Could you be made to pay if you over-share on social media?
Imagine this. You make your living burgling homes and apartments. Together with your friends, you are pondering an easier way to carry out your crime.
If only there were some way to find out which young, affluent professionals were away from home on any given evening………
Oh, wait! There is! It’s called Facebook… or Twitter, or Foursquare, or any number of ways that über-connected (but none too wise) social media darlings can let you know exactly where they are at any time.
Does that sound far-fetched? It’s already happening in the USA, where a burglary ring has hit over 50 homes to the tune of $100,000 worth of goods after targeting people who broadcast their location via Facebook.
What next? Could home insurers even keep an eye on your profiles and raise your premiums if you commit this kind of security faux pas?
There are several ways you could be made to pay for over-sharing on social media… Check out these three scary social media scenarios, along with some anti-heist Hospital hints to help you avoid them.
How to get robbed, in 140 characters or less…
Being a Twitter darling is great. You get recognition, attention and that buzz of being connected to an admiring audience wherever you are. And you’re tethered to your lovable laptop or sophisticated smartphone at all times.
Well OK, that last part might be more of a curse than a benefit.
But here’s the other curse that’s coming. Anybody on the web can view your tweets, meaning you could be rapidly raising your risk of robbery.
It starts out quite innocently, when you share your delight at the new guitar you bought or HD TV you just installed. Your Twitter page links to your blog or home-based business that gives away your location. Maybe you’ve also linked to photos on your Flickr account, so everyone can see exactly what expensive camera you’ve got.
Then you obligingly tell the unseen world that you’re looking forward to a movie première tonight at Showcase cinemas. Maybe you even #hashtag it for extra visibility…
Whoa, hold on. You just stitched together a virtual walking A-board that says ‘Please Rob Me’!
This practice is so inexplicably common, there’s even a website by that name that used to aggregate such snippets of info in order to warn you of the dangers of broadcasting your burglability via the Internet
Is it worth it, for the joy of compulsively tweeting your whereabouts?
Hospital hint for Twitter: Don’t link it to your geographic whereabouts (go to Settings » Account and untick “Tweet Location”). And don’t post what you’ve got that’s nickable, where you’re off to or how long!
Facebook’s also a risk
Facebook always used to be considered safer than Twitter in this respect, since your status updates have more privacy controls.
However, nowadays the privacy settings are more complex than ever. There are public Facebook profiles appearing in search results—do you know how to turn them off?
And friend counts are multiplying at a monumental rate. Be frank with yourself and ask: do you actually know everyone in your friends list? And do you know whether their friends can see your profile? “Friends of friends” is a privacy category on Facebook.
The point is this: although they won’t click the little thumbs up for you, potential burglars might “like” your status updates very much indeed, thanks!
Hospital hint for Facebook: Go to Account » Privacy Settings and take a fine-toothed comb to those “Sharing on Facebook” settings. And prune that proliferating friends list while you’re at it!
Now you can “place” yourself in even more trouble
There is now a way that not only you can place yourself in peril from plunderers—your real-life friends can, too. It’s all thanks to location-based social networking, which has got to be the most burglar-friendly idea yet.
Why? Because users routinely broadcast full addresses, including map data, of where they’re at. Believe it or not, that could include your house.
These services go by several names: there’s Foursquare, perhaps the most prominent. There’s GoWalla, there’s Google Latitude, and now Facebook Places is the latest feature of our favourite all-smothering social media behemoth. All these services run as smartphone apps, allowing users to easily share their GPS location data with the service as they travel around.
What’s the risk? Well, apart from the obvious (you “check in” somewhere you’ll obviously be for a while, such as a football game, cinema, restaurant or gym, and people in your network can see you’re out), there’s also the unique new risk with location based services. If your visitor decides to “check in” at your place, that’s your address made public too.
Hospital hint for Foursquare et al: just resist! And if the first thing a friend does when they show up at your house is to start opening up their smartphone… grab it and put it in a Jiffy bag straight to these guys.
Still not scared of sharing?
We’ll be monitoring the situation closely to find out whether home insurance companies are wising up to the risk by making membership of social networks a negative part of its risk factors. If I were them, I’d be following burglars’ example and making use of this information somehow.
And if you’re not afraid of a bit of (entirely anonymous) further exposure, feel free to share your social media blunders in the comments below!