Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tips for Social Media Security- During the Holidays and Always

As I've previously explained, I am not a techie or any type of social media specialist. I'm not going to provide a tutorial on how to enhance your security settings on your Facebook account. I am, however, going to share some of my personal observations and reflections on this whole idea of social media personalities and information sharing. Do with my words what you will, but I do hope they provide some insight and maybe even a lightbulb moment for any of you who may find yourselves thinking, "Well, I never thought of it that way…" as you read this article.

Before I begin, I want to note that none of these images are my own. I have collected them from various sites, simply to demonstrate the main idea of this article; they hold no true relevance or connections to myself or each other. I have linked all images back to their original sources.

That being said, now indulge my imagination for a moment and pretend that these are my pictures. Pretend that you and I are contacts on Instagram, Twitter, and/or Facebook, and I share the following images and captions through one, if not all, social media accounts one night.

"Finally finished our lights outside! The hubs did a great job on the roof, didn't he?!?"
"Pretty presents, all wrapped and ready! Love seeing these happy packages under the tree."
"So excited about our pre-Christmas date night! Quick outfit selfie before heading out for dinner!"
"Cheesy, I know, but the waiter was kind enough to snap this sweet shot for us. Loving our night out!"
So, at first glance, these images seem fine. They seem like a nice depiction of a happy home, couple, and holiday season. It's nice to be able to share that with friends. If my contacts are all trustworthy, reliable confidants, then there's nothing wrong with sharing these intimate details of my life. 

However… how secure are my contact lists, really??? How certain am I that the only individuals who see my information are completely trustworthy?? 

If there's any doubt in my mind at all, any lack of confidence, then consider the information I have just released… 

While I didn't share my actual address, I did just provide an exact image of my home, readily recognizable to anyone with familiarity of my neighborhood or town. Following that, I revealed the plethora of holiday presents -brand new, probably valuable items- inside that house. Then, I shared the fact that that beautiful home, full of lovely holiday valuables, would be empty for a couple of hours that night, while we enjoyed a nice evening on the town. Lest there be any doubt of our whereabouts, I shared a picture during dinner, confirming that we were not at home. If you look closely enough at the picture, you can tell that we are only getting started on dinner with a salad. 

Considering this, how susceptible have I made myself as an easy target for holiday theft?? 

I know we all think our social media outlets are safe. We think our friend lists are secure. We place false confidence in an internet that, despite our greatest efforts, is not a safe venue for sharing personal information. I am guilty of this as well; but lately, I have tried to make myself more conscientious of the manner in which I share information about our life.

At this time of year, more than ever, please give thought to the information you share online. Each year, it seems I hear of families that are victims of theft or vandalism during the holidays. It's terrible to hear stories of families who had their security threatened and lost valuable possessions. I'm not accusing any of those individuals of, in any way, making themselves susceptible to such threats; but I do see how seemingly-harmless information released through social media networks could place individuals at risk if they are not careful.

This holiday season, and always, please give ample thought to the information you release online. There's nothing wrong with sharing pictures of your dinner out with your spouse; but maybe those pictures could be shared after you have returned home, or even the next day? I think it's wonderful to be excited about traveling for the holidays, but maybe posting an image of your packed car and with an "On the road!" caption on Twitter is not the best idea.

Enjoy the security that comes with leaving the intimate details of your life a mystery to anyone you aren't going to call and discuss your plans with. Merry Christmas, friends!