First rule of social media privacy: Know what you're sharing

First rule of social media privacy: Know what you’re sharing

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A new site from 18 year-old Callum Haywood is a simple and effective reminder of the first (and most important) rule of social media privacy: Know what you are sharing (and who you are sharing it with). Callum’s site, We know what you’re doing, simply takes data that people have shared publicly on Facebook (in statuses or check-ins) and Foursquare and presents that back so we can all see what is being shared right now with the world.

The site looks for four types of updates that include revealing phrases including:

  1. Who wants to get fired (seemingly a search for “hate my boss”)
  2. Who’s hungover
  3. Who’s taking drugs
  4. Who’s lost their phone (and published their new number – although the site anonymises these)

If it finds these in publicly available updates then the site pulls the status in with the user’s photo, name and when they posted it. Simple and effective. And also rather scary for some.

Of course, it is complicated on many social media sites to effectively control your privacy settings as you would like them; after all it is often in their interests to have public sharing. But as we all get more used to using social media sites, and sharing things online, as consumers we need to get more used to being aware of what we are sharing with whom.

Privacy settings aside, it might be foolish to share some things. Financial services firms will start to become more aware of looking for signs of fraudulent activity discussed in social media. And the Police at looking for signs of criminal activity. Your boss is probably following your public updates on Twitter and so it would be sensible to think about what you are saying there.

If you do want to talk about things it is important that we learn to take responsibility for who sees it. We need to be aware that what we are saying may be seen by the whole world, and we need to be comfortable with this. Sites could make our lives easier but as we share more things about our lives we need to develop a habit of thinking before we share and then thinking again about who will see it.

Photo credit: “Eyes only” stamp by RestrictedData