Posting a quick pic online is so easy (and so fun!). And who wouldn’t want to see that adorable face your dog is making while posing on the front porch? Unfortunately, what’s not so easy is keeping all those photos—and the information that can be gleaned from them—private. In the wrong hands, your online photos could be used against you to gather personal or financial information that could endanger your identity or even put your family at risk. Here are 8 types of photos you should avoid posting online to better protect yourself and your family.
Your Photos in the Hands of a Criminal
Most online photos seem innocent enough. “I’m going on a trip!” “Look at this great prank my co-workers just pulled!” “My kid loves this playground!”
What could a criminal do with such harmless images? Experts say, plenty.
Depending on what you post, a motivated cybercriminal could learn all sorts of valuable information about you from your photo stream, including your phone number, date of birth, the name of your bank, your current location, your home address, account numbers, passwords, the names of your children, their school, caretakers’ names, playgrounds they frequent, and the list goes on.
Cybercriminals with access to your information could use it to commit financial fraud, such as trying to open new credit accounts in your name. Others may use stolen images or identities in catfishing scams in which online predators steal photos (often from social media profiles) and use them to scam other people for financial gain or to lure someone into a fraudulent online relationship. In other cases, hackers may use pilfered photos to blackmail victims for a ransom.
In perhaps one of the least harmful circumstances, some bloggers or websites may inadvertently post a private image on their site without getting permission.
Parents: Watch Out For Digital Kidnapping
A special warning goes out to parents, as posting pictures of your children—or someone else’s children—on social media networks could put children at risk of “digital kidnapping.” According to reports, online predators may steal photos of children to claim that the children are their own, post the photos to inappropriate sites, or learn more about a child.
Resist the Urge to Post These 8 Types of Photos Online
Even if you have the strictest of privacy settings on your social media networks, experts say that you should assume that every photo you post online will be public. With that in mind, here are eight types of photos you should avoid posting online.
- Boarding Passes and Travel Plans – Posting a photo of your boarding pass online is a definite don’t, according to experts. Hackers could use it to access your frequent flyer information, passenger name record (PNR), phone number, date of birth, passport data, and even departure and return dates. Plus, when you post a travel itinerary or a geotagged vacation photo or video, you’re essentially announcing to the world that your home is most likely empty. It’s advised to wait until you are safely back home before posting your vacation photos online.
- Pictures With Geotags – Did you know that when you take a photo with your smartphone, it likely logs your GPS coordinates and stores it in the metadata, which is hidden information embedded into the image? You can learn how to remove geotags from your photos on an iPhone or Android, or learn which social media sites (Facebook, for example) automatically strip the location information when you upload an image.
- Your Home Address – Being proud about buying a new house or completing a remodel may prompt you to want to post a front porch pic. But as long as someone knows what city you live in, a bad actor could search through addresses using your house number, and then use Google Street View to confirm the location. If you want to publish a photo of your home, make sure you block out the house number first.
- Photos of Your Desk – Depending on what type of information you keep in your cubicle or office, posting a photo in which your desk is visible could expose your confidential information or that of your employer. Sticky notes, invoices, or files could be zoomed in on and searched for information like names, account numbers, and passwords.
- Name-tagged Photos of Your Children – Experts advise not to post name-tagged pictures of your children online, as you can never be completely sure that only your friends will see the photos. For example, a friend could have his or her phone stolen or forget to log out of a social media site on a publicly accessible computer. If you want to post pictures of your children online, avoid using their real names and remove any geotag information.
- Pictures of Other People’s Children – It’s best to think twice before submitting photos of minors on social networks. According to reports, laws regarding photos and videos of minors are changing and may vary by state. For example, if you run your own business and want to share photos from an event, make sure that you comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), before posting photos of children, the operator of a website has to remove some information, such as geolocation metadata and identifying information.
- Event Tickets – One man reportedly had his $650 ticket to the World Series stolen after he posted a photo of the ticket on Instagram. Most modern tickets have a barcode, which can be copied from an online photo and used to create a duplicate ticket.
- Credit or Debit Cards, Birth Certificates, Anything Containing Personal Identifying Information – These should be pretty obvious, right? Don’t do it.
If You Think Someone Is Using Your Private Image Online
If you believe your images are being misused, there are actions you can take, including reporting the offense to the relevant social media platform or the police.