[PRIVACY] Are You Sharing, or Over-Sharing?

Category: Privacy , Social-Networking

Two trends are in conflict on the Web today. Security is more important than ever to protect yourself against ever-increasing cyberthreats. “Sharing” is equally big, thanks to social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram which make money when you share your thoughts, experiences, and other life-stuff with strangers. But security and sharing do not mix well. Here's what you need to know...

NEVER Share These Things Online...

Look at airline boarding passes as an example. People excited about going on vacation often post pictures of their boarding passes on social media. Perhaps they fear their “friends” won’t believe them without proof, or they just want to brag. Unfortunately, those boarding passes may contain all the information an identity thief needs.

Some boarding passes include the E-Ticket number, booking reference, frequent flyer number and even how many bags you have checked in. Go to your airline's website and look for the “manage existing trips” option. Typically, all you need to login there is the passenger’s name and E-ticket number or booking reference. That allows anyone with that info to change your seating assignment, change the date of your return flight, or even cancel your tickets!

In some cases, the barcode on an airline ticket may also contain the passenger’s email, phone number, and other personal info. Few passengers realize that, so even the security-conscious fail to cover it when taking a photo. Barcode readers are cheap, and many cybercrooks have them.

Are You Over-Sharing?

Tickets to concerts and other events should not be posted online until after you have used them. Tickets bear all the info necessary to create useable counterfeits. Many people have been disappointed at the box office to learn their tickets have already been used. If you must have bragging rights, Ticket Master has a helpful page on the Do’s & Don’ts of Sharing Ticket Pics Online.

Of course, you should never post a picture of a check online. See my article, “Paper Checks Can Lead to Fraud”.

Are one of those with a habit of "Checking In" everywhere you go? You should never tell the world that you are or soon will be on vacation or away on business. You might as well put a sign on your lawn that reads, “Nobody home, please rob this house.” Use private messages to inform people who really need to know that you’ll be away for a week or two. Wait until you get home to share vacation photos and anecdotes with everyone. I take this a step further, by not sharing my location even when I'm just out to dinner.

Is Your Slip Exposed?

It's very hard to be completely invisible online. My article Is There a Delete Button for the Internet? goes into detail on how you can find and remove personal information that you might not have known was available in cyberspace.

Going on a date to someplace expensive? Muggers would love to know that. Throwing a bridal shower where there will be a heap of expensive gifts? A home invasion is possible if you post the place and time online weeks in advance. Your social life is full of opportunities to get ripped off, or even physically harmed. Don’t share it with strangers.

Linking one of your social networks to another may prove embarrassing, at the least. When you link a Facebook account to a LinkedIn account, suddenly your professional colleagues know your personal life. One guy got fired this way; he called in sick at work and then bragged on Facebook about putting one over on the boss. His boss saw that and fired him.

Parents and grandparents love to post pictures of children, and they rarely consider the long-term effects on their offspring. A grandmother in the Netherlands was sued by her daughter because she refused to take down pictures of her grandchildren that she had posted on Facebook. The court ruled in favor of the parents and ordered Grandma to cease, desist, and delete.

Aside from causing possible embarrassment, a photo can reveal sensitive info about kids, and enables a creep to recognize a child. Mentioning the child’s name enables a creep to say, “Hey, Jenny, Grandpa So-and-so sent me to pick you up today.” Don’t mention anything about children on social media that can help perverts find and trick them. Remember, they’re kids, who trust easily.

More Facebook Faux Pas

I am constantly amazed by Facebook users who share their phone numbers and even home addresses with everyone. Ditto for users who leave location services enabled on Facebook or Twitter. I had to tell one single mom, via Twitter direct message, that her phone was broadcasting the street address of her home to the whole world. She had a major panic attack.

Facebook reports that 40 percent of its users leave their entire profiles open to the public. That means everything you post is available to over 2.8 billion people! Take the time to get familiar with Facebook’s privacy settings and lock down your profile. Then be careful to make “friends” only of people who are friends in real life. The rest are strangers, and you don’t know what they might do with your personal info.

A few months ago, I realized that I had over 1,000 "friends" on Facebook. It didn't take long to see that 90 percent of them were people I did not actually know. For years, I had been in the habit of accepting friend requests from anyone and everyone. I wanted to pare down that list to just the people that were truly friends and family members, but Facebook makes it hard. You can only remove one friend at a time, and it takes a few clicks for each one. Fortunately, I found a Chrome extension called L.O.C that allows one to remove up to 100 friends at once. It took me just a few minutes to say goodbye to 901 people that don't need to know my business.

But Wait, There's More (over-sharing)...

Even close friends, significant others, and perhaps even spouses should not have your passwords. Breakups happen, and before they happen someone often sneaks a peek at someone else’s social media accounts. Facebook has become a divorce attorney’s best friend, saving thousands of dollars on private investigators.

Facebook is also a place where hackers and scammers look for information that they can use to impersonate you, or gain access your online accounts. Have you shared your your mother's maiden name, the name of your first pet, the make and model or your first car, the elementary school you attended, or the town where you were born? A malicious person might be able to use these clues to answer your security questions and reset your account password. Have you ever played a game or online quiz where these questions were asked? Now you know why.

One other thing that you might be sharing is your wifi signal. If you have no password on your router, anyone in the vicinity can "share" your internet connection. And if they do something illegal, it can be difficult to prove it wasn't you. See my article You, Your Router… and Eggs? for tips on locking down your wifi signal.

Oh, and nobody cares what you had for breakfast, lunch, or dinner... really. Posting pictures of your Snickerdoodle Creme Brulee or Avocado Caprese Salad only makes your friends jealous, hungry or annoyed. Are you over-sharing? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "[PRIVACY] Are You Sharing, or Over-Sharing?"

Posted by:

P D Sterling
12 Aug 2021

golly! this old age pensioner doesn't have anything worth stealing to post on social media - facebook is the only one I have. mostly I send birthday greetings. whatever!

Posted by:

12 Aug 2021

Good tips from Bob today on this overlooked subject.Sometimes I watch people take pictures of their meal they are about to eat at a diner.No one needs to know you are having a burger with the kids.

Of course,I have seen plenty of photos of people taking a selfie of themselves standing in front of a mirror,many of them in the nude.This is the ultimate of over-sharing I can think of.

Posted by:

top squirrel
12 Aug 2021

That an article containing such cautions needs to be written carries both positive and negative implications:
1) The world must be so full of stupid people that I must be from another planet and I don't belong here.
2) That such precautions need to be stated means that ordinary common sense on your part will be sufficient to protect you, there being enough stupid people to keep the crooks busy forever.
If you want to protect yourself with minimal effort,just don't have a Facebook account.
I've never had one and I can't see why so many people can't do without one. They might as well post ads that say
"Have your privacy invaded at no cost to you!" Or:
"Facebook -- the easiest way to enable crooks to rob you blind. Open your FREE account today!"

Posted by:

12 Aug 2021

Thank you for another informative article, Bob! I agree completely with Top Squirrel, which is why I do NOT have a Facebook account. Importantly, it is important to keep one's online "real estate" as small as possible. This means keeping accounts protected, and keeping the number of those accounts to a minimum. The less information out there, the less there is for the cyber-criminals to snatch up and use it in nefarious ways. With the type of stuff out there, I feel also as if I'm from a different planet.

Posted by:

Brian B
12 Aug 2021

Posting images of Boarding passes, theatre tickets and last nights meal to Facebook???? HEY LOOK AT ME. Sad losers. Get a life.

Posted by:

13 Aug 2021

Also if you don't want your home broken into consider removing any document with your home address on it from your vehicle. Take photos of registration docs etc and keep on your phone instead. Criminals will break into cars looking for addresses to rob.

Posted by:

13 Aug 2021

I have never had a Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn account - well, maybe once LinkedIn for a week I so then didn't like it or sharing the details it reveals. I also feel that they are monumental wastes if time.

I use DuckDuckGo as my phone browser, Brave on my PC and Private Internet Access as my VPN. It is amazing how many trackers DuckDuckGo blocks. You can fireproof The site you don't want blocked. For instance, I fireproofed Disqus because I use it for commenting. I am switching to Proton Mail. I am not aware of much more I can do. If anyone has any suggestions I would like to hear them. Thank you.

Posted by:

13 Aug 2021

On photo's of food. They could be taken to post on a review of the restaurant so someone just interested in food or with a fried who is. Some restaurants do present dishes very well.

What amazes me are people showing that they are away and their property may well be empty. Thieves may well have observed properties and people in them, see lack of activity and finding photo's online confirming is all they need. If you are posting do so after the event. If posting during ensure audience is (more) limited.

Posted by:

13 Aug 2021

Thanks a lot for a Google extension for removing Facebook friends! I helped me to get rid of hundreds of accidental people. The other features also look useful.

Posted by:

top squirrel
13 Aug 2021

Re Erik's request for suggestions of better apps to use, I think he's got it down pretty well. I too have no social media accounts. Brave is a good browser though it's built on the same platform as Chrome. I have heard good things about Tor that I'm going to look into. Vivaldi also has good points. Microsoft has made it impossible to uninstall Edge from W10. I've tried but like a nasty weed it keeps coming back and blocking the view. I have an affection for some old browsers, like Firebird 0.7, which is accessible via Oldversion.com, along with other antiques, like Netscape.
I too use Duck Duck go as my default search engine, and watch out of those screens that you get when Avast updates your antivirus and provides an "OK" button but it has sneakily prechecked a box on the other end of the screen saying, in small print, that you OK downloading Chrome and making it your default browser. Not nice. Proton mail is the best I know of and I'm also going to check out some of the other apps Erik mentioned.
Bob probably knows a lot more about this than any of us. How about a column entitled "Computer Advice for the Practical Paranoid"?
You might also take a look at "Ubunstu," the hotpants browser.

Posted by:

13 Aug 2021

I have a Facebook account and I like it. It keeps me in contact with my younger relatives and some online friends, including ones in Australia and South Africa that I have never met. I don't tell everything I know or post incriminating info. What I do is keep my friends list small - it's only about 32 people and 2 of them are dead (yes, literally). If I were younger, I would probably have more Friends but, unfortunately, my friends keep dying off.

However, I think Bob's suggestions are good and if you follow them, things should be good. And I do wish people would deactivate the accounts of people who die.

Posted by:

14 Aug 2021

To ERIK & others:
I too use a VPN (NordVPN) but there a couple of things that you might want to do:
1-Use a DNS service other that your ISP. This is NOT as easy as it sounds, even for the experienced. There are settings in your computer and in your ISP modem/router AND now that we have IPV6, its all complicated. This leak test site is good place to start:
Be sure to check out:
What are transparent DNS proxies?
Generally, the VPN will encrypt your DNS quarries, but I'm a belt and suspenders person.

2- Use a hosts file to stop communication with rogue sites and trackers. There are a couple of good ones, I'll list the one I use, but first here is some info:

I have used this site for hosts file for over three years, it is updated frequently:

Just save this as a text file and copy it where it instructs. First save you existing hosts file by changing its name to something like hosts.old
Then remove the .txt extension. Some people might have to change settings to view file extensions. (viewing file extensions is a safety procedure, all by itself that is highly recommended.

There might be minor issues using an extensive hosts file, eg when I click on Dell ads in Dell's emails these link to an advertising / tracking site and do NOT load. I just go directly to Dell.com for sale info. Also, some sites might have risque content that I do NOT see and I have referred friends to sites that load embarrassing content of which I was unaware.

Good Luck

Posted by:

14 Aug 2021

ERIK & others:
Sorry, I am getting old and forgot something that might be of interest to security minded people- Encrypted DNS, or DoH.

The fact that ISPs absolutely hate this proves how valuable it is.

Posted by:

15 Aug 2021

"Thank you for another informative article, Bob! I agree completely with Top Squirrel..."
I am inclined to think that the warnings about airline ticket issue is just the tip of the security implications that have complicated airline travel since 9/11. It may sound totally freakazoidal but I have decided that it was time to let my passport lapse, and never again step a foot in an airport because I find entering one just too invasive. I have even explored the possibility of anonymous vaccination (…and failed) simply because I want to leave a smaller 'footprint' than the footprint I had when I was borne. RealID is another big concern for me; no matter how "secure" they can ensure my data is today. If the past has taught me anything about security; it is that security is an ever morphing concept, which is always subject to change and too complex to forecast its possible future complications and implications.

Posted by:

Jim Seiler
24 Aug 2021

Hi Bob!
I have opted out of every "social media" account I ever joined, since I don't believe in either serendipitous coincidences or the "goodness" of human nature. I'm of the opinion that most, if not all are dangerous, and some, like Facebook in particular, are downright EVIL! After doing this several years ago, I'm at a loss to think of anything I might be missing.

Best regards,


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