Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Social Media Safety

Social Media - A Cautionary Tale.

We all like to talk about ourselves on social media. Twitter, Facebook, and more recently, Google+. If there's a way to let others know "I'm going to the grocery store" or to send a picture of "This guy I just saw at ComicCon!", we are using it. Social media has permeated society on many levels - for good or ill.

But do we really KNOW what we are telling the world when we use Social Media? Do we tweet, ect safely? The reason I ask is, you can tell something innocuous about yourself, but you never know what someone out there knows, and can find out about you from an innocent statement.

Case in point. Several months ago, someone I follow on Twitter who lives in my local area mentioned she was leaving on a trip that afternoon, flying to a location in the Rockies for a working get-away. Later that same day, she mentioned there was a coffee location not far from her gate area.

Now, anyone who's read this blog knows that I'm a fan of aviation. It's in the log line. I've written posts dealing with the subject. When she mentioned where she was going, my mind kicked in and wondered: "Which airline is she flying on? What type of airplane?"

Armed with the scraps of information she'd given, I took to the web and after looking at two sites, I was able to tweet her and ask if she was at gate X on ABC Airlines flight XYZ.

She replied that yes, she was.

Now, I wasn't trying to stalk her, and I told her as much. That it was how my brain worked, and the curiosity she'd peaked. She understood and mentioned that she now had food for thought about what she tweeted to the world.

Was I trying to change what or how she tweeted? Absolutely not. Did I feel bad about that, like it was my fault? Absolutely. For the next month I didn't see her tweet much, and didn't comment on anything she did send out.

Which brings me back around to the point I was making with this blog. You never know what someone out there knows, what specialized knowledge they might have to dig into you. Be cautious what you say in a general broadcast to the world. Even in conversations between people on twitter, I'm always being surprised at which of my followers will pop in, that follow both of us already in the conversation. Don't go and get paranoid that everyone following you is out to get you, to dig into your life, but be careful when mentioning your personal life in social media.


  1. You're absolutely right. I once did something similar, tweeting that my husband and I were going to be gone all day at IKEA. No big deal, right? Wrong. My husband gave me a huge lecture on the dangers of letting the world know that our house would be unoccupied for a full day.


    The scary truth is, there are people in the world who will use this kind of information to do you (and me) harm. Thanks for the good lecture. :)

  2. This is a very important lesson for everyone out there. It is amazing how often 'private' conversations on twitter turn into full discussions between multiple parties quite quickly. Social Media is pretty open by default, whether we like it or not.

  3. So true and the opposite is too. The things I feel very strongly about but wouldn't dream of blogging about just in case, yikes! Watch out for people with agendas.

  4. Jen - Things that give your location, like foursquare, scare the heck out of me. Can we say a stalker's BEST FRIEND?

    Pat - Yep, too open by far. You can close up some of those loops, but not enough of them it seems.

    Catherine - That's why I only blog about things I'd tell the average person in public. This was a subject I thought should be put out there.

  5. This is very true. It's easy to think that only your followers are reading your Twitter feed, but anything you tweet is public information, out there for the world to see.

  6. This is an excellent reminder. I avoid apps like Foursquare and Facebook's "Places" like the plague for this very reason. It's so easy to get lulled into a false security regarding social media (in fact, one of the latest polls from the Pew Research Center indicates that people who spend time on social networking sites tend to be more trusting of people they encounter online), but the simple fact is, making personal information public is just asking for trouble. I've been working on improving my privacy settings (not allowing Twitter to geotag tweets and photos, for example), but those safeguards are still no substitute for plain and simple caution.

  7. Excellent point! We always have to remember that, when we post on social media, we're broadcasting to the world. Not only do we need to remember to be respectful but we also need to remember to be safe.