In a world in beta are we exposing too much about ourselves online?

by Phil Mennie

Posted on 28 Jul 2014 at 12:00 am

We often try to keep certain details about ourselves off the internet, myself included. A common piece of information that many people like to keep hidden is their date of birth. Perhaps you have diligently configured your Facebook account to hide the year to make it hard to work out your age, or perhaps you’ve hidden the entire date.

Pretty sensible, you may think to yourself. However, have you ever stopped to think about what someone can tell about you just from your posts, or the posts that you’re tagged in? For example, you may have hidden your date of birth, but are you sure there are no photos from a previous birthday somewhere on your profile? Perhaps a photo of yourself blowing out the candles on a tasty-looking cake with a big “30” on it which has been tagged with the venue and a timestamp? Pretty easy then, in this case, to work out your date of birth!

Something else that many choose not to broadcast to the world is your home address. The problem is that while you may have hidden this information within your privacy settings, it only takes one geo-tagged post from your home to expose this information. The “so-what” factor really comes to bear when you think that most of us make posts or “check in” to places when we’re on holiday. Thus, these seemingly harmless acts can be all that a burglar needs to target your house, in the knowledge that you’re lying on a beach somewhere else!

The interesting and scary thing about this is that the personal data referenced above is used regularly by many credit card companies as a way of verifying your identity when you contact them. We’ve all answered “secret questions” before, such as your birthplace, pet’s name, favourite food etc. And, thinking about it, a lot of this information is pretty easy to guess based on your social media posts too.

In terms of the future, you only have to look at the ongoing growth of social media use globally and new innovations in biometric identification to know that we will increasingly share more personal information – social or otherwise – about ourselves knowingly and, in some cases, unknowingly as time goes on.

So, you may wish to rethink what you share online and not rely on the fact that you have configured and reviewed your privacy settings… there are more clues in the other stuff than you may think.

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