Found a new girlfriend or boyfriend? Share. Had a blast on vacation? Share. Cooked a tasty dinner? Share. Got a new passport? Share. Share. Share. Is this routine familiar to you? If so, be very careful: you might well be oversharing.
This kind of behavior is typical of young people who have grown up with computers, proliferating technology and emerging social networks. Thanks to their urge to share every detail of their lives, they’ve been dubbed the ‘Selfie’ or ‘Me, Me, Me’ generation.
“Estimated financial loss worldwide due to damage to professional reputation: $4.6 billion.”
However, many of them don’t realize that giving away too much information online can have serious consequences. According to a Microsoft poll from 2013, financial damage as a result of reputational harm worldwide has reached as much as $1.4 billion. If professional reputation is considered, the numbers were even higher, amounting to $4.6 billion.
It is important to note that a big part of these losses were made possible only thanks to users who, willingly or unwittingly, shared sensitive information online such as their date of birth, phone number, exact address or the name of their dog, which was coincidentally also the password for about half their online accounts.
Such data leaks can easily lead to trouble, ranging from personalized phishing emails or loss of social network account access to identity theft and extortion by cybercriminals. But don’t worry: as the calendar says, it’s Data Privacy Day and we’ve got you covered.
Here are a few tips to help you limit your oversharing routine:
Start by reviewing your privacy settings for your existing social network accounts. Be sure that the things you share only reach the eyes of those intended. If you are not sure, create separate groups for close friends, friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Be as selective and strict as possible.
Don’t share your location with the whole world. Social networks often geotag users, but do you really want everyone to know where you currently hang out, or that you just left for vacation and won’t be home for the next two weeks? For your own sake, turn off this feature and delete the saved history of location information.
Go through all the groups you have joined in the past. Some of these might be (in the social network sense) ancient, and equally so their settings. If they are still public and open to everyone, be especially careful what you post, as the contents can be read or seen by basically anyone. Other options are to quit the group or contact the founder and ask him/her to change the settings.
“Before you post any comment, or upload a photo or video to your profile, imagine showing it to your grandma or a stranger in the street. Would you be comfortable with that?”
Apply a higher level of self-censorship. Before you post any comment, or upload a photo or video to our profile, imagine showing it to your grandma or a stranger in the street. Would you be comfortable with that? If not, it’s probably best to keep it to yourself.
Treat every photo or video as a police investigator would. Check all the possible details it could give away and be sure it does not reveal sensitive data. Good examples of this are photos of you in front of your new car (displaying the license plate), next to the ‘secret’ stash of your spare house keys or, heaven forbid, showing your new passport. All of those places and things can disclose information that can result in harm, if they get into the wrong hands.
Never send sensitive data, such as credit card details, passwords, phone numbers or identification numbers, via messenger apps or by email. If you absolutely have to send such information, at least encrypt it. While it might sound obvious, also don’t post or display them in any public online space.
To keep all your data safe, create strong passwords and change them frequently. Unless you are using two- or multi-factor authentication, it is the only thing standing between your data and malicious actors and their sticky hands. If it’s too much for you to remember all those codes, use a reliable password manager.
Author Ondrej Kubovič, ESET