Security

5 Types of Information You Should Never Post Online

James Frew Updated 26-03-2020

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.

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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.

1. Location

Person using Google Maps on a smartphone
Ingo Joseph/Pexels

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.

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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.

However, it’s worth taking the time to check app permissions and read through the site’s privacy policy.

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

home mailbox at sunrise
Sean Patrick/Pexels

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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.

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What You Can Do

3. Identification, Credit Cards, and Banking

Person holding a debit card
Pixabay/Pexels

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

Home office remote work setup
Pixabay/Pexels

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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

Group sitting around a table with computers
Fauxels/Pexels

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 What Is a Data Breach and How Can You Protect Yourself? A data breach can be devastating. Hackers target money and identity. How can you protect yourself from a data breach? Read More , too.

Explore more about: Online Privacy, Online Security.

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  1. dragonmouth
    March 26, 2020 at 9:33 pm

    "5 Types of Information You Should Never Post Online"
    Any information that you would no want to see on the front page of the New York Times or Washington Post or any paper with world-wide circulation.

  2. Jon DeGeorge
    September 15, 2018 at 5:37 pm

    You should consider mentioning request ID's in this article. They can contain hugely sensitive info!
    Common request ID headers are among the following: (a simple Google search reveals huge amounts of people posting these! Try to figure out who the headers belong to.)
    "x-mh2-env"
    "X-Rid"
    "X-Snapchat-Request-Id"
    "X-FB-Debug"
    "X-request-id"
    "X-RequestId"
    "request-id"
    "X-Correlation-ID"
    "WM_QOS.CORRELATION_ID"
    "LOGMON_TOP_TX_ID"
    "x-irp-debug"
    "x-connection-hash"
    "CV"
    "MS-CV"
    "X-Az"
    "Request-Context"
    "x-activity-id"
    "X-MSEdge-Ref"
    "CDNUUID"
    "X-Apple-Request-UUID"
    "X-Apple-Jingle-Correlation-Key"
    "scnt"
    "x-csrf-jwt"
    "X-AOL-SNH"
    "CF-Ray"
    "x-trace-id"
    "X-Cloud-Trace-Context"
    "X-GitHub-Request-Id"
    "X-Fastly-Request-ID"
    "X-Varnish"
    "X-Timer"

  3. Tia Gomez
    January 4, 2017 at 6:46 am

    You have written such a wonderful article. It is very important to hide information over the internet as they are many hacker groups are there who are always trying to steal our information. I am totally agree with you. We should not post their sensitive information.

    • Eric
      May 23, 2020 at 12:33 pm

      One of the reasons I simply refuse to belong to any (anti)social network. Full Stop. Fakebook? No thanks. Twatter? Fugedaboudit! Snotchat... hah!

      Saves me getting a lot of spam. Only had about 4 spam emails so far this year so I'm obviously doing something right. My wife on the other hand...

  4. ANA
    August 10, 2016 at 1:11 am

    can i monetize my YTube channel hiding my data? i dont mind providing them my bank account (with my data ) i just dont like to unsecurelly submit it to YT .

    How do freelancers do works with pseudonym?(+get paid?
    ).. as i understand it there is no secure way to share info between two parties and everything stays on the net forever

    if you post photos +write it s not good to disclose address+tel too.In fact i read a blog where the man demonstrated how he stole money from a friends bank account (to prove its easy)

    • James Frew
      August 10, 2016 at 9:29 am

      Am I right in thinking then that you want to make money from YouTube videos but don't wish to provide YouTube/Google with your payment information?
      Totally agree that it isn't a good idea to share photos with addresses or telephone numbers.

  5. Anonymous
    August 6, 2016 at 12:39 am

    O my god! I does not know this((( I use my credit card many times at more than 10 sites. Now I doesn't do this. Thanks for this simple rules.

    • James Frew
      August 6, 2016 at 1:04 pm

      I'm glad the article was useful. Although, you don't need to stop shopping online. The majority of sites are perfectly fine - but before you give out your info check the address bar for "https", the padlock on the left side, and if its a site you haven't heard of before find reviews.

    • Anonymous
      August 8, 2016 at 2:01 am

      Try to use Paypal, add your credit card to your Paypal account. Only purchase via Paypal, it will be safe for you.

      • James Frew
        August 8, 2016 at 7:14 am

        Definitely, plus Paypal adds extra purchase protection which makes it worthwhile too.

        • ANA
          August 10, 2016 at 12:53 am

          But pay pal asks for your address!! (even if you link PP with bank account .why would they need that info ?)
          Not only PP sais they do collect AND use ALL your data even with 3rd parties(- IP-pc nr.- all your moves with time and place of transaction -address-tel nr and geolocation)
          but also when i first register cant a hacker find all that info??

        • James Frew
          August 10, 2016 at 9:33 am

          As I understand it PayPal requires the address for transferring money into and out of your PayPal account, also I think it might have something to do with money laundering regulations but don't hold me to that.

          While technically speaking there is always a risk with information on the internet, payment and banking sites have to prove a level of security that is above most Internet sites. When a leak or hack happens it would typically be a leak of usernames and passwords and not financial information. As far as I know PayPal hasn't been compromised before.

  6. Anonymous
    July 20, 2016 at 4:44 pm

    Alfred E. Neuman in Washington? We could do worse...and lots of times, we have!