Data/photo breaches involving both celebrities and regular people are all over the news. It does raise a lot of questions about what people are putting online and how to stay safe. Here’s a few things to keep in mind when putting information online:
Be selective about who you accept as a friend on a social network.
The Internet allows for people to create false identities, fake accounts, and misrepresent other individuals’ thoughts and opinions. People can pretend to be someone else and solicit information or communicate with others. Be sure you know with whom you are communicating on the Internet. Verify their identity if you are not sure.
Do not allow social networking services to scan your email address book.
When you join a new social network, you might receive an offer to enter your email address and password to find out if your contacts are on the network. Avoid this. The site may use this information to send unsolicited emails to everyone in your contact list or even everyone you’ve ever sent an email message to with that email address. Social networking sites should explain that they are going to do this, but some do not.
Resist announcing that you are on vacation or some sort of trip.
It’s tempting to let everyone know you’re away on a beach or some exotic location, but it may also let burglars know that you’re leaving your house unoccupied as well. This is especially true for sites like Instagram, Twitter, or other social networking sites where your information is made public (not just announced to your friends).
You may want to wait until you’re home to post all your trip experiences and pictures.
Disable location posting in apps
Consider disabling the setting in apps that let people know where a photo was taken, or where you were when a tweet or facebook post was made.
Consider the consequences if the information is viewed by others
You may (or may not) have appropriate privacy settings for your social media. Even if you do, what happens when that site or your account is compromised? What happens when that site changes their privacy settings (as has happened in the past) and thus makes your information public?
Employers are looking at your online presence. Don’t leave information up online that would reflect poorly on your future job prospects, or possibly even your current job. As fun as it might have been to go into excessive detail about what was done at a party or other event – think about it before posting. Assume that everything you put on a social networking site is permanent. Even if you can delete your account, anyone on the Internet may have already saved photos, text, or videos from your profile to their computer.
Protect your smartphone
So lets say you were very careful about your privacy settings online and you never posted anything that would put you in an uncomfortable position. What about your phone? What would happen if someone obtained your phone? Do you have anything in place to prevent this from happening? If you don’t already do this, there are a couple of things to start with:
- Don’t leave your smartphone unattended. You may trust your coworkers or friends, but don’t be too quick to extend trust to people you do not know. Put it in your coat, pocket, desk, purse, backpack, wherever. Keep it out of view.
- Make sure your phone has a passcode or pin to unlock (or uses a fingerprint scanner or some similar method).
- Enable encryption on your smartphone (so that if someone did obtain your phone, it is far more difficult for them to get to the data on it).
Thanks to John Oles in the Office of Communication and Marketing, and Investigator Bruce Chambers, of University Police, for contributing to this article.