What to Watch When Sharing Online
Online networks have done an amazing job expanding our ability to interact with friends and family and to meet new people. It's a world that is rewarding and exciting to participate in, but it's also important to remember the dangers.
No system is totally secure, and most servers that store your personal information can be hacked without the proper security measures in place. This means that social media and other sites storing user data must be very careful about where they choose to host their servers and what type(s) of security measures are in place. Companies like SingleHop offer secure servers (listed here) for start-ups and small businesses who may not have the capacity to host their own. Because many companies outsource their IT, it is important that you not only trust the site you are using, but their server company as well.
The Mommies Network offers a safe and secure site to share your information also, most people don't realize the work that goes into keeping your information safe and how we actually approve our members.
A rigorous process goes into the approval process for a new member on the National Chapter or one of our many local chapters (listed here). Our chapter advisors, chapter managers and senior advisory leadership team pride themselves in keeping our sites safe. We want our mom's to feel safe both online in a private support forum as well as at a offline play-date with there children. Ensuring that we check address's via Google maps and the sexual offender website "Watchdog" in addition verifying any information that does not seem clear with the member to be, helps to ensure our members stay safe.
Any information that has been shared online is generally stored somewhere on a server, and anyone with the time and inclination can hack into it to get a picture of who you and your family are, what you do and when you do it. Below are some things that I think families should be aware of when posting online.
Using your Real Name
Using your real name means risking exposing yourself to cyber crime and identity theft. Your real name is the first link to financial records, social networks and other services that should be protected. Some organizations need your real name for legitimate reasons - but lately everyone seems to want it, often so they can sell you something. Usually it's just not worth it to take the risk.
Posting your Vacation Plans
Everyone loves taking a vacation. Even better, sometimes, is getting to tell people about how fantastic your vacation was. Social networks are a great way to do this, but remember to wait until you're back before you start giving details. Information about when you're leaving and where you're going means that anyone can discover that your house is vacant and that you're going to be thousands of miles away. It's a digital target that you're painting on all of your belongings.
Even if you use a mobile app like Foursquare or Swarm, don't check in while away if no one will be home at your house, you may think your "friends are friends" but some people prey on "friends" just for this reason via social media.
Sharing Family Photos
Much like we enjoy sharing our vacation stories, we also enjoy sharing pictures of ourselves and our family. While it can be great to privately share with friends and family, it's important to be aware of who and what you're exposing. A cute picture shared via social media can give away information about who you are, where you are and what you do. Unscrupulous people can use it to target you for scams, crimes or harassment. Similarly, pictures of children can expose them to harassment or even potential predators.
Instagram is a fun app on your phone to share photos with family and friends, but very easy to steal your photos. Consider other photo apps that can create a "watermark" with your family seal or crest that you create. Especially if you are a blogger, you know what I am talking about. This helps to prevent unwanted "lifting" of your photos by others. Don't be a victim, think smarter.
Online security and privacy affects everyone. I want a more secure Internet and I want to feel confident that your friends and family are safe online. Be smart and careful and you can stay safe while still embracing the opportunities that modern technology offers.
Always be aware and educate yourself, don't fall for the "to good to be true" scammers, if your gut tells you that it seems to good to be true, stop and think! It is most likely false, and you should turn and run. Teach your children the same thing.