Are you being watched… on Facebook?

Well, yes and no. But no one really knows in the cyber world on what level, by whom, and why you might be being watched.

The truth is that the methods employed in delivering today’s technology, while enriching our environment and enhancing our connectedness, also hold the seeds of exposing our activities, schedules, and personal communication to the scrutiny of those who know how to find and exploit the information for their own purposes.

Facebook has revolutionized social connection. We can now have hundreds or even thousands of “friends” to whom we post messages about our activities, political affiliations, travels, family, health, feelings and much more.

Let me provide a few examples for you how Facebook can, and probably is being used in ways that might surprise and maybe alarm you.

While posting a picture of your beautiful vacation paradise on Facebook in order to share your experience in real time with  your friends seems innocuous, it also tells others you may not be at home. It is easy to see how someone might misuse such information. It might be smart not to broadcast that you are planning that two week Alaskan cruise. And maybe share the pics after the fact, instead of posting them while you are away.

Many law offices now use social media to discover information about clients and litigants. Surprisingly, many times, Facebook users will post conversations that may  adversely affect pending litigation. Admissions made on Facebook have been admitted as evidence in trials. If you are involved in litigation, it is almost certain you are being watched by someone.

It never ceases to amaze me that users think it is safe and even practical to share personal–and especially sensetive–information anywhere online. Everything can be recorded and likely is, just as the recent NSA scandal demonstrates. Never, ever put anything on your computer that you don’t mind the whole world seeing and knowing.

You may have heard that employers have begun reviewing Facebook accounts of job applicants. Some have even gone so far as to demand the applicant’s login information in order to review messages, associations and access to friends in order to profile their potential applicant. The legality of this practice has yet to be determined, but nonetheless, you can bet they are looking. What might they be looking for? Here are a few things: What does the job candidate do with his/her free time? Bar hopping maybe? Any chronic health problems that might inhibit job performance and affect healthcare payouts? Who are the candidate’s friends and what do they discuss online? Any glaring vices referenced, like gambling, drugs, smoking, drinking? How’s the home/family life? You get the picture? So do the employers, though they may not own up to it!

Here is some more sensitive information that I have seen shared on Facebook–in a sometimes careless manner. In each case, consider for yourself what use could be made of the information by someone with less than honorable intentions.

Information about you: your birthday, where you work, where you live, places you go, where you grew up, pictures of you, your beliefs, resources you may have, problems you are dealing with, your education and places you have worked. Someone who does not know you can piece together a pretty good profile of you just from information you’ve shared with the world on Facebook.

Information about your family members: ages, birthdays, activities, likes and dislikes, schedules, schools attended, times when they are alone, who their friends are, their pets, and so forth.

As you can see, people with bad intentions could also easily profile any family member to find vulnerabilities and exploit them. It might be wise to have a conversation with your loved ones about this subject, especially kids!

So, the next time you get ready to share a post or a picture or your location, think twice about it and what implications it might have–just to be safe.

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