Social Media

Do you often take to social media to broadcast details from your life? Here’s why this habit may put your privacy and security at risk.

10 things to avoid posting on social media – and why

Hundreds of millions of us log on to our favorite social media sites every day. We shop, share photos and news, like posts and comments, send private messages, and much more. In fact, Northern and Western Europe are estimated to have the highest social media penetration rates in the world, at nearly 84% of the population.

But our use of these sites is also problematic. Oversharing is a growing problem. At the very least it can annoy your friends and family. At worst, it could result in identity fraud, enable cybercriminals to get hold of your passwords, and potentially even put your personal possessions at risk of theft.

Even if you consider yourself to be pretty privacy savvy, platform owners are often updating their websites and apps, which makes constant vigilance essential. With that in mind, let’s consider a few things that it would be best not sharing on social media – and why doing so may put the physical and digital safety of you or your friends and family at risk.

10 things to better keep to yourself

1. Personally identifiable information (PII)

Fraudsters are always on the lookout for small pieces of information about you, that they can stitch together to create an identity to scam. They could use this information to apply for credit in your name, or open online accounts. Or worse, they could use it to crack your passwords and/or memorable questions, in order to fully hijack your account. Even something as innocuous as the name of your pet or your birth date should be kept under wraps.

2. Travel plans

It might sound pretty innocuous to post a pic or an update saying you’re excited about an upcoming holiday. But it could signify to someone monitoring your account that your property will be left unattended during that time. Best to keep anything vague; definitely no dates. It’s a lot better to post holiday pics once you’re back home for the same reason.

3. Location data

As mentioned, there’s a point at which cybercrime and physical crime overlap. And that point is often on social media. If a criminal knows that an individual is going to be home alone, or walking through a remote area, or that their property is going to be unoccupied, you can guess what might happen next. Keep your location data under wraps where possible. Also, some social media platforms may automatically tag the location of posts. Sharing family events or friends’ locations can inadvertently disclose where you or they live, work, or spend their time.

4. Expensive purchases

Similar to travel plans, posting pictures of some expensive jewellery, or a flashy new car, could provoke envy among your friends. But if there’s anyone monitoring your account with darker schemes in mind it might mark you out as a potential target for mugging or burglary. Try and be conservative about posting info on any new purchases or gifts.

5. Photos of kids

Some parents love sharing photos of their kids. But are your kids old enough to provide consent? They may not appreciate pictures of them as naked babies or drooling toddlers plastered all over the internet by the time they’re old enough to tell you to stop. That’s not to mention the more sinister types that might scrape the web for images of children. It also goes without saying that if you’re thinking of posting images of anyone else’s children, always get their consent first. You could be breaking the law by not doing so.

6. Work-related grievances

What’s worse than having an expensive item of jewellery stolen? Losing a job perhaps? That’s why it’s important to stay schtum about any controversial work-related goings on. If you want to vent, do so with a colleague or friend offline. If HR or even a disgruntled colleague finds you’ve been complaining about your workplace, co-workers and/or boss, it could land you in trouble.

7. Financial details

Similar to the PII example, it pays to keep your financial details under wraps. So no posting any details of credit or debit cards. Even if the image looks too blurry or far away to be viewed, it could be enough to give fraudsters a chance to grab it and combine with other personal details in your account to commit identity fraud.

8. PII of family and friends

Information shared on social media is often permanent and not everyone is comfortable with their personal information or details from their lives being shared online. Also, you wouldn’t want to risk your friends and family being defrauded online. So keep their PII as you would your own: under lock and key.

9. Social media giveaways

Social media sites are awash with prize draws and free giveaways. Often they are poorly disguised attempts to get hold of users’ PII, or even to spread covert malware. Think twice before filling in any online forms, and sharing links to giveaways. If they seem too good to be true, they usually are.

10. Private conversations

Social media is by its nature a public forum, even if your account is relatively locked down. That’s why it is not the place to be sharing privileged information. If it’s related to your workplace, it’s even more important not to share. But even if it’s relatively mundane news about your friendship group or family, it could cause unnecessary distress and acrimony if publicized. If it’s not your news, don’t share it.

Some tips to stay safe

So how can you avoid oversharing as per the above examples? Consider the following.

  • Be mindful of what you’re posting when you post: Always consider (even if your profile is restricted) whether you’d be comfortable telling someone sat next to you the same information you’re posting online.
  • Review your friends list every so often: It’s a useful exercise to purge those you don’t recognize or would rather not be able to view your posts.
  • Restrict who’s able to view your friend list and posts: This will help to reduce the chances of someone using any information you share for nefarious purposes.
  • Restrict photo access: These should ideally only be viewable by known friends and approved family members.
  • Switch on two-factor authentication (2FA) and use strong, unique passwords: This will reduce the chance of someone being able to hijack your account, even if they manage to guess or crack your password.

Sharing with our friends, family and contacts is what makes social media so fun and rewarding. But it’s also a potential source of risk. Stay out of trouble by being thoughtful when using social media platforms.