Being safe and smart when using the Internet is an issue that has been around since the rise of chatrooms and the exploitation of naive individuals by social predators. In other words, forever. The emphasis on being safe and not giving away details has always been young children or teenagers, since they’ve always been regarded as more trusting and the natural prey of social predators. It was assumed, of course, that adults would be more practical and less naive. As usual, we took for granted the processing power of the human brain.
While social networks like Facebook can give you access to invitations to parties and special online contests, it also opens you up to other things, such as:
- Being served legal papers, like the Australian couple who missed payments on their home loan
- Getting arrested, like the burglar who was nabbed by police via Facebook
- Being murdered because you changed your Facebook status, like this woman
- Getting fired because you surfed Facebook while you took a sickie like this woman
- Being outed by your wife when your job requires as much anonymity as possible like the head of Britain’s MI6 intelligence agency
- Getting fired because you decided to write your own book about your students like this teacher, even if it did contain the real names of your students
- Getting fired because you complained about work like this teacher
Of course, there are also real life incidences for which I have no links, for example:
- A certain relative’s girlfriend whose photo of her in a bikini was hijacked and put on a Malaysian porn website.
- Numerous instances when the opening conversation upon meeting some friends began with, “Oh my god, guess who just changed his/her status on Facebook to single/in a relationship”.
- An email that went around with the whole email thread of an employee of an Australian company who was fired because he took a sickie after a night out drinking and decided to declare so on his Facebook.
- Acquaintances who you haven’t seen for years creepily knowing almost everything that’s going on in your life because you or your friends put it up on Facebook.
Your first reaction might be that these people were idiots (which is quite likely to be true) and should have set their privacy settings properly. Well, think about it. If your manager asks you to be his friend on Facebook, do you say no? Even if he doesn’t, many companies have an IT policy allowing them to log your every key and browser history so they know exactly what websites you visit and what you type. Not many are aware of this because, let’s face it, who bothers reading the IT policy?
These are real issues facing real people. What may seem like an innocent statement may come back to bite you in the ass, especially if the practice of firing employees for comments, suggestions or insinuations made on social networking websites becomes common practice like it has in Australia and America. It’s about time that people start being smarter about social networking. Here are some suggestions to prevent any unintended issues when on a social networking site:
- Don’t forget who can see what you’re typing or putting up. Even if you’ve set your privacy settings to only allow approved people to view things, think about who has access to it. Can people who were not meant to see it (e.g. colleagues or bosses) have access to it?
- When posting photos, think about what you’re posting. Is this something that you wouldn’t mind going around? There is always the inherent possibility that someone will save the photo and put it up somewhere else, even if he is your friend.
- Be mindful that your work computer could be monitored by your company’s IT department, and excessive social networking while at work can raise red flags. Read your company’s IT and Privacy Policies carefully.
- For God’s sake, if your boss is a friend on Facebook, don’t advertise the fact that you’re taking a sickie when you’re actually not ill on your Facebook page! Also, don’t call him an anally retentive asshole, no matter how anally retentive he is.