AVG (AU/NZ) offers a few very useful suggestions on protecting one’s privacy and location on social networking websites.
New technology is always accompanied by a certain level of trust deficit. AVG (AU/NZ) says a little distrust would serve everybody well when it comes to the Internet, especially when using online location-based services.
Users need to take a few precautions before any information is shared on popular social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and FourSquare among others.
As social media networks continue to evolve, online location-based services such as FourSquare and Facebook Places have developed. Supporting social networking and geo-tagging features, these services make it imperative that users learn how to protect their online privacy.
Most social networking users would be surprised to discover that when they upload a picture from their smart phones to Twitter, the image is encoded with the latitude and longitude of the picture’s location.
This data can then be used to match the user’s geographic location with a business, home or other public places via Google Maps.
Peter Cameron, Managing Director of AVG (AU/NZ) says that certain shared facts may seem harmless enough. But he warns that disparate pieces of online information can easily be assembled like puzzles to create holistic pictures of the user’s daily life.
AVG (AU/NZ) recommends five tips to protect online users from criminals:
Posting pictures online
The best thing to do is to avoid posting pictures online. One can do so provided they can only be viewed by contacts trusted by the user.
While there are privacy features on Facebook, there is nothing to stop contacts from copying and pasting pictures openly elsewhere.
Safety on Twitter
Sharing location or other personal information on Twitter can be dangerous. It’s better to create a separate network for trustworthy contacts with the required privacy settings.
But again, nothing prevents contacts from publicly re-tweeting updates by the user.
Keeping track of posts
Especially relevant for larger online networks, users will need to constantly check their earlier posts to prevent criminals from putting multiple updates together to infer location, place of work or school.
Geotagging on smart phones
It is better to disable the geotagging function from a smart phone. While using online location-based services such as Foursquare, never ‘check-in’ from home as this will disclose the user’s address.
It is always a good idea for online users to ‘Google’ themselves to find out information available online about them. It is also wise to remove oneself from Spokeo and other aggregators of personal content.
The so-called Bling-Ring offence earlier this year involved a few LA kids who targeted the homes of celebrities when they were away. Over A$3.6 million worth of jewellery, artworks and designer clothes went missing from the homes of Orlando Bloom, Megan Fox, Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton.
The teenage gang used Google Earth to locate and survey the homes and find ways to get inside.
For example, Paris Hilton lived in a gated community, but the kids found via Google Earth that there was a gully that went under a fence that took them straight inside the gated compound.
Paris’ updates on Twitter informed them when she would be out. Getting in was as simple as walking right inside.
All it takes says Cameron, is a little bit of extra care. When one wouldn’t hand out one’s address and personal data to strangers in the street, why would anyone want to do it in the online world?