How Many Secrets Do You Share In 24 Hours?

In the world we live in, secrets are shared online by millions daily, most of the time unknowingly. A mutual friend tags you in a status update, saying, “Having drinks with my mate John Doe”, only you (John Doe), told your girlfriend you were stuck at the office working an all-nighter. Sadly, not everyone knows everyone else’s agendas, and there is no way in the world of social media to really be safe, as people can say whatever they want to without your consent.

Where we are, who we are with, our favourite places to eat and malls we shop at, even your own homes address; these are just a few of the things we share for most to see in the public domain, and something we should be more aware of. Even Mark Zuckerberg’s sister has issue with some of the social issues of Facebook and its effect on society.

An Average Day in the Digital World

If you are an average user of social media, you will most likely have one (or most) of the following applications: Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Instagram and be posting to them a few times a day. For this instance, this is how an average day may look to a friend (or anyone else who follows you really) across these platforms:

– Woke up to this amazing sunrise from my balcony. Love getting up this early every day. Enjoy the pic! Location: My house, 1 Red Street, Redville – Shared on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Instagram
– Peanut, my cat, always wakes me up just before sunrise, I dig him – Shared on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
– Off to work, really looking forward to meeting up with the guys. Location: My office, 12 Orange street, Redville – Shared on Facebook and Twitter
– Lunch at Redville sushi, my favourite place, come here every Monday evening after 7 for their 2 for 1 special, but was craving their California rolls today, love it! – Shared on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Instagram
– Almost forget, they know me so well at this sushi place; they never give me Wasabi because they know how allergic I am to it. BEST. PLACE. EVER! – Shared on Facebook and Twitter
– At work, looks like I am only going to get out of here at 7PM tonight, good times with the crew though, creating amazing things. – Shared on Facebook, Foursquare and Twitter
– After dinner quick caffeine fix with John and Jane, best team mates one could ask for. They know I could not function without coffee, ever. Location: Starbucks, Main Street, Redville – Shared on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Instagram
– Could not got to weekly movie night with the beautiful Sarah this week because I worked late, oh well. Finally home. – Shared on Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare
– Quick Skype chat before hitting the hay with my sister, she is missing home a bit, seems her move to Perth in Australia has been hectic. Love you sis!!! – Shared on Facebook and Twitter
Bed time, long day but feeling great. Night all – Shared on Facebook and Twitter

Correct me if I am wrong, if I were a friend (or possibly someone who has friended you with a cloned friends account), this is the information I could get from that list of Facebook status updates, Tweets, Foursquare check-ins and Instagram uploads:

Where you live / Average wake up time / Pet cat name / Work address / Favourite sushi restaurant / Where you usually are on a Monday evening / Dietary allergies / The fact you won’t be home till 7PM that night / Coffee drinker / Girlfriend named Sarah / Weekly movie night / Have a sister overseas.

Now some of that may not seem relevant or sensitive, but for someone who is trying to follow your patterns and find out who you are, and information about you such as where you are or when you will be at home (for the chance of a break in for example), that is pretty vital information you have let out into the domain of social media. Chances are you may not have set your privacy settings to the highest level of protection from strangers, so just about anyone could see your updates via Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Instagram and gleam some fairly sensitive information.

Protect Yourself

The best question to ask yourself would be “Would I share this information with a stranger or an acquaintance I barely know?” and if that answer is no, you should never post that information online.

In a world where piracy and hacking is rife, and getting your private information that only your apparent friends should be seeing is scarily simple. Remember inadvertently accepting a friend request from someone you met years ago and just randomly accepted their request, well, now they can basically see everything you are sharing.

We should all be aware of what privacy settings are and how we should use them. You can even use internet privacy software to protect your information. I am not saying you should never post anything about where you are, who you are with or what you are doing, but you should be more careful about what goes online.

Never put information such as what your home address is, or what your phone number is, because if the wrong people can grab just the simplest information, you never know how they could use that against you for whatever gain they may have in mind.

A simple rule of thumb in the meantime though: If you would not shout it from the hill tops for all to hear, you should not post it online.

Sam Wright

Sam Wright is a business and technology journalist based in Norwich, Norfolk.

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