Many online alerts and notifications signal your real-life movements to the outside world. Location-based apps are trusted tools for keeping clients, colleagues and friends updated on your whereabouts. However, before you “Check in” everywhere, all the time, it is important to think about who exactly can access this information. Your old school friends? That funny guy you met at the airport? Their connections?
Awareness is key in avoiding the consequences of over-sharing your location online. Consider these potential risks before you set up an e-mail or social media notification sharing your holiday dates or where you’re meeting to discuss that important merger.
Posting geotagged photographs
The automatic geotagging features of smartphones and digital cameras can help you track where exactly you have taken your pictures. Photo-sharing websites that support the integration of geospacial metadata will quickly map and pin each of the locations when you upload your photos.
This is a handy feature, especially for photographers and travellers. However, when you post smartphone pictures of the lavish banquet at your boss’s house party via social media, you should be aware that the GPS coordinates of your exact location will automatically be shared. The extent of the risk probably depends on the value to the person watching. It can be linked to your public persona, your boss’s net worth, or your combined professional connections. Either way, it is wise to take care. Cyber stalkers can quickly turn into real-life stalkers once they can identify your location.
Try to avoid using the geotagging function when posting photographs, especially from inside private or business locations. Or use a metadata removal tool to delete the automatically embedded information before publishing photographs online.
Sharing your location via social media
Geolocation apps are becoming increasingly popular. Many people also opt in to automatic location sharing with every post on Facebook and Twitter. Not only is it fun, but in some cases it can be extremely useful to keep your connections consistently updated on where you are.
The only problem is that shadier characters may also want to know. It is best to make sure that your location tagging feature is disabled on Twitter, especially when sensitive business meetings are taking place, when you are visiting important clients, or when you’re at home. While hardcore stalkers may be able to use a simple app to check exactly where you are tweeting from, it is better not to broadcast your address by geotagging your tweets.
So the more difficult you can make it for strangers to access your personal information online, the better. If you are making use of social media sites that support geographic services, also try to take extra care in controlling who can access that information.
Out of Office auto-reply details
As far as Out of Office replies go, a fairly standard option can provide a treasure trove of details for opportunistic criminals. Your full name, the office phone number and the name of the co-worker standing in for you can be leveraged to gather more personal details from publicly available directories. Social engineering attackers and burglary syndicates have been known to send out mass spam mail in order to collect the details provided in your Out of Office auto-reply.
A spam filter can of course help to reduce this risk. Still, it is best to remove your professional e-mail signature and keep your message concise. Simply saying that you will be “unavailable” communicates to the receiver that you won’t be able to pick up their e-mail for the specified period, without leaking personally identifiable information to the bad guys. Rather point the receiver to an alternative contact person who can then reveal more details if need be. Depending on the scope of your work, another option is to turn off your auto-reply to people outside your organisation.
As with most things in life, you can’t avoid taking some risk. Reveal enough information to be respectful to the people that matter, but not so much that you become a target for those with bad intentions. The secret lies in being mindful about how, when and especially with whom you share your location online.