Don’t give away too much by oversharing on social media

Facebook f'up

Oversharing on social media can create huge security issues. It does not matter if you think you are safe – social media has ‘ways of making you talk’.

Aussies are a sharing and caring lot. Some 15 million have active Facebook monthly accounts. Another 9 million share photos on Instagram and 5 million blab on WhatsApp (all Facebook-owned).

What they don’t know is that these social media platforms use sophisticated data mining tools. They want to wring the last drops of personal data from your oversharing on social media.


  • Analyse photos (facial recognition)
  • Mine text for significant information (birthdays, dates, locations, if you are on holidays)
  • Look up your contacts list (friends)
  • Determine what you need to buy (advertising)
  • And even surmise your state of mind (happy, sad ).

Facebook also tracks your web surfing by placing tracking cookies on your browser – the tip of the privacy iceberg.

Just this month Facebook was fined (a paltry maximum allowable fine of £500,000) by the U.K. Information Commissioner. This is just the start of fines as social media in general wrestles with the intent of the (GDPR) General Data Protection Regulations (GadgetGuy article here).

“Facebook contravened the law by failing to safeguard people’s information. The company failed to be transparent about data harvesting by third-parties,” the Commissioner said.

She added that “Facebook has failed to provide the kind of protections we now require under the GDPR. People cannot have control over their data if they don’t know or understand it’s ultimate use. That’s why greater and genuine transparency about the use of data analytics is vital Data Protection Act.”

The Commissioner warned Facebook that future fines would be up to 4% of the companies turnover. At an estimated U.S. $15.9 billion that makes the U.K. fine seem like Zuckerberg’s lunch money.

GadgetGuy asked Nick FitzGerald, a senior research fellow at ESET for his take on oversharing on social media.

The rest of the article is paraphrased.

Oversharing on social media sites is a form of information leakage. Once you post something online, you lose control over it. You need to think very carefully about the way your posts, updates, photographs and location check-ins can inform criminals about your vulnerabilities.

Prolific use of social media has created new opportunities for cybercrime, identity theft, online fraud, and even real-world crime. These numbers make social networking sites ripe hunting grounds for criminals, both “cyber” and otherwise.

Criminals can then use that information to

  • Steal people’s identities
  • Make illegal purchases
  • Take out (or default on) loans
  • Gain medical prescriptions
  • And so much more.

Often, victims may not even be aware that they were targets. That is until they try to take out a loan, or access government services, only to find someone else has done so using their identity.

Even be wary of something as innocuous as a vacation picture posted on Instagram. It can let criminals know that your house is likely to be empty. Or your letterbox full. All easy targets.

ESET says all social media users should review their security and privacy settings, and reconsider the information they share online.

Strengthen privacy settings. The safest social media accounts use the most restrictive privacy settings available. Even with this Facebook will still display photographs and posts featuring you and tagged friends in hundreds of ‘friends-of-friends’ newsfeeds.

Beware of offers that are too good to be true. Steer clear of messages with catchy headlines even if a friend sends it. Typically these entice you to check out gossip or a video. If the message doesn’t sound like something a friend would say, it’s likely a scam. The Adidas WhatsApp ‘giveaway is an example of such an offer.

Don’t trust strangers. Criminals often create fake profiles to connect with their victims. You need to treat all unexpected friend requests or unknown followers with suspicion. Ideally, only connect online with people you know in real life.

GadgetGuy’s take – “Ve haf vays of making you talk!”

Sharing stories, pictures of family, or chatting with friends online can be fun. But, when scammers use this information against you, it’s just not worth it. People need to think twice about the information they share, and who can see it.

We are not necessarily advocating you #DeleteFacebook (or maybe you should!). But we are curious to see if Facebook et al. can legally operate within GDPR. This is a challenge and until tightly regulated don’t trust them. Zuckerberg et al. should not have carte blanche access to your personal information gold.

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