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The Very Real Dangers of Oversharing Online

by Dave on October 16, 2011

woman with her hand over her mouthFebruary 2010 – Please Rob Me is a website that uses Twitter’s search functionality to show location-based messages. Their goal is to raise awareness about the potential risks of location-awareness and over-sharing.

The issue with location-based information is that it exposes another layer of personal information that, frankly, we haven’t had to think much about: our exact physical location at anytime, anywhere. If you’re comfortable being a human homing beacon, that’s fine, we just want you to be fully aware of what that means and the potential risks it might involve.

April 2010 – Blippy users’ credit card numbers found on Google
Yesterday was a big day for social-oversharing site Blippy, which lets members automatically post their purchases to the Internet. The company announced $11.2 million in funding and was profiled in The New York Times. Overnight, at least one Internet power user figured out a way to search for Blippy members’ credit card numbers on Google. A fairly obvious search for “from card” this morning returned 127 results that included full credit card numbers.

March 2010 – Private Eyes Are Watching You
Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, recently remarked that “the age of privacy is over”. It’s an infuriating statement but it’s essentially true. In all fairness, privacy is a two-way street. No one made us join Facebook or Twitter or anything else. We willingly became the coal for these data miners.

June 2011 – Your Digital Debris Is Haunting You
Poor Representative Anthony Weiner. He just learned a very tough lesson: Your online activities remain truly your own for only as long as they are still in your head and not in a digital form. What you do online counts. What you say in private matters, what you shared with others can be found. Every single action we take online leaves a trail of debris that could eventually pile up and then topple over on top of us.

September 2011 – The Danger of Sharing Tools
Anytime you try out a new Facebook game, participate in an online poll, or vote for a contest, you are downloading a social media sharing app. At times, “liking” and posting can be dangerous too, depending on how it is implemented.

Attention: Facebook pops up a permissions screen when this happens, and if you accept, you have downloaded that application and given it access to your private information.

How does this affect your privacy? That app can track your online activity, compile a consumer profile about you, and then in turn sell your information to marketers.

According to Facebook, 10,000 websites integrate with the site each day through sharing tools and users install 20 million social media apps. This flurry of activity leaves plenty of opportunity for third parties to access your information. Most of the time, you are unaware of the type of information these apps are collecting or how it is being used.

October 2011 – Why are we so willing to risk our own privacy online?
What social networks understand, and with the most recent changes we’re really talking about Facebook here, is that they can continue to rely on a fundamental human trait : the ego.

With the new Timeline option, they are giving us the capability to share pretty much every single event from our lives so far, including before Facebook even arrived. And while some might just try out adding a few things as the functionality becomes available to all, there will be a large portion of people that will become almost obsessive about the ‘life events’ they choose to add.

Why? Because we understand that an existing friend or newcomer can come along and access our profile at any time and get a complete snapshot of our lives. Do we want them to see something fairly empty and uneventful, or would we rather portray a more idealised version of our lives, full of interesting events and milestones? For the majority, the answer will be in the latter.

The difficult thing is that for every argument against a basic loss of privacy and invasion of social networks, there is an army of individuals (myself included) that is happily sharing more and more information that is contributing to this very scenario. At the moment it’s difficult to see where the limit lies. As long as we are given the tools to share information about ourselves, we are going to do it. The danger is that the long-term implications of this are still unclear, as the amount of data currently surrounding an individual online is very small compared to what it will be in 10 or 20 years time.

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