I’ve been asked a few times why I don’t share pictures (or any data) of my little daughter on the intertubes.
Well, it is not true that there is not a single one of her available. If you know a few not publicly available details and where to look / what to search for, you may be able to find a single image showing just her. And there is one other picture she happens to be visible on, and that is my wife’s Facebook profile picture that shows our whole family at our wedding. So that’s not a photograph of her alone, and you can’t see too much of her on it. Besides the first image, there is not even one online mention of her name on the internet, and I want it to stay that way.
I take care of what I share on the internet and with whom I share what kind of information. It’s a bit tricky to keep track of that, but it’s possible. As an example, I’m pretty sure that no one knows my middle names, without having in person heard them from me or someone who knows them. Well, at least, Google doesn’t know them, which is a good indicator for that. Oh, and by the way, if you know them and haven’t heard them from me, then please tell me who told you. I need to sort that out… 😉
So, why exactly is my daughter’s name and images of her such a secret to the public (= non friends & family)?
It’s because I want to protect her. And it’s because she is (better: she will be, at some day in the future) the only one that should decide what should be shared about her.
Social engineering is a threat
So what it is, I want to protect her against? It’s a very easy form of social engineering to gain her trust later. The sad thing is, that it’s not just very but extremely easy.
I want to give an example: What could be the problem of sharing a picture of her, now when she’s about 20 months old, in our garden, together with her uncle and any other random person that is well-known to our family while playing with a ball?
This is not a problem now, but let’s pretend since that very day 2 and a half-year passed, and she’s in the age to be an attractive target for a child abuser.
Well, this bad guy could see this old picture on a social network. Analyzing the picture’s metadata (not necessarily the date on which the picture was shared) he knows when this picture was made, and potentially also the geo-coordinates where it was taken, because modern smartphones or cameras do add these information to the image data. He then probably simply follows the connection graph of family members and their friends to find out the names of all the people on the image. It’s even more easy if those people are tagged.
With all this information, he can make up a story around this day – she won’t remember that for sure. She probably only knows the situation from the very same picture as her single memory of that occasion. So he could go like “Do you still know me? I’m that friend of your uncle Martin and Pete. I was around when we played with that red ball in your grandpa’s backyard and helped you get up again after you hurt your ankle.” The last thing is totally made up, but nobody remembers such a small injury – but of course, he helped her out. That’s for sure a nice friend of Martin and Pete she had so much fun with.
And then he goes “Martin said, I should pick you up and bring you to your Mom. She’s back from work early and want to go to the city with you to buy some nice clothes. Perhaps you will get some ice cream too?” That’s it. She’s going with him.
And all this just because too much information was shared. Information, that is harmless in that specific context, but can be combined to design a seemingly authentic story a little girl can’t look through. The more information you share, the better the story can get, the more trust that person can build up.
Is it real?
The example above of course was made up. But it was made up in a time where burglars already check your Facebook timeline to find out when you’re in vacation and then check Google Maps and Google Earth to determine the best way onto your ground and where to vanish unseen with all your stuff. Such a story is possible, and someone will eventually do that or already did that, and I just didn’t read about it.
If you share, think about what and to whom
I also found some good advice in this other post over here at reputation.com.
Of course the zero-sharing path I chose may be not the right thing for you. If you really want to share, then make sure what you share. Remove metadata from pictures before uploading them. And make sure, with whom you share. Most social networks have options to only share with your close friends or certain groups (like your family). And you can make sure that those people are not able to re-share this in larger circles.
This is, what this post is about:
Use those features. Take control of your information flow. And make sure that you don’t share information that could be abused easily.