Sharing on Social Networks Could Lead to an Un-Happy Holiday: The Social Media Privacy Report

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It is the time of year when giving becomes a top priority. And while presents and exchanges of food and drink are the standard during the holidays, make sure you aren’t giving a thief too much information via social media networks. This can give a criminal the potential to burglarize you; turning your holiday joy into sadness. Think of your privacy, security and safety before you post!

On social networks like FourSquare, Facebook and even Twitter, geo-location sharing has become the norm. Earlier this year we wrote about the dangers of sharing your whereabouts on these sites, but even in just a few months, new and startling statistics will make you want to take even more precaution in your location sharing habits, especially during holiday travel.

Think about this, for example. Did you check-in on FourSquare during Thanksgiving weekend in 2010? If you can’t remember, don’t worry because FourSquare can since it has all of its historical data stored and logged. In fact, if you did, you are part of this revealing infographic, featured in Mashable. The image below is a visual representation of all the check-ins on the network related to travel in the United States by plane, train, and automobile, covering a period from Halloween until just after Christmas in 2010. Using the public data, FourSquare was able to convey the holiday travel patterns of all of its users.

This information, however, is faceless and thus harmless. But what if this information were to be used by a criminal. All it takes is one for one bad guy to connect the dots and realize who is traveling where and homes will be empty and ready for the looting. According to a recent study of fifty former crooks by Tri-Cities.com,  78% used social media sites, such as Facebook and FourSqaure to uncover when people be would traveling during the holiday season. These crimes would end up costing each individual more than $2,000 in stolen goods and property damage. The site also reports that social media users are willingly placing this information into the wrong hands: “35 percent of the people in this country are checking in on Facebook or tweeting on a regular basis throughout the day. Incredibly, about 15 percent of those folks reveal their location, or when they left home, or worse- how long they will be gone.”

Another study, as reported by the Daily Mail, found that after one of these revealing status updates or check-ins is sent into cyberspace it only takes a thief one minute to track down the address. The article states, “Researchers looked at messages such as ‘packing my cases’ to another which said ‘just landed’ with a smiley face only hours after their location was given as ‘Manchester Airport.’” Once knowing a particular person is traveling, the crime becomes easier to commit.

But it is easy to avoid being a victim this holiday season.  A recent release from Allstate says that social network users don’t have to let a status update ruin their holidays. The company gives some fantastic tips of staying safe when using social media.

Some are reprinted below:

  • Turn off automatic locating functions. Most social media sites with geo-location and tracking functionalities have options to turn them off.
  • Review your privacy settings. Make sure you understand who you are broadcasting your information to. If you are not comfortable with what people can see, alter your settings.
  • Delay uploading pictures until returning home. Thieves may be able to view details about pictures, such as where the picture was taken and at what time. Posting pictures in real time lets others know you’re not at home.
  • Be aware of photo and video backgrounds. Avoid making videos that reveal house numbers or other information telling others exactly where you live.
  • Be careful of where you “check in.” If checking in at various locations as you shop or dine, use precaution. You may be alerting a thief to goodies in your car’s trunk.
  • Keep your travel plans offline. Although it may be hard not brag to friends with a photo from the beach, this information also can tell thieves when you’re away. Save the details for your return.
  • Keep expensive gifts quiet. Despite excitement about the new tablet or gaming system received this year, resist the temptation to post updates about any big ticket items new to the household.

With these tips in mind, PRIVATE WiFi wishes you a happy and healthy holiday season. If you are traveling, remember to keep your itinerary off of social networks.

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Jillian Ryan

Jillian Ryan is PRIVATE WiFi’s Director, Brand Communications and Social Strategy. With a passion for writing, the web, and fast-paced information exchanged via social networks, Jillian is also concerned about the ramifications of putting your life details and personal data into cyberspace. Follow her on Twitter: @Writing_Jillian.