Tech Tips: Be Careful What You Share

Doug Hayman, DO-IT Staff

Using social media tools is a great way to connect with others and share information. Be a savvy networker and reap the benefits of online engagement without succumbing to some of the pitfalls.

A recent article in the New York Times noted that the metadata associated with photos taken by smart phones and digital cameras may include geographical coordinates for photos, in addition to the usual information about camera type, date, and time. In the wrong hands this could be used by a stalker or burglar.

Let's say you place an advertisement on Craigslist for an item you are trying to sell. The seller contacts you and asks for a photograph of the item and you forget that your iPhone has location services enabled for photos. You send it off as an attachment and the person downloads a free add-on for Firefox to look up the coordinates on Google Maps. He writes back and says he'll think about it and call you this weekend. You go out for the evening with friends and return home to find that your expensive Martin guitar you were selling has been stolen along with a few other electronics.

Let's look at Facebook. Suppose you are going on vacation and are excited about your trip so you post, "I'm so excited. I'll be in Hawaii for the next two weeks!" If your address is listed in your profile, any pseudo-friend now knows the ideal time to break in and take your things. Similarly, sites like Foursquare that help you track down your friend's current location can also be used against you when in the wrong hands.

Think twice about what and how much information you share online. Connecting with the people you care about is wonderful, but be sure you aren't oversharing with the wrong people.