Facebook introduced a few years ago an application called “Check in.” If you access Facebook on your smartphone and check in to a restaurant, for example, your location, the time, and a map will be posted on your Facebook profile. The application uses your Global Positioning System (GPS) location (if your phone has it) or other online location services. A Facebook friend can also check you in by “tagging” you at their place. Social networking by showing where you are? Social networking is truly surveillance capitalism technology.
Using this application will pose a risk to you because it automatically posts details of your whereabouts to anyone who has access to your profile page. If your security settings are set to “Friends Only, ” this is not a significant concern (unless you associate with known criminals). However, if your settings are set so that anyone can see your profile updates, this could interest hackers, burglars, and anyone who decides to search for you.
Currently, the Check-in application is only accessible on the mobile version of Facebook. Other sites, like Twitter and other social networking apps, do the same.
What to do to minimize Social Networking Risk
You can easily lock down specific settings to avoid posting too much information. In the case of Facebook, you need to do the following:
- Click “Account” then “Privacy Settings.”
- On the first page that appears, click “Customize Settings.”
- To control who you share with, do the following:
- Under the “Things, I Share” heading, disable “Include me in ‘People Here Now’ after I check in” by un-checking the box
- Change the “Places I Check Into” tab by clicking on the drop-down menu on the right, choosing “Custom,” “Only Me,” and then “Save Settings.”
- To stop users from posting your location on Facebook, go to the “Things Others Share” section:
- Click the “Edit Settings” tab to the right of “Friends Can Check Me Into Places.”
- Click the drop-down menu, and choose “Disabled.”
- The last step is stopping the application from automatically posting your location. You do this by going back to the first page entitled “Privacy Settings”:
- At the bottom of the page is a section entitled “Applications and Websites.”
- Click “Edit Settings,” which is highlighted.
- Click the “Edit Settings” tab next to “Info Accessible through Your Friends.”
- Un-check the boxes and, once completed, click on “Save Changes,” then “OK” on the confirmation
Follow these instructions, and you should be reasonably safe, but remember that a determined individual could learn a lot about you by preliminary studying your social networking apps.
Given that many of us spend a lot of time online, we should all double-check that we’re not giving too much information away.