Online safety in the new world
For the last few years, I’ve enjoyed working in the online world because, for the most part, if we make a really big mistake, nobody gets seriously hurt. Sure someone could get mad about incorrect information or even get sued, but this pales in comparison to risks associated with other occupations. Compare that to my step-father who is an anesthesiologist. If he has a bad day on the job, someone could be seriously injured or even die!
New world – new considerations
So the online world is relatively safe to participate in, or so I thought until I read an article this week about the military warning soldiers against using social websites to identify where they are. The article went on to specifically mention sites like Facebook, FourSquare and Google where you can “check in” to your location so you can earn points with that merchant as well as let your friends know where you are.
Obviously in the military world, this can have “life or death” consequences as it relates to unknowingly leaking sensitive information that an enemy might find useful. The concerns are legitimate enough to prompt a warning from senior Air Force officials to raise awareness among the troops.
What does this mean for you?
If you’re not a soldier, does this sort of thing not matter? I say it does. Just a few months ago, a friend of mine was out of town and his house was robbed. He is absolutely convinced that someone with his network of “friends” saw his Facebook post about a vacation picture and initiated the crime.
Realistically, every time you “check in” on one of these social websites, you are telling your friends where you are – as well as where you are not. And this information could impact your safety in any number of ways.
I can trust my “friends”
At the core of the issue is how closely you guard your personal information on social websites, and how judicious you are when selecting “friends” online. If you limit your online networking to people you know closely – this would seem to limit the risk.
However, if you are connected on Facebook with 200 people you haven’t seen in 20 years from high school that’s another story. For many people, the social website interaction is they have with people they would otherwise never see or talk to.
So in this case, a little common sense goes a long way. Be careful about who you friend and don’t feel compelled to check in or post your out of town photos all the time, no matter what the internet marketing gurus suggest.