Facebook has become the Google of social networks. If you’re not updating your status right now, chances are that you are uploading photos or taking some sort of odd quiz. We post tons of intimate details about our lives that we normally wouldn’t share with anyone. We think that as long as we make sure our privacy settings are set correctly that we are safe and snug within our circle of friends.
The problem is that we never know who’s really looking at our information.
1. You or Your Family’s Full Birth Dates
We all love getting “happy birthdays” from our friends on our Facebook wall. It makes us feel all warm inside knowing that people remembered and cared enough to write us a short note on our special day. The problem is when you list your birthday you are providing identity thieves with one of the 3 or 4 pieces of personal information that is needed to steal your identity. It’s best to not list the date at all, but if you must, at least leave out the year. Your real friends should know this info anyway.
2. Your Relationship Status
Whether you are in a relationship or not, it may be best not to make it public knowledge. Stalkers would love to know that you just became newly single. If you change your status to “single” it gives them the green light they were looking for to resume stalking now that you’re back on the market.
It also lets them know that you might be home alone since your significant other is no longer around. Your best bet is to just leave this blank on your profile.
3. Your Current Location
There are a lot of people who love the location tagging feature on Facebook that allows them to let people know where they are 24/7. The problem is that you have just told everyone that you’re on vacation (and not at your house). If you add how long your trip is then thieves know exactly how much time they have to rob you. My advice is not to provide your location at all. You can always upload your vacation pictures when you get home or text your friends to let them know how jealous they should be that you’re sipping an umbrella drink while they toil away at work.
4. The Fact That You Are Home Alone
It is extremely important that parents make sure their children never put the fact that they are home alone in their status. Again, you wouldn’t walk into a room of strangers and tell them you are going to be all alone at your house so don’t do it on Facebook either.
We may think that only our friends have access to our status, but we really have no idea who is reading it. Your friend may have had their account hacked or someone could be reading over their shoulder at the library.
The best rule of thumb is not to put anything in your profile or status that you wouldn’t want a stranger to know. You may have the most stringent privacy settings possible, but if your friend’s account gets compromised than those settings go out the window.
5. Pictures of Your Kids Tagged With Their Names
We love our kids. We would do anything to keep them safe, but most people post hundreds of tagged pictures and videos of their kids to Facebook without even giving it a second thought. We even go so far as to replace our profile pictures with that of our children.
Probably 9 out of 10 parents posted their child’s full name, and exact date and time of birth while they were still in the hospital after delivery. We post pictures of our kids and tag them and their friends, siblings, and other relatives. This kind of information could be used by predators to lure your child. They could use your child’s name and the names of their relatives and friends to build trust and convince them that they are not really a stranger because they know detailed information that allows them to build a rapport with your child.
If you must post pictures of your children then you should at least remove personally identifying information such as their full names and birth dates. Untag them in pictures. Your real friends know their names anyway.
I would be a hypocrite if I said that I have completely removed all tagged pictures of my kids on facebook. It is a daunting task given the amount of pictures that we take as proud parents, but I have started on it and I’ll do a little bit each day until it’s finished.
Lastly, think twice before you tag pictures of the children of friends and relatives. They might not want you tagging their kids for the reasons mentioned above. You can send them a link to the pictures and they can tag themselves in place of their children if they want to.