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Sharing on Social Networking Sites can be Dangerous

May 2nd 2011 at 12:05 AM

Today, social networking websites are the latest way to interact with others—traditional means such as calling on long-distance through the phone or sending letters are rapidly fading away. Social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Friendster, LinkedIn, and Urban Chat are just a few of the websites that are connecting people from all over the world who are eager to share their feelings and thoughts.

However, just like in real life, it is detrimental if you share too much information—remember that unless you are extraordinarily vigilant, your contacts can consist of a number of people who can use that information against you. Here are the items that you should put in your “do not share” list.

1. Personal conversation

On Facebook, you can send messages, notes, images, or videos to someone else’s wall. Unless you have set up your account’s privacy settings, that wall is open for all to see. Now, just like in the real world where you do not announce private matters and personal issues to the world with a bullhorn, the same goes in the Internet. This falls on the world of social networking etiquette.

2. Social plans

Do not share your social plans such as having a big party or outing in your home or office. Unless you are inviting all the users you are connected to, it will only make other friends left out. More importantly, there may be security issues. For instance, let’s assume you are throwing a small outing for your department as a treat for your subordinates for a job well done. A colleague’s ex-boyfriend reads from the wall and barges into the party, causing a scene, getting upset, or even becoming violent. It is better to send a personal invitation to people you want to be in your social event through e-mail.

3. Linking sites

Since many social network users have accounts in other networking sites, it is possible that there will be some sort of a crossover of posted messages from one site to another, especially if the sites are linked. But beware. You may post an inside joke that may seem harmless on your Facebook account, but then it’s linked to your LinkedIn work profile. By doing so, you have put your job at risk. Be aware that what you post in one site may be available to others. A perfect example is a case in 2009 wherein an employee asked his company to grant him a weekend shift because he was sick. However, he posted pictures on his Facebook profile of himself at a party on the day he was supposed to be sick. The photos were linked to his LinkedIn profile. Of course, his employer fired him. Remember that if you link your profiles, the distinction between personal life and work life may no longer apply.

4. Company Information

When you post company information, you are sharing information that could be advantageous to your competitors or can bring your company into trouble. Examples of news that should be left privy to you and your company are planned expansions, a big project role awaiting you, a business scheme to follow, sales figures, an ongoing case, and the like. If you really want or need the message to be out, select the people who need to be informed and send them private e-mails.

5. Photos of your children or loved ones

With their album feature, social networking sites are a favorite place to share pictures of their families and children. If you don’t restrict your access, then those pictures are there for all to see. However, remember that there are predators out there using cyberspace to stalk their prey. Thus if you post something like “my husband and I will be out of town this weekend” or “little Katie is old enough to stay at home by herself,” you may have placed your children’s safety at risk.

6. Your phone number and your address

By sharing your address and phone number on a social networking site, you are openly inviting yourself to identity theft and personal dangers such as burglaries. For instance, if you post that you are in the office and have your address posted in your social networking account, then everyone knows your house is empty. Burglars can ransack your place. Identity thieves could go to your property, open your mailbox, steal mail, and use the mail to open up a credit card in your name.

7. Personal finance information

Do not post credit card and bank account numbers, ATM card numbers and PINs, and the like. Do not even share things such as stock portfolios and investments. These are treasure troves of information that identity thieves are looking for.

8. Passwords

Not putting your password into a social networking account seems like a no brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people would still publish their passwords for everyone to see. Never share your password online or even to a friend because you can be at risk. Couples who feel like there’s enough to trust to share passwords are the most common victims. You give your sweetheart your password to help you upload some nice dating photos. The relationship turns sour after a couple of months. Since your ex-sweetheart has your login information, he or she can post malicious photos and messages which could be very embarrassing for you. Worse, if you have a compromised profile, your other accounts could be compromised as well, especially if they are linked. Simply keep your password to yourself and to no one else.

9. Password hints

Social networking sites often secure personal information so you can create an account. To create a password so you can access your account, you are often asked of a security question such as the name of your favorite pet, your mother’s maiden name, etc. However, you might inadvertently reveal this information on your status messages. For instance, you may place in your message “My pet Janine just gave birth to three cute puppies.” An identity theft can place “Janine” as the answer to a security question, which could open up your account.

10. Anything you don’t want to be posted

Social networking sites have privacy settings you can set. However, whatever you will post has the potential to be seen by people you don’t want seeing it. For instance, you might post an embarrassing photo of you dead-flat drunk during your weekend party, thinking that only your friends can see it. But what if a friend who has access to that photo copy-pastes it to his account or to another profile as a seemingly harmless practical joke? In just a few seconds, your embarrassing photo is out for the entire world to see.

Remember that social networking is all about sharing. Whatever you share has the potential to be leaked out in one way or another. Thus, it is a good idea to follow a motto: when in doubt, leave it out.

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