Here’s why your social media check-ins are such a bad idea

First published on Live SA

You know that feeling. That mild panic you get when you log onto Facebook, and see that you have dozens of notifications. If you’re anything like me, that panic soon turns to annoyance when it turns out that this is a result of someone having tagged you while checking into a place. Worse still, if there is a picture attached. Why? Because this is a violation of my location privacy.

You are putting people’s lives in danger

I have not always been able to argue my way out of being tagged, especially on Facebook, so I have always resorted to deleting the app. For a while, I was blissfully living without it until I started working in online media where a large part of my job is understanding how people consume the content we produce.

But in today’s world, oversharing comes as easily as breathing. Being the person always nagging not be in the selfie or to be excluded when our location is being tagged makes you come across as being rude. It was during a recent talk at our office from  IT lawyer Komeshni Patrick, from Endcode, that I realised how far-reaching the consequences of something as innocent as a tag on social media actually go.

She said that checking in, especially when tagging someone else, is a violation of that person’s location privacy. By tagging someone, you’re not only violating their privacy, but you’re also revealing exactly where they are at that moment (and where you’re not, like your home, for example). So in a crime-riddled country like ours, someone studying your movement through social media knows exactly where you are, what you’re wearing, where you like to hang out, who you’re with, and this makes identity theft easy.

Also, something as innocent as your birthday, and people writing on your Facebook wall, Instagram and Twitter feed, means that you’re giving people access to the kind of information normally used to verify your personal details. So someone knows when you were born, and using your LinkedIn bio they also know where you graduated and what years, and this makes it easy for scammers who want to steal your identity.

Even celebrities are starting to push back

In a recent interview with Vanity Fair, actress Emma Watson said that she says no whenever fans ask to take selfies with her. “If someone takes a photograph of me, and posts it, within two seconds they’ve created a marker of exactly where I am within 10 meters. They can see what I’m wearing and who I’m with. I just can’t give that tracking data,” she said.

Not only has the internet made the world smaller and made it easier for all of us to share our best lives, it has also made it easier for criminals to have access to data that would have been private, say 10 years ago. So think about that the next time you do that innocent check-in at your local bar for a night out on the town.


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