Be careful what you share online

22 November 2010

Joann Julius and Steffne Hughes of ICTS

How often have you seen a friend's Facebook page show their contact details or moan about their work-life or provide links to photographs of family and friends? Have they ever Tweeted that they're currently on holiday in Knysna? As trivial as these posts may seem, they can be dangerous.

Take care - what you share online can quickly become public knowledge shared by millions of people around the globe. It is very easy for anyone to take information from the web or to download someone else's photographs. Before you know it, information that you thought was only being shared among your close circle of friends is now floating around in cyber space. Rather be more critical about what you post and who you allow onto your personal pages.

These tips will protect both your online persona and your real life person.

Don't post any personal information such as your home or work address, contact details or full date of birth.

Always check the privacy settings on your online profile. Most social networking sites will allow your profile to be viewed by anyone in the world. Change these settings so that you control who can view your personal information and photographs. The settings are easy to change and, if you are initially too cautious, you can always make changes later on.

Think twice before sharing anything that could damage your personal or professional reputation. Ridiculing your manager online is the same as creating bad press for your organisation. Think of it this way: Would you make the same comment in real life while standing in your department's crowded tea room? If not, think twice about sharing it online.

Another big no-no is sharing details about dates and times that you won't be home or when you or your children will be out attending special events. Some online social media websites have an "add location" feature to posts that you send. Disable this feature to protect yourself and your family from stalkers, or your home from being robbed while you're away.

Photographs are a great way of sharing your experiences and events in your life, but they tell a lot about you and your current situation. Only post photographs of your trip or holiday once you're already back home. And remember to ask the permission of your family and friends before you post pictures of them. If you haven't protected your profile, as mentioned above, you never know who may actually see these photographs - or what they could be using them for.

Social networking sites can allow bullies to take 'gossiping' to a whole new level. By posting videos and comments about other people, these cyber-bullies have found the quickest way to spread rumours or to ridicule fellow classmates. Young people need to be taught to respect each other's privacy and to not engage in social media bullying. A recent case at Rutgers University, where a young man committed suicide over a video that was shared without his knowledge, shows just how dangerous uncensored posting can be.

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