Learn risks of sharing data on social media


Learn risks of sharing data on social media

Social networking sites have become very popular for keeping in touch with friends and family as well as keeping on top of news and other important information. They are also a popular spot to share photos and a wide range of personal information about yourself, which could be valuable to criminals.

Public Safety Canada (PSC) has a long list of things that Canadians should do and be aware of when it comes to their privacy settings and what they share online, so that their information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

“Your personal information is valuable – that’s why criminals try to get hold of it. Some criminals scan social media for indications that someone is away from home on vacation, in order to plan a break in,” said PSC spokesperson Zarah Malik. “Scammers try to befriend individuals on social media so they can commit fraud. Criminals are also keen to get access to online accounts, since people frequently reuse passwords – meaning that once they have access to one account, they may have access to your online shopping or bank accounts.”

So what are the risks of putting your personal information on social networks? PSC has put together a list of tips and advisories to keep you safe:

  • Your personal information could be stolen by a cyber criminal, putting your identity and accounts at risk.
  • The personal information you share online could give cyber criminals enough to piece together your email address and password.
  • Cyber criminals could gain access to any account that has a password recovery service and use any saved information to make purchases.
  • Links in messages from cyber criminals posing as someone you know could be a part of a phishing attack trying to trick you into sharing personal information or contain malware that infects your computer.
  • Geotagged photos are photos that have geographical information, like your current location, added to them – and today, most smartphones and digital cameras have a function that automatically geotags all your photos unless you turn it off.  Geotags can expose where you live, when you’re traveling and even what car you drive, which could make you a target for robbery.
  • When you update your status with your whereabouts on a regular basis, you could tip someone off to your routine, and invite real-life threats like robberies, break-ins or stalking.
  • Don’t add “friends” that you don’t know.
  • Apps deleted from your account may not be fully deleted – the creator may still have access to your information.
  • If you don’t have a strong password others could gain access to your profile and pose as you – and potentially send out spam or fake posts that are damaging to you.
  • Potential employers could search social networking sites to get a sense of your character. If you’ve uploaded damaging or embarrassing photos or posts to your social network account, you could hurt your reputation and your chances of employment.

Three of the easiest things you can do to be sure of your privacy on social networking sites are:

  • Choose a strong password that you change often
  • Take the time to set your privacy settings to control who can see what
  • Always think carefully about any information you choose to share online


The scams you’ll come across most often on social networking sites are related to identity theft. Users provide a great deal of information about themselves when they create their profile, which makes social networks so attractive to scammers who are looking to access someone else’s information for illegal purposes.

Phishing is also something to be aware of on social networking sites. Look out for:

  • Messages posted on walls or in the newsfeed that look like they’re from companies you trust (often one you recognize or a financial institution).
  • A quiz or survey that can end up charging you or infecting your computer with a virus.
  • An imposter posing as one of your friends to get you to send money because they’re in trouble.

The objective is to try to scam you into providing information, like your username and password, so they can gain access to your personal information.

This article, written by Alberta-based freelance writer Dave S. Clark was originally published by Postmedia Network