In some parts of the world over-sharing or just sharing information about you, your life-style and family can be really dangerous. There are many types of information one can over-share on the Internet, typically on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Foursquare :
- Personal information, for example: name, maiden name, birthday, schools we attended, who are our friends and family, pictures.
- Geo-location or location information: this information tells people where you are and where to find you.
There are many risk associated with sharing your personal information, like your digital identity being robbed, or criminals using the information your shared to answer your secret questions to high jack or hack your online accounts, i.e. online banking, email account.
In some countries or situations this information can also be used to actually physically endanger yourself or your family. Lets take Venezuela, Mexico or Colombia for example; these countries have a really high kidnapping rate. There are also recent reports of this occurring in Pakistan and other countries all over the world.
It has been known that these organized criminals make use of the social media to identify there targets (i.e. just look for your bank manager), find them or better yet their children; they gather all the intelligence and proceed with the kidnapping. In Venezuela there of been cases of not even needing to kidnap the kids, but just make the call when they are unreachable (in a meeting, at school) and collect an express ransom fee without even having to take a risk.
Geo-location or Location information
It is really cool to be able to know were your friend are or let business contacts know where you are. A cup of coffee with the right person at the right time and place can go more than a whole mile. There are lots of services that can help you do this, i.e. Facebook, Google+, Foursquare.
The problem comes with over-sharing this information, when you let the world know that you are at place A then it is very safe to assume you are not a place B. So if you check-in at another city people can infer for example that you are not at home, even maybe for a couple of days.
I ran into a site: http://pleaserobme.com/, that tries to raise awareness on this topic. We spend lots of energy trying to make it look like your at home: automatic lights, turning on the TV, leaving the radio on, etc; but we forget that we are actually publishing that we are not there!
There are other places we can publish our location without being aware of it. For example Tweets can include Geo-Location, the pictures we take with our smart-phones or even some point-and-shoot cameras, have a GPS sensor in them and can tag the photos directly.
A good example can be made out of the picture published with a story on John McAfee, the magazine accidentally left the geo-location information in the picture disclosing his location. Even though afterwards it was said that is was a ruse to trick the cops, we will never know if it was a slip or intentional.
There is a wealth of personal information to be shared and found on the Internet and especially in social sites. If you are comfortable being a human homing beacon or sharing your whole life online, that’s OK, it is just important that it is a conscious decision at that you know the risks that come with it.
So, don’t ditch your social media or your devices just yet, but please check the configuration of your devices, apps, applications; so you know what information you share and with whom.