Interacting with friends through social media has become such an integral part of life that we often post without thinking about the risks. In most cases, your overall approach to social media determines what is safe to post. If your audience is limited to close friends and family, it’s fine to tell them you’re going on vacation. But, if you’ve been accepting friend requests from strangers because you’re building a business or running for office, you won’t want to let all your followers know you’ll be gone. However, there are some things you should simply never post on social media.
Your Phone Number
Image via Flickr by Shahid Abdullah
Sharing your phone number is a problem because it’s so easy to trace an address from a phone number. Your digits can also be used to hack into your e-mail and bank account. If you must share a phone number for business reasons, consider getting a free Google Voice number to add a layer of security between your phone number and the public. Learn more about protecting your personal data as well.
You may be excited about your new passport, but please don’t post a pic of the title page on Facebook. Don’t share a pic of your new driver’s license, no matter how pleased you are with the photo. Some naive young adults have posted pictures of their first credit cards, with all the numbers visible, and new parents have posted their newborn’s birth certificate — a foundational document that can be used to establish an identity for almost any purpose.
Sensitive Work Information
Complaining about work among friends is normal, but if that complaint includes company secrets or client information, you could be putting your employer and your job at risk. Don’t talk about specific clients, even if you avoid using their names. Don’t reveal your company’s processes, client relationships, or other sensitive data. If you post selfies from work, be careful about the background of those images, or any documents or processes that might appear in the frame.
Anything You Wouldn’t Share With the World
Many people have found themselves in trouble when they casually shared suggestive photos, stories about illicit drug or alcohol use, or slanderous statements about others in what they thought was a private group or message. Anyone who can see your message can capture a screenshot of it and share it publicly — even months later when they’re angry with you for some reason. Even deleted messages can come back to haunt you. Don’t put anything in writing that you wouldn’t share with the whole world.
Photos of Other People’s Children
How you choose to treat your own children’s privacy is up to you, but posting pictures of other people’s children without their permission is way off-limits. You don’t want to be responsible for revealing a child’s location to an abusive non-custodial parent or other potentially dangerous situation.
When it comes to social media, it’s wise not to get too comfortable. Always err on the side of keeping your personal information private.