5 On Your Side

Digital oversharing may help hackers steal users' data

Posted November 29, 2017 6:00 p.m. EST
Updated November 29, 2017 6:03 p.m. EST

— The back-to-school photos, the family vacation pictures and the images of young children that populate many social media posts are routinely shared by social media users. But those images could unwittingly expose a user's private information.

While many parents want to share the fun, adventure and memories made by their children during family outings, there are things that social media users should consider before posting. Consider your child's opinion because older children may not want their parents posting certain things. And things that seem cute in the moment may not be so cute after that moment has passed. 

“Even a very innocent photo of your kid naked in the bathtub might haunt them down the road since nothing on the internet truly goes away," said Bree Fowler, an editor at Consumer Reports magazine who follows privacy concerns.

Experts say another big concern that parents should be concerned about is a child's digital identity.

“Seemingly harmless information like your child’s name, their age, what they look like, where they go to school, all of that information can be used to create a profile that a hacker can use down the road for identity theft," Fowler said.

And parents should be cautious about sharing a picture of a child’s actual location because that could provide hints about their home or school.

Consumer Reports suggests adjusting privacy settings on favorite social media sites. For example, users should set their Facebook posts to go only to “friends,” rather than the entire public.

Facebook users also should consider tightening their circle of friends even more by creating a list of “close friends.” Another option is creating a closed Facebook group, which requires administrators to approve everyone who requests access to the closed group.