This question is often overlooked and is one that social network users should be asking themselves more often. Social networks are here to stay, and while they have many beneficial qualities there are some legitimate safety concerns that their users should be aware of. Many of these safety concerns are linked to a piece of functionality that allows a user to let their networks know where they are at a certain point in time. From this point forward I will refer to this functionality as “checking-in”. The first safety concern that users should be aware of is that “checking-in” can turn the user into a victim of a violent crime. Another safety concern relates to “checking-in” or posting information regarding travel plans which can help burglars plan their home invasion. The final security concern discussed in this post relates to employment snafus that come as a result of “checking-in”.
The first security concern discussed here is in regards to the potential for social network users to become victims of violent crimes. Predators can peruse hotels and other travel locations’ Facebook pages for social network users that have “checked-in” and appear to be alone. A prime example for this potential is when a business person writes a status update about finishing up a long, stressful day on the road and then follows up with a message about relaxing at the hotel bar and tagging the hotel’s page. The predator then knows the users location, that their tired, and that they are most likely alone. These ingredients are a recipe for disaster for the weary, lonesome traveler. While it’s fun to let your friends know about all the interesting places you’ve traveled to its important to make sure that you aren’t putting yourself in danger.
The next security concern involves social networking users making it easy for burglars to plan their invasion into the users’ home. When a user posts that they are excited to be leaving for Hawaii for vacation they are inadvertently making an announcement to everyone that they will not be home for a period of time. This gives a burglar a window of the optimum time to break in to your home. Along the same lines, if a user “checks-in” to their hotel the user is also sending out a signal that they are miles away from home. It’s best to make sure if you are going to make posts about an upcoming or ongoing vacation that (at a minimum) you control the privacy settings on the posts. An even better solution is to wait until you are home from vacation to make any posts or picture uploads. On a related side note, if a user checks into and out of work on their social networking site on a daily basis they are letting everyone know their schedule and when they are away from home.
One final concern that is potentially damaging in a different way is the employment snafus that can ensue when people don’t think before they post. I have seen this play out several times where an employee calls in pretending to be home sick with their kid and then later during the day post pictures with the whole family at the zoo on their favorite social network. Now a couple of things can happen. Either their friendly co-worker can stumble upon this information during a break or their boss can see the information during their break. This results in a couple of things. First off, the employee is now discredited. Secondly the co-worker is put in a bad position where they have to decide whether to tell the supervisor, confront the employee, or just remain upset that they were left to pick up the slack. Thirdly, the supervisor now has to decide what disciplinary action to take against the employee. I’m in no way shape or form promoting playing hooky but if you do, please don’t post your adventures on you social network page.
In conclusion, there are many dangers out there in regards to social networking sites and how they affect your life and security. What you post can potentially harm your reputation and/or your can literally put yourself in harm’s way. Many of these tips may seem to be common sense, but it can be easy to get caught up in your virtual life and not think of all of the consequences of your online actions. Hopefully this article has made you want to think twice before you post an update or “check in”. Social networks are very beneficial and they aren’t going anywhere, but it’s important to think about the repercussions of what you post and where/when you “check in”.