Social Media Security Measures
I was visiting London last month, marvelling at the scenery and gasping at the prices they expect you to pay for a pint of beer, when I ended up in the middle of Piccadilly Circus, surrounded by the flashing neon signs and electronic advertisements. Suddenly, all the screens went black, and a loud cough could be heard from their direction, alerting everyone’s attention upwards. Even in London, where they elected a children’s TV character as mayor, this was an unusual occurrence, and caused locals and tourists alike to stop what they were doing, and stare up at the screens. There, they found that the image of a middle-aged lady was fading in, until her face filled every single one of the available electronic surfaces. She looked directly down at us all and began to speak:
“Greetings to you all. My name is Cynthia Evans. I live at 36 Shandy Street in Hackney. I am not there at the moment however, as I am on a month long safari in Africa, and will not be back for several weeks.”
She then faded from view, and the regular advertisements sprang back into life as if nothing had happened. People on the street below looked momentarily baffled and then returned to normal, or as normal as it gets in London. All except for a shadowy gentleman who had hitherto remained motionless. He grinned to himself, ran and jumped in the nearest taxi and as it sped off, I heard him shout “To Hackney, post haste!”
Dont leave your house a sitting duck for burglars
Not a word of this is true, obviously. And you should have caught on well before the “post haste” which was rather anachronistic for a modern-day setting. However, it serves at a sort of parable, if you will, like Jesus used to tell. Not that I'm claiming to be Jesus, of course. I should make that very clear right now, I'm not making that mistake again. Anyway, moving one, the truth is that, without realising, a great deal of the population do something very similar to what the soon-to-be-burgled Cynthia Evans did on a day to day basis, broadcasting to every Tom, Dick and Harry the fact that our properties are currently empty, making them a sitting duck for burglars. And I’m afraid to say that not every Tom, Dick and Harry can be trusted.
This year I have noticed many instances of friends and family on Facebook posting pictures and statuses in which they proudly announce that they’re enjoying overseas excursions or weekends away. And you could ask, well why not? If they’ve earned a holiday, what’s the harm with sharing this with friends back home? Unless they’re gloating of course, in which case, some of us are working here in the rain and dark nights and damn you all!
An issue arises, however, when the settings we have in place on sites like Facebook do not sufficiently protect us from the eyes of people outside of those we trust. Are you conscious of who precisely you are sharing your updates with? Instances of burglaries carried out by criminals who have chosen their target purely from the fact they have seen, via social media, the property is empty, have become more and more numerous. Resulting in owners who, forgive the pun, do not 'Like' what they find on their return.
Limiting who knows you are away
I'm trying not to be a party pooper here or to scaremonger people into stopping using Facebook. All I'm advising is that you take a look at the privacy settings you have in place and whether they are sufficient to keep you and your property safe. Every time you post on Facebook, there is an option to customise the people you're sharing with - simply click the little arrow at the bottom of the Status box. Your audience can be limited to your own friends, friends of friends, or Public, the latter of which, depending on your overall privacy settings, would mean any Facebook user could potentially be able to see what your post. Even when posting to Friends only, you can break down that list further, perhaps separating the more trusted ones from that man you once met in Wetherspoon's after 4 pints, and whom you might not be altogether happy knowing your house is empty.
The main message here is to just be a little bit cautious when on social media, and to realise that what we post there can have unintended effects in the real world. Facebook is not its own isolated bubble and what is posted there is often no more private from shouting to all and sundry on the bus, but on a much larger scale. In fact that could be the message to take away here - if you wouldn't be happy shouting it out on the bus, then be careful about posting it publicly on social media. But please don't start shouting out loud on the bus. You'll get a reputation.
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