Tag Archives: social media

Facebook Faux Pas: Giving Away Your Privacy When You’re Getting Away on Vacation

Are you planning a getaway this summer? Don’t answer that! Or at least don’t answer it publicly. Because you really don’t want to make your vacation vacancy public knowledge, although it’s easy to be tempted to do so.

Maybe you’re not one of those people who share just a little too much on Facebook. You know, the ones with no filters and apparently no need for privacy as their every mood, whim, argument and meal is documented on the social media platform. But when it comes to your vacations, you could be just as guilty of over-sharing, because you’re sharing information that puts your home and you at risk. To avoid giving away too much, follow these tips for protecting your property and your privacy when going on vacation:

Keep it to yourself
It’s shocking how much information people will reveal on Facebook, including details about their upcoming trips. Sure, you’re anticipating that getaway, whether you’re headed to the annual family reunion or you’re going to the beach. But posting about it ahead of time puts your home at risk when someone who does not need to know your house will be empty finds out your house will be empty!

Postpone your pics
Once you’re gone on your trip, post your pictures after you get home rather than advertise to the world that your house is sitting empty. This also gives you time to sort through the pictures so you only post the best of them, not all of them, because really, no one wants to see all of them.

In addition, not posting means no geotagging of photos, which can happen automatically without your knowing. Geotagging tells people wherea picture was taken, and not everyone needs to know your exact location at every minute of the day. Even if you don’t think you have reasons to keep your location to yourself, wouldn’t you rather err on the side of just a little more privacy than a little less?

Speaking of tagging…
If you simply can’t help yourself and you’re going to post pictures while away, avoid tagging the people you’re travelling with just in case they have different views about privacy. What’s fine for you to share might be too much for them.

Enjoy telling your tales after you’re home
None of this is to say you shouldn’t be allowed to do some bragging once you’re back! Of course you want to talk about the wonderful time you had and share your favorite pictures…and you should! It’s just the timing that we’re concerned with. Wait until you’re home again and your home is no longer vacant before you tell your vacation tales.

P.S. For tips on posting pictures people will like and respond to (while avoiding pictures you might regret later), see this useful advice.

How Do You Keep Using Facebook but Minimize Your Risk?

Now that the major Facebook fail has come to light and we’re realizing just how vulnerable our personal data can be when using social media, many of us are trying to figure out how to limit our exposure without going so far as to #deletefacebook. After all, it has—for better or worse—become a de facto way of staying in touch, with friends, with community events and with people of like-minded interests.

If you’re looking for ways to limit exposure without deleting your Facebook account altogether, you can. Below are suggestions based on my own experience in taking these steps to protect myself. It takes a little legwork, as you’ll see, but the peace of mind is worth it.

First, change how you use Facebook
According to Facebook, I’ve been a user since 2007. Way back then, I didn’t know enough to be concerned about privacy. I freely shared information both in my profile and through my posts, and accepted friend requests willy nilly. Over time, I did start to think about these issues. I unfriended hundreds of people who weren’t really friends, I shared less, and I removed some of the personal information I had previously included in my profile.

In light of the recent news about Cambridge Analytica, however, I realized I still had a lot of work to do. So I dug deeper to find out what else I could change…

Second, share less information
The data collected about you is provided by you. But you can limit the amount of information you make accessible in two ways: remove some of it from your profile and share less on Facebook.

  • Removing information from your profile: Do you need to include your high school, college or hometown in your profile information? I realized that no, I do not. I went through and cleaned up my profile to remove that kind of information, as well as my phone number and other personal info that was unnecessary.
  • Sharing less often: You create data about you not only by posting on Facebook, but also by sharing and liking other posts and even things outside of Facebook that you share via Facebook. If you cut back on that kind of usage, you’ll cut back on the data collected about you.

Third, don’t use Facebook as your login elsewhere
When you need to create a login at a new site, you’re often given the option of simply logging in via Facebook. How easy is that? I used to do it! Now I don’t. I had to go back to some websites and create new logins in order to remove those sites and apps from my Facebook account, and that was a pain, but worth it.

Moving forward, take a minute to create new login rather than use your Facebook login and this won’t be an issue.

To see where you’ve already allowed access, you can log in to your Privacy Settings and Tools to review what kinds of access you’ve allowed, as well as the Apps you’ve granted access to. There you can remove the apps and sites you don’t want connected.

I was shocked to see the dozens of apps and websites that had access to my account, most of which I didn’t even recognize. Removing them took a while as I had to check the box next to each one at a time (without any “Select All” option) then click Remove. All told, I removed 41 apps and websites: 41!

Fourth, review information in your profile
I went through this exercise, and I was shocked at how much personal information I had shared via my Facebook data, some of it very old. For example, I had written an About description six years ago, in 2012, and I don’t even remember writing it!

I couldn’t figure out how to delete everything I want to delete. For example, I don’t share my birth year because you’re not supposed to as it makes you vulnerable to identity theft. But Facebook has it. It’s in my profile information. It’s not public to the world or even my Facebook friends, but it is readily available to Facebook, and I can’t change that.

Fifth, review your Ad settings
You can also check your Ads settings and delete those interests you don’t want used to target ads to you. I had to laugh while going through this process because so many of the interests Facebook associates with me or anything but! In addition, you can see the categories you’re included in and the “about you” information advertisers are using to target you.

Then there is the information under “Advertisers you’ve interacted with.” For me, I had nothing under the actual ads interacted with, but I have hundreds of advertisers showing up in the category “Who have added their contact list to Facebook.” Facebook says of this category, “These advertisers are running ads using a contact list they uploaded that includes contact info you shared with them or with one of their data partners.” And that’s kind of scary. Because not only do I not recognize most of these advertisers, but I don’t understand how they have my name until I see the words “data partners” and I realize just how much data sharing goes on—which is what I’m trying to avoid. (Notice I said have and not had. That’s because there are so many of these advertisers that I ran out of time to delete them all…and I don’t even know if that’s possible, there are so many—a sobering thought!)

Sixth, download your Facebook data
I didn’t not go so far as to download my Facebook data, but it is an option. For me, what I’ve shared, I’ve shared. I can’t delete it. Even deleting my Facebook account wouldn’t delete the data collected about me. But for someone curious to see what that data is, you can.

I don’t want to #deletefacebook. As people and organizations have moved away from email as a way to communicate, Facebook is how I find out about events in my small town and milestones in the lives of distant friends (because my family and close friends stay in touch in other ways). That said, I don’t want to share any more than I have to, and I hope the steps I’m taking help to minimize my risk—and that my experience might help you to do the same.

Geotagging Your Photos: Dangerous or Harmless Information?

These days, we are so immersed in social media and technology moves at such a fast pace that we might not always be aware of what or how much personal information is being shared unintentionally.

I didn’t think much about it until I recently came across an article titled “Why Stalkers Love Your Geotags,” that really raised my awareness level. I mean, I kind of thought about it, like when using the map software on my iPhone, or when browsing for dresses on the Internet, but not really and not geotagging specifically—not until I read the article.

But let’s back up a minute and make sure first of all that we all know what geotagging is…

Geotagging defined
According to Wikipedia (and I offered a paraphrased version here), geotagging is the process of adding geographical identification metadata to various media such as a photograph, video, or SMS messages. That means the technology “tags” images and other media with information such as latitude and longitude, but it can even be a city name. For example, when you post a picture on Facebook, that social media site might ask “Add City, State as the location?” because your smart phone or camera geotagged the photo when you took it, capturing that data in addition to the image.

Should you be concerned about geotagging?
Is geotagging dangerous? I guess it depends on your views on online privacy, to start, and then whether or not you have parental concerns about geotagging as well.

If you’re using FourSquare or some other app that tells the world your location, then you probably won’t be bothered by the geotagging of your photos…but what about your kids’ photos? What about when you’re on vacation and posting photos (which we discourage anyway)? There could be situations in which you’d rather not have the geotagging used. And there could be consequences you hadn’t considered.

Here’s where we get to the article that caught my eye. After all, when a post starts out with words like this, you can’t help but keep reading:

“Stalkers no longer have to creep around corners to follow you. Geo-stalkers can now find out your whereabouts by following the trail of digital breadcrumbs you leave them via your geotags posted on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media apps and services, and by the geotag data embedded in the photos taken on your smartphone.”

According to the author, here’s the kind of information you’re exposing with geotagging:

  • Your location (or your kids’ locations, if we’re talking about their phones)
  • Your location history: where you’ve been, and where you go on a regular basis, like to work or to certain hangouts
  • Where you took a photo: Can you say “Tell the world I’m not home and my house is empty”?

What you can do about geotagging
If you’re bothered by the idea of the metadata being captured, you can turn off the geotagging of your pictures by changing the location settings on your smart phone. Or if it’s your kids you’re concerned about, you can change the settings on their phones and keep it turned on yourself.

Whether or not you choose to do so is up to you, but it’s important to be aware of just what that technology in your pocket might be doing—and revealing—without your suspecting a thing…

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