Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Some Tech Savvy Tips to Share

As children grow up and join the ever-expanding world of social networking sites parents, naturally and understandably, begin to worry about the potential for online predators.  Of course that's likely why there are about thousand different websites filled with tips on how to help limit the ways in which kids, teens, and even adults will become potential victims.  That being said I've found, in my opinion, that most of these sites overlook other certain things that should be brought to the attention of parents and kids alike...and then shared with those around them also enjoying the world of social networking.

Lost My Numbers, Can I Have Yours?

On Facebook there are about a hundred thousand of these phone number collection groups, many of which are titled "new phone, need numbers" or "phone died, help me recollect numbers" or something else along those lines.  While this is a great idea for the person who legitimately needs to fill in his or her phone book quickly with contacts from different parts of the country, or even world, it leaves those who choose to share their numbers through the group rather vulnerable.  The reason is simple...when you share your name and number on the group's page everyone in the group can see, and thus get, it too.  I'm sure you can see where the risks start to come in now, yes?  Sure the person who created and runs the group (presumably) knows everyone they've invited to this group but you do not so, in essence, you're allowing virtual strangers excess to your name and number.  From those two bits of information they could potentially find out a lot more about you - like where you live.  ...In fact, as of recently, there's been a iPhone application specifically for getting people's names and phone numbers off these Facebook groups even if you're not party to the group the information is placed in.

Too Cool for School

It's understandable that anyone would want to share where they went or are currently going to school, there are just so many reasons to proclaim your alma pride, keeping in touch with classmates or former teachers, and maybe even wanting to continue to be an active part of the school's community.  That being said there's a fair amount of information that someone can get based on where you went to school...and even more in combination with other information you might share.  Certain cities only have a few high schools, some towns only have one.  In some cases all predators would have to do is use the process of elimination to get an idea of what part of town you live in.  In other cases, like those with pre-teens and teens, a predator could, potentially, simply show up at the correct school to gain access.  ...Now I haven't heard of a case in which this has happened, more often than not an online predator convinces their prey to come to them, but it isn't out of the realm of possibility and it's important to remember that when deciding what to share with the public online.  (This idea holds true for local sports teams too.)

Here's My Schedule...

There is no reason that all your online pals need to know every single thing you'll be doing over the next year.  Now, on a private profile, this act is simply a little annoying but, on a public one, it's dangerous.  If  you leave your profile open to see for anyone, or add indiscriminately, then people you don't even really know will be abel to track you as you go about your day.  It's the same idea behind the suggestion law enforcement and such suggest people shake up their's harder for people to know exactly where and when you'll be alone and thus vulnerable.

Put It Together

All on their own most of these will leave you somewhat vulnerable but, generally, won't lead to anything terrible unless you have someone that's become fixated on you.  That being said, when you're sharing your name and number in groups and have an open profile complete with personal history (hometown, alma maters, birthday), a bunch of pictures, and a schedule you might as well give strangers a map to your house and then let them into your home when they arrive.

There's no reason to become paranoid, that only leads to more stress in your life, but it's important to be cautious and become more aware of what you reveal online.  Do you want a friend of friend to have your name and number?  Do you want someone who's passing by your page to know where you'll be and when for the next month or so?  Would you tell a total stranger everything you've put on your page? If the answer is no than you need to adjust the available privacy settings and, very likely, the information on your profile...

Quick Tips:

1) Never join the names/numbers groups.  Give your name and number to the group creator privately instead.

2) If you add your schools to your profile keep them hidden under privacy locks...or at least the most recent one.

3) Don't fill out the available schedule on a profile.  First, there's no reason to since it's what we have calendars, datebooks, and smart phone apps for.  Your schedule should be for you and you alone.  If you wish to meet friends and family just contact them using private methods (text, phone, e-mail).

4) It's fine to share your birthday month and day, but don't share the whole date or allow your age to be shown while the month and day show.  Why?  Because a date of birth is one of the cornerstones of most security questions and, if people know exactly when you'll be turning 18, 25, or 43, then with simple math they'll know the whole date.

5) You know those public invites you can accept? (Like concerts and comedy shows.)  Don't...especially if it's a specific event in a specific location at a specific time.  I don't mean don't go to things you wish to, but just don't tell everyone else you'll be there.  ...This really falls under the same principles as the public calendar you can fill out; just use your private calendar and tell those you really want to know about the event you're attending in private.