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Posted on Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 11 a.m.

Are you oversharing online? Think before you post!

By Kristin Judge


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To find out how much of your information is online, just do a search of your name. Surprised? The Pew Research Center did a 2010 study called “Reputation Management and Social Media” to find out how much personal information we are sharing.

The unofficial answer is too much! Surprisingly, the study found that adults share even more freely than younger users. And we thought kids were more revealing online.

In my last column, I wrote about protecting your kids from making poor decisions online. Usually it is the kid’s behavior that is scrutinized, but parents can unknowingly expose their kids by posting too much information.

Again, think about the 542 "friends" you are sharing information with online. We recommend our kids not share birthdates, school name and other identifying information.

But, when a mom announces online that her daughter turned 16 today and got her license, we have her date of birth. Then the next post could show a link to her winning high school sport’s team news story. Next, comes an announcement on what college they were just accepted to.

Can you see the beginning of a personal profile? Does each of your “friends” need to know this personal information about your child?

Summer vacation season is coming up soon, and I’m hoping this column can influence people to think before posting details online. When people go on vacation, they may stop the mail and newspaper delivery, have a neighbor bring in the trashcans and set light timers in the hopes of stopping a potential burglar.

We certainly do not put a "gone fishing" sign on the door when we leave town — inviting criminals to take advantage of an easy mark. So, why do people insist on sharing their itinerary and real-time photos online when they go on vacation?

I understand the urge to share that beautiful picture on the beach with your closest 542 "friends," but know that the information you share can get into the wrong hands. A quick online search will show examples of people who have been robbed as a result of posting too much information online. All the great details of a vacation can still be shared; just wait until you get home!

Recently, some companies made news by requiring employees to share their Facebook passwords. Employers often conduct online searches of a potential candidates to see what information they have posted. Colleges have also been known to check prospective students on social media sites. Being a believer in personal privacy, this makes me a little uneasy.

However, we all need to remember that the Internet is not a private place. Once information is posted online, we give up control of that information. It is important to own your digital footprint. Don’t post anything that can be misinterpreted.

Even when you take all the right steps to not overshare online, others who do not practice the same restraint can impact you. In fact, I have found myself in situations where photos of others and me at various events or activities were posted on friends' social media pages without my permission.

As much as we like to share pictures, we need to consider the other people in the photo. Posting pictures of yourself is one thing, but when you include others, you should use caution and understand the implications.

Today’s Quick Tip (QT):

Think before posting personal information online. Keep these questions in mind:

Who will see it?
What can they do with it?
Why do I want or need to share it?

To get more great information about staying safe online, including access to free monthly newsletters, webcasts and more, visit the Center for Internet Security at Stay tuned for our next chat!

Kristin Judge is the Director of Partner Engagement for the Center for Internet Security, Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center. She can be reached at


Elaine F. Owsley

Fri, Apr 13, 2012 : 12:06 p.m.

I'm not a fan or a participator in the "social media" craze. It amazes me that so many people are so sure that the world wants to know every little detail of their lives and will fill pages with personal information. I prefer to take the "witness protection prohibits exposing myself to every person with a computer" approach. What you don't tell, they won't know and use.


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 6:59 p.m.

The first hit of my name that is actually me is like 10-12 pages deep in Google search. I'm not unhappy about that

Woman in Ypsilanti

Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 3:34 p.m.

Most of the information that you are suggesting not be shared is a matter of public record anyways. If someone wants to know your kid's birthday, they don't have to wait for you to say something about your kid getting a drivers license, they can get it for free from any number of sites designed for that purpose. Anyone willing to pay a few dollars can get a lot more information than just a birthday. As for announcing vacation plans on social network sites, that is kind of the fun of a social network site. I used to refrain but then my house was broken into anyways so now I just don't bother to censor myself and guess what? No one has broken into my house! I suppose if you are really worried about it, post a picture of a scary dude with a gun and announce that he is your housesitter. Sheesh! And as for pictures, I don't care who is in them, I post them. If someone who is a friend objects, I'll remove it but generally I am sharing my life and there are people (usually strangers) in the background and I don't feel I owe it to them to refrain from posting on the internet. I do have a rule about social networking though. I never post anything that I wouldn't want my mother or my boss to see. That is pretty easy since both my mother and my boss are my Facebook friends and neither are the sorts to get bent out of shape if I happen to post pictures of myself having fun. My one concession to privacy is that I don't use my real name in internet forums like this one.

Sarah Rigg

Fri, Apr 13, 2012 : 1:26 p.m.

Actually, Dcam, I've worked for several newspapers, and none of them allowed anonymous sources, except in extremely limited cases; even if it was a case where you could use one, usually you had to have one or two other sources who backed up the legitimacy of their claims before using an anonymous source. Most reporters would strongly prefer to name all sources except if they were just using someone for "background" info and not direct quotes.


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 3:57 p.m.

Of course, there are those who want to deny you the ability to keep your name private on forums such as this - in fact this is one them. For some reason, they are of the opinion that ones name should be public record when making comments - like the old newspaper opinion letters required. For what reason I can't imagine, unless one's a part of an organized political lobbying group or other vested interest - in which case it would be beneficial. Knowing Jane or John Doe's real name on a comment, though, adds nothing, given they'd be unknown to the vast number of readers - it's just a comment. On the other hand, newspapers and journalists covet their secret sources of information from 'anonymous' and 'unnamed' sources. The gatekeepers are hypocrites still. print or on-line. Rules for them and separate rules for the public. As for me, social networking is not appealing. I have no interest in friending anyone, and I'm sure few would care to friend me on-line. My opinions and the reasons for them are mine alone, and I rarely embrace opinions of others fully for various reasons.


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 3:29 p.m.

"Diarrheaist," a word the existence of which I only became aware today, has been around for 8-10 years. It is defined as "n. A person who shares too much online, particularly personal information." See for a brief discussion.