7 Deadly Overshare Sins & Online Privacy Issues

7 Deadly Overshare Sins & Online Privacy Issues

30th April 2013

My first official post on State of Search was to do with protecting yourself from online fraudsters with a few words of warning re identity theft. After re-reading it recently I realised that I have slipped back in to old habits of posting my life so I thought I would revisit online privacy but this time not just for you – for your family and your kids too.

I have been noticing a lot more people being vocal online about the share and like culture and of course privacy issues are in the news so get out your tin foil hat and get ready to be reminded of why the only person that will look out for your online privacy and police your overshare is you!

1. EdgeRank Abuse – Check Your Sources

40% of time on Facebook is spent on the newsfeed while only 12% is spent on profile and brand pages – Comscore ‘Power of Like

EdgeRank is an Algorithm developed by Facebook to determine how and where popular posts appear in your news feed. I will no doubt be accused of scare-mongering but with the increase of fake caring and sharing to gain Facebook EdgeRank it’s about time that people realised that they are also part of the problem.

Many Classic examples can be found but the recent Boston Bombing photo of the little girl reported as missing but who was alive and well caught my attention as being not just something harmless to raise awareness. This was potentially distressing and damaging.

The photo below was probably from an entirely different race but had been selected, sympathy text added to include ‘Sandy Hook’, and set free’. I personally detest the ‘like if you agree/please share’ posts of the heart wrenching variety unless I know the source or the person. Unfortunately many of us blindly like and share because it appears in our newsfeed and others have liked it.


What can you do about it?

  • Think before you post and share –check your facts and check your sources. You can visit http://www.snopes.com to find out if something is true before you post.
  • Check your own privacy settings – how would you feel if this was a picture of your daughter that was being used as a poster child without your permission? (or theirs – see more below)
  • Filter out ‘offending’ posts – I have altered my Facebook settings so that serial offenders in the like/share anything ‘meaningful’ department no longer appear in my feed! (You know who you are!)

2. Please Rob me – Locational Privacy



An old classic causing rage back in 2010 www.pleaserobme.com provided up to date access to information regarding who had just left their house based on their FourSquare location data. Due to said rage, the site took down a lot of the original information and is now a privacy resource. You can still use the site to see where you’ve been checking in and sharing on Twitter.

The point is that although location overshare is fun in certain instances, much location data is ‘quietly collected by ubiquitous devices’ according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation and often without our consent. This is a link to an old article but the first article I had read on online privacy when I became aware of such things and it shows how fast we forget previous warnings. If you want to keep on top of who is tracking you without your permission this site has exceptional resources.

3. Take This Lollipop



You may remember this interactive ‘horror’ project from 2011. If you are not sure if you are sharing too much, then I dare you to view this application through your Facebook profile at www.takethislollipop.com.

This application made me realise that I was happily sharing information that when put all together it would be easy to fake my profile or give enough to go on should you want to pretend you’re me (I mean who wouldn’t want that?).

Take this Lollipop also made me realise that I may also be violating the privacy rights of others who don’t want to be found just by being associated as family using the Facebook mother/daughter/brother/sister labels. If you’ve already seen it, have another go, it may remind you of how awesome you are, or how much you have put online.

Although some may argue that if you are on Facebook you have already given up any rights to privacy, there are still plenty of Facebook Privacy settings you can use to keep information out of public feeds. I regularly check as these things change all the time – sometimes not in our favour. Remember – it is up to YOU to protect yourself, not up to the platform you are spending your time on.

4. Look at My Baby!



In fact, don’t just look at my baby, I’ve given you enough information to help you find out where my baby goes to school, where we’ll be on Tuesday…

As a new or seasoned parent it’s common practice to post pictures of your baby or your children online and particularly on Facebook. Of course if you have your Facebook Privacy settings nailed down, this can be a joy for both you and your online friends (unless you also overshare!).

If however you are a parent that posts a picture of ‘little jonny’ as your profile picture, suddenly you have made your child public to the world regardless of privacy settings and no amount of ‘please can you uncheck X and Y’ requests will change the fact that you are sharing at root level. Combined with your hometown, pictures of your house, where you hang out (along with some check ins), and someone could find out where you live, where your child goes to school, and you have given them a nice shiny picture of your child right there on your profile or timeline pic.

Not only are you increasing the risk of safety for your child (or pet/avatar!), you are making yourself harder to find. Posting a picture of your child as your profile picture actively prevents people you want to be contacting you from doing so as they have to message you to find out if that is really you. If that is what you want then that’s fine, but should you be using your child as YOUR ID?

Is now a good time to go in to the privacy rights of your future adult child?

It could be that generation X are so used to online sharing that they do not care, but what if your future grown up child didn’t want to give you permission to post their image all over the internet from first scan in the womb to 13 year old? It may sound ridiculous but, at some point your child is going to become self aware and either continue to embrace the ‘show and tell’ culture we find ourselves in, or be horrified we allowed it to happen.

Who knows? Future generations may be much more aware of privacy or worse, be much less aware that organisations such as hacktivist group Anonymous are fighting right now to stop governments from having access to your information via the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA).

I always ask permission of parents before I post any pictures of their children online and if they are old enough to understand I ask my friends kids in person if I can share their picture. They think I am strange for asking but it is only a matter of time before someone sues their parents for overshare and endangering their safety with reckless posting€¦  (well it ‘could’ happen)

5. Facebook Knowledge Graph

You leave yourself wide open to being targeted or being caught participating in questionable beliefs or practices if you are not aware of what you are allowing to be shown.

You are of course entitled to be into whatever you want to be into, but being aware that anyone with Graph Search can search for anything that you have allowed to be public is the first step to protecting your personal reputation and ‘brand’.

Much of it is common sense ie check privacy settings regularly. Just as you would keep searching and refining until your profile showed how you wanted it to – reverse the process and keep eliminating data until you show as little as you want to.

If you want to know why you should care – State of Search wrote a comprehensive article on the privacy issues with Facebook Graph Search

6. Dark Clouds Overhead?

Online data is exempt from traditional Fourth Amendment protection. The “unreasonable search and seizure” clause of the Constitution only applies to property that is in your possession, such as on your computer’s hard drive. Data stored in the cloud gets no such built-in protection. CBS News

cloud*tin foil hat time*

As SEO’s we probably don’t place all of our link building or client data in Google Drive due to the ability to connect the dots and the danger of having too much data in the hands of the ‘gatekeepers’ but how about personal files?

If you have taken to saving your life in the cloud, you might want to check who owns the data you are storing there. Using cloud services could mean that you have less rights when it comes to anyone retrieving your files and even fewer when it comes to Government access.

Google Transparency Data shows that Government requests are steadily increasing.

7. Get your FacePrints out for the Lads!

We are all keen to show our friends what an amazing life we have and how much of a good time we are having, then tagging everyone so they can show their friends too,  but should we be doing this?

A recent PCWorld article about online privacy suggests that photo tagging is helping to build up the largest facial recognition database in the world which means that identifying individuals in public places is going to become easier and easier. The article states:

“If Facebook used this data strictly to help you find other people you know on Facebook, it might be okay. But when Facebook sells user data to third parties, photo data may be included and the sanctity of the data afterward is uncertain. Facebook says it takes care to protect the data, but we don’t know how they do it”

The article ends by suggesting that platforms such as Facebook should obtain consent before using any sort of facial recognition system. What do you think?


(Do you really want to be recognised with this woman?)

End Bit

Someone once said to me – kids are already conditioned to be more aware of what they share – an inappropriate picture, video or nasty email can be shared round an entire school, so they learn quickly to take more care – adults on the other hand need educating.

I am always amused by people that say “I’m not signing up as I don’t want them tracking me” – follow the links in above you will see that you are already tracked. I would have added Cookies dropped on your computer but then there would have been more than 7. No doubt about it, cookies are increasing in number and even if you switch off the ability to accept cookies – apparently it is up to the site as to whether they respect the request so this may make no difference.

Anti ‘Socials’ are right of course, if you’re not on social networks, you are less likely to be profiled and shared around the globe against your will, but if you do choose to be there you can take steps to selectively share.

Big Brother has been watching us for a while, but it is up to us as to how much we let everyone else have access to!

Written By
Jackie Hole is an Award Winning Search Marketing consultant specialising in Paid Search, Conversion Improvement and Organic Search / SEO for the USA, Canada and European markets. Starting out in Multimedia & Interface Design, Jackie has over 15 years experience in online marketing and was recently awarded European Search Personality...
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