For many of us, social media is part of our everyday lives. Many of the social networking sites and apps we use include a feature to share our location, e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, RunKeeper etc. While this can be great when it comes to easily updating your friends to your whereabouts, sharing that great little restaurant you just found, or proudly displaying the 10 mile run you just did this morning, it is also very risky.
If you choose to share your location online you run the risk of cyber-stalkers being able to locate you or criminals being able to tell when your house is empty! For example, I often see friends upload their daily run to Facebook using the RunKeeper app or similar alternative. While, as a keen runner myself, I can appreciate the want to share your achievement – when this is accompanied by a map of your route including where you left and returned to your house – this can be a very risky move to make!
I would advise that you disable the map sharing option and/or share your run another way, e.g., I usually just update my status to say how far I have ran without revealing any location info. Of course, it goes without saying that you should also regularly check your social media privacy settings so you are aware of who can see your updates.
The same applies for ‘checking in’ on Facebook, if you are at a restaurant or on an exciting trip away, it is very tempting to log in and tell everyone about it. However, by doing so you also tell everyone that you are away from home and your house has the potential to be empty (this is even more likely if you also happen to tag the rest of your household in your status!). Instead, why not wait until you are back home and then update your status? Yes, it is not in ‘real time’ but it is far less risky.
Likewise, think about the information that is available on your social media profiles. Do you update that you have been to the gym at the same time and day every week, if so, again you are telling other users that you have a set schedule and when they can expect you to be out of the house. Sometimes it is easy to forget just how much information we reveal online without necessarily realising it!
Other people often encourage us to share our location, whether this is the developers of the site or app that we are using, or the place that we are visiting, e.g., many restaurants, bars and shops may offer special discounts to customers who ‘check in’ as this provides free advertising for the establishment. So, before falling for that cheap drink or free dessert, remember that the risk involved is potentially much higher than the value of the freebie!
Of course, when we use social media we choose to reveal information about ourselves that would not otherwise be in the online domain, however with a little caution and by remembering to remain alert to the potential risks we can seek to minimise these as much as possible.