5 Types of Information You Should Never Post Online
We spend increasing amounts of time online and document our lives through work and social apps. Networks like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter are digital public spaces, while work apps like Slack, Zoom, and Google Docs help us work remotely.
With so much data posted online, we inevitably share personal details. These range from the mundane through to the confidential. It’s not always clear what you shouldn’t post online, so we’re here to help.
Here are five types of information you should never share online.
There are two types of location data to think about; data you choose to post (active) and data that is gathered by your apps and devices (passive).
We have a choice of whether to post our active location. Checking in on Facebook, tagging a photo on Instagram, or tweeting with our location on is optional.
It’s best not to post personal places like your home address. Equally, photo sharing can expose your location, too. A shot from your home looking outside may give away a notable landmark or street sign which can identify your address.
Passive data collection is done without your input, though. Most of this data goes to a company without being posted publicly. If this is an app or business that you trust to handle your data, you may feel comfortable with that.
What You Can Do
- Check privacy settings on social networks
- Disable automatic location tagging for status updates or tweets
- Don’t check-in at your home
- Check image background for identifiable landmarks
- Read privacy policies to see what an app or service will do with your location data
- Remove EXIF information from photos
- Change Camera settings not to store location information
2. Addresses & Phone Numbers
Our home address and phone number are among our most guarded personal items. It’s not likely you’d knowingly share this information outside of those who need to know it. That said, there may be times you accidentally expose it.
For example, you may take a photo of your mail, but blur out the address. However, the postal service barcode stamped on the front actually has your address encoded in it. The same is true of airline and most pre-booked transport tickets. Online registrations frequently ask for your telephone number, too.
Sometimes, this serves a legitimate purpose, like contacting you about delivery. However, most sites and apps don’t require this data. Such services may misuse your phone number for spam or harassment. Providing personal data unnecessarily also increases the damage caused when a site gets breached.
If you’re forced into providing your phone number, you can use a service like Hushed to create a temporary phone number, instead.
What You Can Do
- When submitting personal data online, look for HTTPS in the URL
- Don’t post your address in public forums like Reddit, Twitter, Instagram, or craigslist
- If meeting someone from craigslist choose a public place for security and to prevent giving away your address
- Redact or blank out address from images before posting, along with mail carrier barcodes
- Install a temporary burner phone app like Hushed
3. Identification, Credit Cards, and Banking
Identity theft is one of the most stressful experiences. You could be locked out from your bank account, utilities, credit cards, and other essential services. However, you can take reasonable precautions to protect your accounts.
There is never a good reason to share images of your IDs, financial information, or bank cards online—especially without redacting confidential items first. Unfortunately, you’d be surprised just how many people do this, even somewhere as public as Instagram or Twitter.
What You Can Do
- Don’t post images of confidential, personal financial information, or IDs online
- If you have a legitimate reason to post, redact or blank out all sensitive information
4. What Happens at Work, Stays at Work
Work and personal lives tend to blur; especially now we can work remotely from our homes and mobile devices. That said, you should aim to keep them as separate as possible.
Daily stresses—whether a coworker, boss, or work project—can wear you down. Avoid the temptation to vent on social networks. Not only do you risk exposing confidential data, but you also jeopardize your job.
Even if you’ve tweaked all your privacy settings, a simple screenshot could expose your post to people you’d rather didn’t see it. This is also true of the content of your work. Working remotely means you’re likely more comfortable than if you’d been in the office.
This relaxation lets our guard down, and we share more online than we intended. Are you sharing a post on Instagram of your home office? Be sure that none of your work is visible first, whether that’s documents, browser tabs, or messaging apps.
The reverse is also true. If you need to share something with a coworker, be sure any personal data isn’t accessible.
For instance, while on Zoom calls, your workspace administrator can see whether you have the Zoom window in focus, which other applications are running on your computer, and, of course, your video stream.
What You Can Do
- Utilize lists on social networks to separate contacts
- Don’t post work projects or other confidential information on social media or messaging apps
- Never take or email documents home unless on a company approved account or device
- Talk through personal frustrations with a friend, rather than work colleague where practical
- Don’t criticize the business (current or previous) of any colleagues on a public forum or social network
5. Watch What You Say in Digital Public Spaces
Before you reach out to your bank on Twitter, take a second to consider that by publicly displaying your complaint, you link yourself to that institution, the nature of the complaint, and possibly more.
It’s not a stretch to imagine that if someone wants to target you, they can use this information to contact you, pretending to be the bank, and potentially lure you into giving out more confidential information.
Some might say this scenario is unlikely, but it is possible. So, you should keep it in mind before letting your bank (or other providers) know what’s on your mind in a public space.
This isn’t limited to finance, either. Following local businesses, interacting with politicians, and sharing complaints all reveal insights into your daily life.
What You Can Do
- Create additional or anonymous accounts to interact with customer services on social media
- Do not give specifics publicly; save these for a private conversation
- Before you share, consider what kind of information the post could give away—holiday destinations and dates, home or work location, etc.
- Limit visibility by setting the post to private and update your privacy settings.
Be Careful What You Share
In most cases, you probably already know not to share confidential information. However, the constant leak of data also causes issues.
For example, Reddit allows you to be anonymous, but a service like SnoopSnoo creates a dashboard predicting your marital status, location, most active times, and other data.
While it’s good to be aware of the data you share, there’s no need to be overly worried either. So long as you are aware, you can take steps to protect yourself. To minimize the risk of being caught out, be sure to protect yourself from data breaches , too.