We always say that you should be careful about what you share on social media and elsewhere across the web. Tech-savvy companies and their algorithms monitor every move we make online, so they can “know us better” and serve us with more ads for things we might buy. As a result, we not only end up spending more but are also productized (turned into a product) on a wider scale. The more data these companies have on us, the more our digital profile is worth to other interested parties. Cause, yes, this information is sold to anyone looking to sell more things on the Internet.
Alas, while it can be hard, almost impossible, to completely hide online – there are a few things we should NOT share on social media. These include:
1. Travel plans
This will not only show algorithms what you are looking for and consequently show you more travel-related ads, as well as those for local bars and restaurants, but could also make your own home a potential target for burglars. It’s their dream come true to know some house will be empty at the end of some month. So if you have to share (and you really don’t), be vague and say something like “this spring” instead of sharing months or, God forbid, exact dates.
2. Personal information
Signing up for new services may require that you leave your details in order to use the service. However, you should try avoiding sharing personal information such as your passport info, driver’s license, credit card details, and social security numbers, among others. Some of these will have to be submitted for using online finance services as they have to abide by “Know Your Customer” (KYC) rules, and governments require them to ask for those. However, many other services just want those details and will work perfectly fine without them. So make sure to skip that part.
3. Your location
Your mobile operator, Google, and other navigation apps know your location at all times. It is required in order for some apps to work. But you don’t have to have location services turned on at all times. If you’re not using the phone to get around some place or find some place, you can turn it off. This will make it harder for location-based ads to show you relevant ads and may even stop doing so. If they can’t get the current location data from an app, they will serve you some generic ads or may not show you ads at all. In any case, you don’t have to share your location with all apps on your phone.
4. Confidential information
Sometimes when you open Facebook, you can see that some people are “oversharing” stuff. My first reaction to many such posts, if they are not related to someone’s health condition, is, “who cares.” More importantly, these pieces of the information stay on the Internet for a long time, and it could be hard, if not impossible, to remove them afterward. So before posting anything on Facebook or another online place, think how comfortable you would be to read that within 3-5 years. If that doesn’t pass that filter, perhaps it’s better not to share. This, in case you wonder, would include confidential information about yourself, your family, friends, co-workers, and so on. Don’t do it.
5. Some photos and videos
Not all media is made to be shared. Sometimes it could reveal more than you would like it to reveal. So, take some time to look closely at what you’ve recorded, perhaps on a bigger screen or perhaps to zoom in to see the details that may not be instantly visible on the phone. These would include things like names on worksheets, passwords on post-it notes, documents, and so on. All these could reveal more than you would ideally like. So think twice before tapping that “Share” button.
The bottom line – be careful what you’re sharing online. Someone is always watching, and if it is not a person, it could be an equally harmful algorithm — there is no need to feed it with more details than you have to. And don’t forget to use a VPN. 😉