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Social Media Data Harvesting

It seems like everything on the internet these days is “social”. Social media web sites like Facebook, Myspace and Twitter allow you to share interests, opinions, pictures and many other personal things with your friends on the Internet. While sharing these things with friends is what these sites are made for, it’s not just friends that can view your personal information.

Social media harvesting is a new way of stealing identities on the internet. Data harvesters collect your personal data from many locations on the Internet and combine it. With all of this data combined, they can identify enough about you to steal your identity. Here’s an example.

Let’s say you open an account on Facebook. In your settings, you provide your full name and allow everyone to see it (this is pretty normal since no one would find you if they couldn’t search by your full name). To be safe, you set your facebook account settings to hide your city and state. Now, after creating your Facebook account, you decide to create a profile on Twitter. In your twitter profile, you provide your city and state, but use a screen name for safety. Lastly, you decide that you want to tell your friends on Facebook about your twitter account, so you place a link on your public Facebook profile.

The steps listed above are something that nearly anyone could do, but it’s a big mistake. If a Data harvester goes to your Facebook account and gets your full name, then clicks the link to twitter where they get your city and state, you have the beginnings of a problem.

Now, just imagine what kind of information a person could collect about you if you had profiles on 10 different social sites! All of this information combined could tell the harvester everything about you.

So, what do you do to avoid this?

I’m not going to tell you to go cancel all of your social media accounts; that would be a little drastic. I will, however, tell you to be careful and put thought into your actions. When you create an account on any social site, check to see what they publish publicly and if they have privacy settings. If they do, make sure your privacy settings are set up to hide un-necessary personal information.

By simply thinking ahead and keeping on top of your accounts, you can remain anonymous online.

Until next time, stay safe out there!