Social media can be a force for good, but only if you use it responsibly. Sharing too much information or the wrong things can leave you exposed to harassment, real-world attacks, and other consequences you’d rather avoid. Here are some things you should never post.
Vaccine Cards and Other Medical Info
Many people are posting photos of their “vaccine cards” to celebrate getting the COVID-19 vaccine. While getting vaccinated is undoubtedly a good thing, sharing medical information online is not.
Vaccine cards in particular can give away all sorts of personal information, including your full name (which might not be listed on your profile) and your date of birth. Depending on where you are in the world, the card may include other information, such as your address and insurance information.Identity fraud is a growing problem in a digital world. Fraudsters may attempt to use this information to open credit cards, get home loans, rent cars, and lodge other potentially damaging applications in your name.
This sort of fraud can follow you for years and make it difficult to get home or car loans and apply for rental properties. It may even affect your job prospects. In some instances, you could be held liable for loans and purchases that you never made.
When taking your vaccine selfie, maybe don't include your vaccination card. https://t.co/dxifPXX6ba
— The New York Times (@nytimes) February 6, 2021
Anything That Discloses Where You Live
Even if you personally know everyone you are friends with on Facebook, you should avoid posting your address. If someone needs to know where you live, you can tell them privately. Unfortunately, many people reveal this information accidentally, and most don’t even realize that they’ve done it.
In particular, photos can say a lot about where you live. Posting images of your street, the view outside of your front door or a window, or photos of the front of your residence is a bad idea. Selfies taken in your kitchen may have mail or other documents in the background with your full address on them.Often, when posting images from a mobile device with a small screen, it’s easy to miss this revealing information in the background. Sometimes, a tighter crop on an image is all that’s needed to avoid doxxing yourself. Revealing your address could compromise your safety and leave you open to real-world harassment or stalking.
Often, your address is used by institutions such as banks and insurers to confirm your identity over the phone. Combined with your full name and date of birth, a physical address can be used to perform social engineering attacks on your bank accounts, phone service, and more.
You can’t assume that everyone you are friends with has good intentions. Some accounts may fall into the wrong hands, and some people might not live up to your expectations of them.
Selfies and Photos That Give Away Too Much
Any photo taken inside of your house could reveal more information than you’re happy to disclose to your friends and followers. It could be a graduate diploma that you’ve got hanging on the wall that shows your full name and credentials, or something written on a whiteboard in your office.
This doesn’t have to be a trade secret or your social security number—it could just be an embarrassing item that you’ve forgotten to put away. If you’re careful about not sharing images of your children or other family members, make sure that you don’t post anything with framed photos in the background.
New purchases and pricey possessions are also items of concern. Think about the items in your home and what they say about you. Also, consider where you keep your valuables and whether your home is a worthwhile target for thieves. For example, the key rack in your kitchen shows a would-be burglar how they could make off with your car, too.
Vacation and Travel Plans
Whether you’re going out of town for the weekend or traveling even farther for a few weeks, it can be tempting to talk about your trip on social media. Unfortunately, there’s a very real danger to doing this, and it’s implicated in a rising number of burglaries.
Posting about your travels is something that’s best saved for after your trip. If you’re sharing updates about a trip that you’re currently taking, you’re effectively advertising to your followers that you are not at home. If you have a partner or children living at home with you and they appear in your airport selfie, you’re telling your followers that your house is probably empty.
This can happen on a smaller scale, too—for example, if you’re stuck somewhere overnight due to road closures or weather events, posting about your trip in advance gives home invaders a chance to prepare.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other networks also allow you to tag your posts with physical locations. Even if you haven’t announced that you’re going away, posting about “spending the next week next to the pool” in a city, state, or country that’s miles from home is unwise.
If you can’t contain yourself, share updates with a select group of friends who you trust privately and away from social media. Then, when you get home, you can post a select few images to mark your trip without compromising home security.
Information About Your Daily Routine
Most burglaries take place during the day when the majority of people are out of the house at a workplace. While your job title may give away much of your routine (particularly if you’re a shift worker who works in retail or hospitality), sharing too much information could put you at risk of being burgled.
Resist the urge to post about how you are “stuck at work until 7,” since this informs followers that you’ll be out for most of the day. Even posting in a Facebook Marketplace listing that interested buyers should call “after 7 or on weekends” is a bad idea, especially if there’s a chance that someone could work out where you live based on the photos provided with the listing.
Not everyone is happy posting pictures of their children online for a multitude of reasons, but revealing that a child of school age lives in your house further discloses information about your routine, such as when you might be picking up or dropping off children at school.
Content That Could Get You Fired
It’s worth keeping in mind that anything that you post on social media could come back to bite you. Even if you trust your followers, accounts can be compromised and leaks can happen. It could be a simple case of accidentally sharing something publicly rather than restricting it to just your friends that lands you in hot water.
You should tailor your social updates to your audience and post things that you wouldn’t mind close or distant friends knowing about you. Even if you aren’t friends with your boss or work colleagues on Facebook, there’s a chance that your followers know where you work and who you work with.
Embarrassing photos that were taken on the weekend (or decades ago) may cause an employer to question why they hired you, but you can at least review and approve any photo tags made by other people.
Negative comments about an employer are, of course, a concern, as are updates about your desire to find a new job. Photos shot in the office that divulge the identities of your coworkers or reveal what you’re working on probably shouldn’t be shared, either.
Social Media Should Be Fun
Much of this advice assumes the worst about the people you are “friends” with on social media. In most cases, your friends really are your friends and they probably won’t target you in a robbery or take out a credit card in your name.
But oversharing is a problem of the digital age that has real-world consequences. That’s why you should carefully examine how you interact with social networks to ensure that you are being as safe as possible while online.
Looking to improve the time that you spend on social media? Consider whether you want to keep following all the people you’ve been following on Facebook and Twitter.