Privacy & Security

Why do people share so much personal information online?

The other day I asked a colleague, in the shared working space I use, what she would like to know more about and it started a conversation about what people share online and why they feel compelled to, or comfortable, sharing it. This is a topic that I really enjoy talking about, so today I’m going to delve in a bit further as to why I think some people over share and why I think it’s important for you to think through what you’re sharing online.

Private discussions have found their way online

In years past, people sat around in their living rooms and backyards having heated discussions about all sorts of things, often voicing controversial opinions. While these conversations still happen, they‘ve also moved online. The problem with this is that instead of having a small private conversation amongst a few friends that conversation is now accessible to the public, potentially forever.

Do you believe that every opinion that you have should be available to the general public? I know I certainly don’t.

I believe people are sharing their opinions thinking that they’re only talking the way they always have and not taking into account or understanding Google’s reach. Google doesn’t forget things, including the comment you left on a blog post way back in 2007 (I found a few of those when working on this post ;) ). 

This means that making a conscious decision about what information and which opinions you share online is very important. While you may very well be willing to share your opinions online, the key is to make a conscious decision and realize that a permanent record of that opinion can be accessed by anyone.

Why does it matter if we say controversial things online?

The things that we say impact the way people view us. This is key. How do you want to be perceived by the people who can find you online? 

You need to think about who might end up looking you up. Potential employers, potential employees, and potential clients are all likely candidates to do a bit of searching online to get to know you better.  What will they find?

When you Google yourself, would you be happy for a future employer/partner/employee to find everything that you find?

How well are we adapting?

While some people are very careful about what they post online, many don’t take into consideration that what they say online can impact how people view them. For example, many people would never say anything they believe to sound racist, but do they realize that complaining about work online could impact future employment? Do they realize that constant negative commentary could affect someone’s opinion of their overall attitude and how they would fit on a team? Taking that a step further, do they realize what they say about other people (including their children) can have a lasting impact on other people’s reputations?

Here’s an interesting infographic on some of the things people share online:

More and more, we want and need to be online personally and professionally. Understanding how to do that responsibly is a step many people haven’t yet taken. Take some time to figure out what you want people to think about you (this is your personal brand) and whether or not your actions convey the same message.

What do you think about what people share online? Do people share more than they should?


Privacy, security and hackers...oh my

Several weeks ago, LinkedIn had an enormous security fail when 6.5 million user passwords were leaked. Since that incident you can add sites like, Yahoo and, most recently, Formspring to the list.

Some people may be wondering what the big deal is. You change your password and move on.

Not so fast, my friend. Let’s think about this:

1) How many of those people use the same password for every site they sign up for (yes, even their bank)?

2) How many of those people who use the same password everywhere are your friend on Facebook? (The one place you share your kids’ names because it’s “private”.)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Your information on Facebook is only as secure as the weakest password amongst 300 of your closest, nearest and dearest friends.

How many of your friends’ Facebook accounts have been hacked in some way? Just among my friends, I’ve seen about a dozen friends get hacked over the years. It’s happened to friends who are self-proclaimed luddites and those who are fairly tech savvy in equal measure.

If we connect the dots of the LinkedIn password leak and Facebook friends using the same password for both networks, how many of your friends do you think use the same password for both? Probably a decent number of them.

I used to.

I don’t anymore. In fact, my project for 2012 just got kicked into high gear when I heard about Danny Brown’s Facebook account being hacked over the weekend.

Beefing up online security

 My New Year’s promise to myself was to be more secure with my data. So, I’ve started implementing the use of a password manager (LastPass) and creating unique and randomized passwords for every site. Given the number of sites I have memberships on, the only way I’m willing to do this is with a password manager. 

I think you need to join me in my challenge. Take some time to learn about how passwords are stored online and what makes a strong password (pro tip: complex doesn’t always equal unhackable). Sadly, the five most common passwords are:

  1. password
  2. 123456
  3. 12345678
  4. qwerty
  5. abc123

Number one just boggles the mind.

Knowledge is power

Does it scare you to think that someone might try to access your accounts with malicious intent? It is kind of scary, but here are a few more important points for you to think about:

  • The Internet isn’t private. It IS public, even if you’re in a walled garden like Facebook.
  • Any password is hackable: Strong and long passwords are hackable. Long ones just take longer.
  • If you aren’t 100% fine with seeing it on a billboard in Times Square, it probably doesn’t belong on the Internet.
  • You need to thoroughly review privacy settings on Facebook (read Danny’s post for more info).

You don’t have to fear privacy and security breaches as long as you remember these things and stay true to who you are. Your authenticity will reduce the impact of a malicious attack. 

Have you ever had a web-based account hacked? What did you do?