Your online accounts might store personal information about your age, where you live, you relationships or financial information.
It’s important that you know how to keep this information safe so that you don’t become a victim of scams or fraud.
In this section we’ll look at how to protect your accounts, including:
- Privacy policies and settings
- Location information (geotagging)
Whenever you sign up to any account online such as social media, email or banking, you’ll be asked to create a login name and a password.
What is it?
Your password is just one way to protect your personal information, so it’s really important that you chose something that no one can guess. It’s also really important that you keep it to yourself so that your private information stays private.
Why is it important?
We’re sure you’re aware of identity theft. If you don’t protect your personal information or use strong passwords, it’s easy for someone to access your information and pretend to be you.
They could apply for a bank loan in your name, access your funds, or take control of your mobile phone account. With enough information, they could even apply for a passport and travel in your name.
Can we guess your password?
Your password could be easy to guess, depending on the information you already share online. It’s not hard for these people to gather pieces of information together.
Here’s an example:
Your online banking password is your dog’s name.
But you’ve posted several photos of 'Scruffy' at the park this week. Thought you might try and mix it up to make it harder and your house number to the end 'Scruffy79'?
Easy! You posted photos of you and your beloved Scruffy standing outside your house last week also.
ThinkUKnow’s top tips for creating a password
- Use upper lower case letters, numbers and keyboard symbols
- Try not to use obvious choices like your birthday or name
- Longer passwords are better, ideally at least eight letters and digits
- Create different passwords for each account you use
- Change passwords regularly. It is a good idea to make a reminder to change it every 12 weeks.
We’ve created a on creating and protecting passwords to help you out!
Did you know that you could inadvertently be sharing your exact location with anyone in the world at any time? Location is another piece of personal information people need to carefully manage the sharing of online.
What is it?
Most commonly used on smartphones, location services such as geotagging and 'checking in' on social media can reveal where we are at any time. We can accidently share this information almost to anyone if we’re not careful about how we share this information.
Geotagging refers to the embedding of location data, such as GPS coordinates, in images taken on smartphones and tablets.
Most people post to social media from their mobile devices particularly smartphones, all of which have GPS. When a photo is taken with the GPS on, metadata is automatically embedded into it revealing location and time it was taken – known as geotagging. This can also occur in comments posted on social media, or instant messages.
Commonly used location features:
- 'Check ins' might be might be used by Facebook users who want to announce their location to friends
- 'Photo Maps' are used on Instagram and show your photos according to where they’re taken. Keep in mind that precise locations of your photos or videos are visible to anyone if your account isn’t set to private, including photos that might be taken at or near your house
Why is it important?
As we’ve already mentioned, when these images are shared online, so too is the location data revealing exactly where the image was taken.
While this is a great way to share your holiday snaps with your friends or family, there are some images where it’s more important to protect the location.
An image taken at home could reveal your home address. There have even been instances where someone has ‘checked in’ or tagged their location through social media while away on holidays, allowing clever criminals to then locate their home and break into it with the knowledge that it’s empty.
Personal information can be revealed in images and videos as well as text.
For example, a photo of a young person in their school uniform can provide the name of the school they attend and their physical location on weekdays. Read more about sharing content on the 'What we SAY online' page.
What can I do?
- Disable geotagging on mobile devices and social media accounts (if you’re not sure how, check the help page for the site you’re using)
- Turn your GPS off when you’re not using it
- Avoid checking in at personal locations, such as your home or other people's houses, school, work or sporting venues
- Talk to your friends about ‘tagging’ you if they ‘check in’ to locations
Include screenshots of photo mapping on Instagram.
Privacy policies and settings
Unfortunately, many people don’t read the privacy policies of the sites and apps which they use and may not apply the most appropriate privacy settings (which are rarely the default setting).
For many social media accounts, your profile picture and bio are often public, despite your privacy settings.
Most social media services have four parts to their terms and conditions:
- A licence agreement - This allows the service to change, add to, delete, publicly display, reproduce, copy, distribute, sell and use your personal information including your photos, posts, private messages, comments and videos without your permission. Snapchat has also changed their terms and conditions so they can now use your content.
- Law enforcement disclaimer – This means that these companies can provide information that was posted online to police for investigation purposes.
- Community guidelines – These are the rules around how to use the service, and consequences for breaking the rules, such as shutting an account down.