Online Privacy: The Day We Shared Too Much

Think about the last time you got some good news – or even some bad news for that matter – what did you do? Maybe you called a friend, called your mum, told people you knew the next time you saw them. All reasonable reactions. For many people, however, the chances are that the answer will be that they shared it online.

Since the advent of technology and the social media applications that are available through it, the process of sharing online has become increasingly popular. This is often the first option for many people as it offers a simple way to inform several people of news at the same time, and it is often done without a second thought.

Though it may seem logical as it prevents the need to repeat the same information to different people, this does not mean that it is necessarily the best way to share everything.

The quick and easy process of posting your thoughts online means it is easy to get complacent and not think about who might be reading your musings.

Unlike speaking to someone face to face, for example, where you choose the recipient of the news, only they will have access to it and it will only be disseminated if they are a gossip. Online, you are sending your thoughts out for the world to see.

Even those who publish copyrighted work have problems with preventing them from being copied, plagiarised and used in manners that they did not intend. With this being the case, it stands to reason that uploads that are not protected will be used in the same way.

There is a fine line between imparting information and bragging, and those that are prone to the latter can find themselves in trouble for all sorts of reasons. Though this may be deserved in some cases, in others, the results are not so fortuitous. In the event that you are going on holiday, ask yourself whether it is necessary for everyone to know via a social media post. There are many instances in which an online post in respect of an impending holiday has been the direct cause of a burglary.

Those that advertise that they will be going on holiday find that they return to find they have been burgled.

This is not the only detrimental outcome that can result from sharing too much online.

If you want to show off your high-end car or expensive jewelry online, for example, then you have to take into account the fact that those viewing may be jealous and consider themselves more deserving of your possessions. People of a certain mindset can possibly feel this so strongly that it will lead them to take action.

Stories of celebrities finding themselves with their naked photos available for all to see are numerous but do not seem to have done much to prevent mere mortals from falling into the same trap.

Though you may be inclined to send photos of your naked body to someone that you believe you can trust, this does not mean that this will always be the case. On the basis that the relationship may not last forever, is this a person that you would want to continue to have your photos? Remember that they are not physical photos that you can take back, you will lose control of them and effectively let someone else have them forever.

Besides this, in a situation where the photos are intercepted, the photos become less of a playful act of temptation and more like a nightmare that leaves you open to blackmail and worse.

So-called ‘revenge porn’ has become so wide spread that it has been necessary to create new laws to deal with it.

Though photos may be stored in a private folder, they may not be as secure as you think. In addition to being able to be hacked, those that you give access to the private folder may not be as concerned with your privacy as you.

Before hitting send, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do you mind offending people?
  • Would I say at a dinner party with people I have just met?
  • Will it be something I might want to take back later?
  • Is all this information really necessary?

There are many instances of people deleting Tweets, for example, but by then, it is too late. Whilst it may be an ego boost to have many followers, this also means that mistakes are magnified.

This level of vigilance is also required when it comes to details requested from you, as well as that which you voluntarily provide.

A phishing email, for example, will request a reply email with your complete password when, usually, a bank’s requirement will be one of a number of passwords or specific characters (like the first, second and fifth). Rather than giving too much information to someone who is trying get it from you, simply delete the email or end the call and make contact with your bank directly using secure methods.

By being aware of the potential consequences of your actions and taking these into account beforehand, a wide range of problems can be avoided. In the same way that you would proofread any official document, take a moment to consider the post before you hit send to give yourself the opportunity to determine whether you are sharing too much.

It can help if you think back to yourself as a teenager and recall how you were at that time. If you can remember things that you might have said, did, or even thought at that time that you now regret or at least now believe are wrong, it is possible that this could happen again. The things you post now you may find regrettable later – whether immediately or in a few years’ time.

Remember that knowledge is power, whether it is used to blackmail you or in order to try and sell you something. It is too easy to push the return button and send details out into cyber space with no real idea of how it will be used, which can create a dangerous situation.