Social vs. Secure: Use social media with an eye on safety & security

Once upon a time, if a family didn’t want anyone to know when they were away from home, they would simply tell a few people and set timers on lights inside the house.  Today, it’s not so simple.  A couple key strokes on a cell phone or keyboard informs an unknowable number of people of a family’s daily routine, weekend agenda or vacation plans.

Trolling public sources for burglary targets isn’t new.  Burglars used to check newspapers for funeral or wedding announcements to find dates homes would be empty.  Now, social media provides a rich resource for that information.  With social sites like Facebook and Twitter and photo sharing sites like Flickr, people broadcast to the world when they are at soccer practice, where they’re going for dinner, detailed travel itineraries or pictures taken of the family at grandma’s house, Disneyland or a ski resort in Austria.

By applying caution and a little common sense, you can stay connected to friends and family through social media and still protect your home’s security.

The Basics
Most social network platforms offer privacy options allowing users to restrict access to posted information.  However, often the default settings are open and few people set up the increased security settings.  This privacy protection loophole is exacerbated by the social media companies’ frequent changes to their security policies.
• Never post any information or pictures you wouldn’t be okay with seeing posted on an interstate billboard.  No matter how secure your privacy settings, if someone wants to get access to information on the Internet, hacking is possible.
• Take the time to activate the security settings and regularly review them.  This is even more important now that Facebook and Twitter have opened the status updates of their members to Google’s real-time search.
• If your kids use social media, keep control of their security settings, know their “friends” and talk about safe online behavior.

Know your “friends” … and your friends’ friends
• If you post personal information on a social networking site, make certain you know and trust everyone who has access to it.
• Talk to your friends about their security settings.  If Aunt Fran posts pictures and “tags” your family, you want to know who she allows to see that information.
• If a member of your family or a friend does post information that could be a security risk, ask them to remove it immediately.

While you are out
• Wait until you return from activities or vacations before posting information about it, including pictures.  Pictures uploaded while on your dream vacation in Italy lets everyone know you’re far from home.