Social Media - Are You Sharing Too Much?

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I can’t remember the last time I was speaking to someone who didn’t have a Facebook, Twitter or some sort of social media profile. Well, except for maybe my grandma, who gave up being ‘actually social’ a long time ago, let alone being ‘virtually social’. In fact, social media has taken over the world to such an extent that it has even become a form of ‘chat-up line’ in wine bars whereby you can simply say to a person; “Hey, do you have Facebook?” and you’re half way there.

But what’s becoming scary is the sheer level of private and personal information people are now freely volunteering on these social networks. Information that doesn’t need to be known by anyone other than yourself and immediate family, such as your date of birth, your home telephone number and your mothers maiden name, is being offered up by many in their ‘about me’ profile. And even more concerning, making it public for the whole world to see.

Now don’t get me wrong. From a Private Investigators stand point, this is fantastic news. The more you share with the world publically, the easier it is to find you, it is as simple as that. For example, if I’m trying to locate someone, a job I do exceptionally well, gone are the days of having to spend hours trawling databases all over the country whittling down an endless list of names till I find the specific ‘John Smith’ that I’m looking for, now I can simply find their online profile, click on the “Lives in” link, and voila I have more than enough information to discover their home address in minutes.

I do recognise though from a social standpoint, that ‘good’ news for me, is not always necessarily good news for society. There’s no need for a lecture here, I know it, and you know it. We simply shouldn’t list all our personal information online for the World to see. This is fact. What I still don’t understand though, is why millions of people (most of them young adults) are still doing it and removing any shread of privacy they have left.

The latest news story this week revolves Instagram. Instagram for those not socially networked aware, is a photo sharing blogging site aimed primarily at people who no longer want to express themselves in text when everyone knows that ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’. Okay, fanciful and poetic feelings aside, it’s mainly people sharing yet more photographs of their ‘cute’ dog, with the odd few funny and interesting people thrown in for good measure.

The reason it’s been in the news this week though is that Instagram’s owners (Facebook bought Instagram in Septemer 2012) have updated the site’s ‘privacy policy’ again, but this time it’s trekked a little too far, and is (ironically) trying to remove it’s users privacy. The uproar on this subject has been heard as far as Twitter, and just this evening, was even a news article on the actual broadcasted news!

To avoid boring you to death; to sum the new policy up, from January 2013, any photograph that a user uploads to the site, the said user is effectively giving Instagram the permission to use the image themselves and the right to also sell them on to a third party. Which means that anyone who has an Instagram blog could end up seeing their pictures/themselves being used in advertisments on sites like Facebook later on promoting products like Coca-Cola and Primark.

So should we say goodbye to our privacy online? In a word, no. You can place restrictions on who can see your information on Facebook, and common sense dictates that you shouldn’t post personal data on these sites anyway, and as for Instagram, you can always delete your account and use one of their competitors like Flickr and Photobucket.

But what I can assure you of, is if you do post your private information online to a social profile, and there is someone out there that wants to know where you are... They will look for you, and they will find you.


Written by Martyn Kemp
Kemp Investigations and Legal Services
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