Social insecurity: While you're having a ball and posting to social media, who's watching you?

CINCINNATI - A status update, an Instagram post or a tweet: They seem like a way of life. And, it might not seem like a big deal to post what you’re doing, who you’re with or where you are online.

But even the most savvy of posters and social media users aren’t completely secure on social networks.

As 9 On Your Side reporter Kathrine Nero and community manager Libby Cunningham learned, It takes about 15 minutes to find out what people are doing in downtown Cincinnati.

First, they went to Over-the-Rhine and typed "#ThisIsOtr” into the first function of Instagram. The popular hashtag aggregates tweets and photos taken in OTR. This simple move showed where residents or patrons are eating, running or spending their money.

A search for Fountain Square yielded photos of a team of young adults, wearing crazy hats and participating in a lunchtime Olympics-style event; that’s where Kathrine and Libby met Tess (last name withheld for privacy), who was posting pictures of the event on Instagram. 

From her account, it was easy to gather where she went to high school, where she works and how late she works. She was not alarmed about what we learned.

“I wanted people to know I’m here,” Tess explained. “I wanted it to be known. I don’t feel like it was anything dangerous.”

A 2013 study of millenials (by Raytheon and the National Cyber Security Alliance) found "young adults who’ve grown up using Facebook and other social networks are at ease with online technology and comfortable sharing their personal information." 

Although the millenial generation (people between the ages of 18 and 29, more or less) might not be concerned with the risks, a local mom experienced the nightmare social insecurity creates.

Through her daughter’s Instagram account a stranger was able to contact her child.

“From the rest of the night on from 10 (p.m.) until the next morning, we received 35 FaceTime attempts,” she said, adding that she contacted police about the matter.

Her daughter still has nightmares about the incident.

“The night that it first happened I was very scared, and worried that somebody could actually know where we live,” the mother said. "It’s definitely an eye-opener.”

So what are some tips for staying safe while posting?

  1. Every device has its own privacy settings, so disable the GPS and location services on every one. Not just in the app.
  2. Keep checking your settings, they could change without warning
  3. If you’re at an event, consider posting a photo or status after the fact, so people don’t know you aren’t home
  4. Keep in mind that although you might have secure privacy settings, people you are tagging may not, meaning others who are friends with them could see your posts


Resources: Tip sheets and other information from the National Cyber Security Alliance

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