites. It’s interesting to see what emails or even snail mail I get with that misspelling!

Aaron Couch

Yeah that is interesting Heather. Feel free to connect with me on Twitter or Google+ if you would like to talk at all about any other questions you may have. I’d be happy to help :)

Dee Wheat

Any privacy that anyone in the U.S. feels they have exists only in their own minds. Once you have a social security number your life is an open book to anyone who wishes to read it. However, Facebooking or tweeting every detail will certainly move you up on the radar…..and why do you think the entire world actually WANTS to know your every move?

Aaron Couch

Right on! Thanks for reading Ben!

Aaron Couch

Dee, you have a valid point. Social media definitely opens up some doors of vulnerability if we aren’t careful how we use it. It can be a great tool, but it can also have some detrimental affects to our own safety if it’s abused or misused.

JBjerga

I am consistently amazed at how much people share online, as if “it’s online, what does it matter? It’s not like it’s in ‘real life!'” Shocking, simply shocking. Also, I fail to see even the benefits of linking all your accounts together, aside from the possible privacy compromise… Great article, I hope all those people who NEED it read it!

Aaron Couch

I hope those who NEED it, read it too Jules! And I couldn’t agree with you more. The phrase “Facebook official” proves your thesis completely – where it’s not real/official unless it’s on Facebook. Um… really? So what’d we all do before 2004?

Patrik Strömberg

Agree with Shakirah Faleh Lai, basically.

IF you are really concerned then go online very rarely and only by hard encrypted connection, and never use any online services….

Not practical but nonetheless safer..

Aaron Couch

Valid point here. I do feel that that’s a very extreme practice though, and likely not going to happen, but you’re right. We could all just live off the grid – no cell phones, no Internet, no credit cards.

However, like you said, that’s not very practical. But I there still are practices that can greatly help ensure privacy and safety while on the Internet.

Melainy LYNCH

My son said the other week,”mum,you seriously need to LEARN to use facebook.This is exactly what he meant.Stuff like not posting I,m going to bed,cos anyone nearby who knows me and knows where I live also then knows I’m alone,vulnerable in bed and who knows what secret fixations the guy round the corner (who just might be checking my every move on-line and off)may have.Better safe than sorry.Also,I need to stop sharing about how sad I feel sometimes and who I’ve lost-This advertises ‘attractive female,alone and VULNERABLE” and attracts all the wrong people.I will think more carefully about postings in future….there are umpteen variations on above theme.These are just examples of mistakes I make.

Rahul Kumaar

Your son definitely made a nice observation. Keeping friends updated is a good thing but letting everyone know about your each move could prove dangerous. Before posting anything always select the visibility option as Friends and never add unknown persons as friends.

Aaron Couch

Like Rahul said, that is a very good observation. It’s okay to make mistakes – we all have made some sort of “Oh shoot! That’s public!” mistake, but it’s learning from those mistakes, and maybe even from others who’ve made those mistakes before we make them ourselves.

If you have any questions, feel free to share!

Jeff Branning

Unfortunately the generation which is growing up with Facebook, Foursquare and other social media sites may not learn until it’s too late about the problems with posting where they are and what they’re doing. Even if the information is locked down on their profile someone can try to hack into the info or stumble on the info and have access. By the time the user finds out it may be too late.

Aaron Couch

Jeff, that’s true. This generation may just be accustomed to that sort of thing and not think twice about it. It’s hard to imagine, but it’s definitely a possibility and likely already happening.

Rahul Kumaar

One most important thing to keep in mind while adding any app in Facebook. While you are adding any app, it asks to let you allow access to all the information and also post on your behalf. Never allow that option as it is an open invitation to getting your secrets public !!

Aaron Couch

Thanks for sharing this tip with the other readers Rahul. I completely agree and follow that myself. Just like Jeff said above, it seems as though many people are almost numb to this type of thing and just install these without thinking twice about the consequences.

Ken Diehl

Good information to know.

Jonna Dohnson

Yes, ditto. Great info!

Aaron Couch

Thank you Jonna. I’m glad you found this helpful!

Aaron Couch

Thanks for reading Ken! Glad to have helped!

Shavenix

I’m tempted to take a picture of both back and front of a prepaid gift card when I empty it out, just for fun. Or just simply post the number off the card and the security code.

Tempting thought a side, I used to have about 4 online journals (not at the same time) had them deleted and purged due to a possible thought it being able to be hacked into or accidentally leaked. I did have 2 groups, one for friends to read and one that was strictly for myself. Even with that I still didn’t want to keep the journal active/activated. For jotting down private moments or details I might look into desktop journal.

Aaron Couch

Yeah I’ve pondered having an online journal as well, but I haven’t pursued it for that very reason. I think paper and pen will do for now… or even a series of Word documents or text files.

Shavenix

I was thinking of microsoft word or openoffice word in terms of word document especially one that has a password function or possibly encrypt the passages.

Aaron Couch

Those would be much better alternatives. Or at least encrypt the folder that they are in on your computer, but encrypting the files themselves, like you said, would be even better.

rolex

We share far too much information; so why does sites like “makeuseof” try to force us to join social media sites just to enter a contest?

Aaron Couch

A valid concern, and honestly I’m not sure how using social media sites for contests helps – I’ll ask and let you know – but it still is up to you about what you put on those social networks and that was my point in this article. I have no problem connecting a website to my Twitter (and sometimes Facebook) account, but I only put information on those accounts that I don’t mind everyone knowing… information that I would feel comfortable shouting through a megaphone on the streets of New York City.

Adjei Kofi

True. You should only share stuff you don’t mind others knowing.

Carrie Espeseth

Choosing ‘Only Me’ on Facebook is huge….

Aaron Couch

Haha I love your humor :P Obviously I did this for article purposes only. I don’t know why you’d post something only for you to see… honestly… it’s nice for uses such as this one, but why did Facebook think of that in the first place? Just my thoughts rambling now…

Smita

A very good post. Like the content topic and also like the way you explained. Thanks!

Aaron Couch

Thank you Smita! I appreciate that. I hope that everything was easy to understand. Let me know if you have any questions!

Dee Wheat

Aaron,

You like exotics? Any exotic in particular? I did herp rescue for years, and had as many as eleven snakes at one time. I came home from the grocery store one afternoon to find a lidded tupperware bowl in front of my door. When I opened it there was a 22″ iguana in it with a note that said, “Please find me a good home.” Found her a home with someone who adores her within 20 minutes LOL.

Aaron Couch

That’s awesome Dee! Yes, I do. We can talk back and forth through email instead if you’d like.

Dylan Brendan

Very informative article!

Aaron Couch

Thanks Dylan! Glad to have helped!

Halim3050

I dont mind sharing my mobile number on FaceBook & when I did So . . .

I got call from South Africa Ghana telling me : congratulations you won a fancy car

:) & all I ve to do is to pay lawyer fee ;-)

I told them thank You very much I am so happy with my bycicle keep the car ^ – ^

Aaron Couch

Hmm. Are you sure that you kept your phone number visible only to friends? Could it have been a coincidence that the two simultaneously occurred, but were unrelated?

Halim3050

it is on my Face Book Cover & what happened is South Africa phishing

Sending you calls or emails telling that you won lottery or what ever and all you have to do is just to send lawyer fees usually from 1000 us dollars to 10 grands :) people now are aware of this thanks to sites like Make use of . . .

Muhammad Ahmad

Also be smart and act as same as you are in real life.

Aaron Couch

Absolutely! In fact, that’s a big part of what I was trying to convey throughout the entire article.

Thanks for reading!

Raghav Gupta

Ok good list to keep in mind

dragonmouth

My approach is that anything I post on the Internet is as private as if I posted it on the front page of London Times or Chicago Tribune in 72 point font.

Let’s not forget that the basic purpose of social networks, such as MySpace or Facebook, is to disseminate facts about their users. Privacy/security is anathema to social networks.