Where Does Your Personal Information Live?

March 23, 2012

You’d be surprised to find out how much of your information is out there. Your data lives in hundreds of locations online and may even be sold without your permission. Yet, a lot of people maintain trust and feel confident when searching, buying and socializing online–believing their personal information gets lost in the sheer volume of online transactions that take place on a daily basis.

Your personal information can be found through:

  • Search people databases such as Spokeo or Intelius
  • Major search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing
  • Social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn
  • The deep web – the part of the web that cannot be accessed through ordinary search engines

How does your information get there in the first place?

That’s easy. You offer it up. Consider all the things you do online: emailing, shopping, social networking, banking and many more. All of these actions require us to surrender personal and, oftentimes, financial information. It is difficult to always consider carefully where your information goes before sending it into the infinite abyss of the Internet

Here are a few pointers:

1. Check a company’s privacy policy before you sign up for their service. Is it going to sell your information to the highest bidder? If so, think twice before entering your information.

2. If a company doesn’t disclose a privacy policy, don’t provide them with any personal information.

3. Always opt-out when asked to if you are OK with sharing your information with third parties.

We face a serious trade-off between privacy and convenience. Short of never going online, it’s almost impossible to keep all personal information off of the Internet, but that doesn’t mean we have to give up online privacy all together. We just need to make more of an effort to be stingy and vigilant behind the keyboard.

Location-Based Services Raise Privacy and Security Concerns

March 6, 2012

With apps like Foursquare and Facebook Places, you can share your whereabouts anytime, anywhere, linking yourself to real world locations. Sounds like a fun and useful feature, right? Maybe… but also potentially very dangerous!

Location-sharing services are popular features on social media sites, but they can also expose another layer of personal information that puts your security at risk. Criminals monitor Facebook and Twitter pages to secretly track their target’s location. And considering that the average home burglary takes just over 10 minutes, a quick trip to the grocery store could grant enough time for a potential break-in.

A quick Google search reveals multiple incidences of criminals using social networks and other interactive websites to target victims. Here are some simple steps to protect yourself:

  • Don’t announce that you will be out of town for trips and vacations.
  • Limit the usage of location-based services like Foursquare and Facebook Places.
  • Don’t share pictures that reveal your address or landmarks near your home.
  • Don’t give detailed accounts of your daily routine online.

It is also important to pay close attention to your privacy settings to ensure that you don’t “overshare” with complete strangers. Only trusted friends should be able keep track of where you are.

10 Tips to Protect Your Identity on Social Networks

February 27, 2012

Our privacy risks increase, as we are encouraged to provide more and more information online. Identity theft and fraud are some of the more serious consequences of over-sharing, yet most people do little to protect their personal information online. In fact, nearly 13 million people are accepting friend requests from strangers, particularly of the opposite sex, according to a survey by Harris Interactive in 2011.

Most recognize that no one should ever share Social Security and driver’s license numbers, but there is other, less obvious, information that can be used against you in malicious ways. Exposing the following information increases your security risk:

  • Full name (in particular your middle name)
  • Date of Birth
  • Hometown
  • Phone Numbers
  • Relationship status
  • School Location/Graduation Date
  • Pet names (popular security questions for password recovery!)
  • Travel/Vacation information

With the serious consequences of “over-sharing” in mind, we put together a Top 10 ways to protect your online privacy:

  1. Review the privacy and security policies of any third party apps (e.g. Farmville).
  2. Don’t offer up sensitive or personal information (see previous list).
  3. Only invite people you know to join your social networks.
  4. Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know.
  5. Set privacy settings to only allow friends to see your content.
  6. Never open links from someone you don’t know.
  7. Create unique passwords and user names for all social media accounts.
  8. Make sure you log out of public computers completely.
  9. Use a social media monitoring service like Reppler to help you identify potential security risks.
  10. Google yourself regularly to see what kind of information people can find about you.

Some of these tips may seem obvious, but a lot of people continue to use social networks with little concern for potential dangers. And if these don’t seem like enough, and you want to take additional steps to protect your identity, we recommend signing up for identity protection service from TrustedID to help you monitor all of your personal information.

Protect Your Professional Image on Facebook Timeline

February 10, 2012

On February 14th, Facebook Timeline will go live for ALL users, signaling a final departure from the traditional Facebook profile. Timeline is a visual aggregation of your Facebook History. From the book you read in 2005 to the movie you watched last month to the song you’re listening to right now, Timeline shares all.

Users need to recognize the risks involved with Timeline. Once you have Timeline, it reveals pictures, status updates and events chronologically from when you first started Facebooking to the present time. This means that people will be able to scroll through your history, potentially discovering posts or pictures you’d rather leave in the past.
Here are four simple steps to help you “clean” your Timeline—so you can continue to convey a positive Facebook image:

1. Make your profile private: Go to Privacy Settings > “How You Connect”. Switch “Who can post on your Timeline” and “Who can see posts by others on your Timeline?” from “Public” to “Friends”.

Go to Privacy Settings > “How Tags Work”. Switch the settings for “Maximum Timeline Visibility” from “Public” to “Friends.”

2. Limit your audience for past posts:  Go to “Limit the Audience for Past Posts”. Click “Manage Past Post Visibility”, then “Limit Old Post”. Now, your past posts are visible to your Friends only, even if you initially made them public.

3. Hide or delete posts:  Click on the edit button at the top of the content item and choose “Hide from Timeline” or “Delete Post”. You’ll need to click on each month and hide or delete all of those posts individually.

4. Delete posts from other Timelines: Go to “Activity Log”, click on “All” to see all of your posts, comments, likes and events, organized by date. Click on “Your Posts” to see all your posts and comments on other people’s Wall, and delete anything that could be considered inappropriate

5. Monitor your profile:  Use a monitoring service like Reppler to ensure that your profile always projects the “you” that everyone from your parents to your buddies to a potential employer should see. Set up your Reppler account so that you will be notified as soon as flagged content shows up on your profile.

If you’ve been on Facebook for a long time, “cleaning” your Timeline can be time consuming. But it’s well worth the effort!

TrustedID Acquires Reppler to Deliver Industry-Leading Reputation Management

February 2, 2012

We are excited to announce that TrustedID, an industry leader in identity theft protection, has welcomed Reppler into its family of services. Reppler’s advanced reputation management and protection services will strengthen TrustedID’s award-winning identity safeguards in the realm of social media.

According to the 2011 Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report, identity theft remains the top consumer complaint. And in this digital age, we are constantly sharing personal information online–essentially granting outside access to this information.

In fact, with something as simple as your name, address or phone number, identity thieves can gain access to your Social Security number, credit cards, and more. At Reppler, we recognize that monitoring your online image across various social media accounts is a large part of identity protection, as users often unintentionally reveal information that pose reputation and security risks.

While integrating Reppler into TrustedID’s services marks the beginning of a new chapter for us, we want to ensure our users that your service will not stop. For now, you will receive the same service you’ve been using, and we will keep you updated about any further developments in the future. If you have questions or concerns, feel free to get in touch with us on Facebook.

Pre-Employment Social Media Screening Deemed Legal

June 22, 2011

The incredible boom of social networking sites signals the beginning of an era in which job hunters have to show off more than just an impressive resume. Your online presence and reputation has become an additional focus in recent years, and the number of job applicants that have been turned down due to inappropriate social networking content is rising. In 2009, a CareerBuilder survey revealed that 45% of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates, with Facebook and LinkedIn noted as the most popular sites. But since the use of social media in the hiring process raises a lot of tricky legal questions, many companies still refrain from integrating social media screening into their employment practices. That is likely to change now…

Last week, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission Act dropped the investigation of Social Intelligence Corporation (SIC), a start-up company that provides in-depth background checks for employers including research from social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Social Intelligence complies with the Fair Credit Reporting Act and anti-discrimination laws by filtering out protected information with regard to race, sex, color, age, national origin or religion, therefore eliminating the risk for employers to get caught up in discrimination charge.

We think it is important to understand that the service offered by Social Intelligence will make it even easier for a potential employer to find out information about you that may be used against you in the hiring process. AllFacebook, an unofficial Facebook blog that provides news, tips and guides on anything related to the social networking giant, cautions users to apply their privacy settings more carefully, as more start-ups with similar services are likely to follow, and social media screening may eventually become an integral part of the hiring process.  Social Intelligence reports include information about explicit photos, profanity, racist remarks (or the “liking” of a racist Facebook group) and any involvement in illegal activities.

We encourage you to clean up your Facebook profile as soon as possible and to use your privacy settings more effectively, if you haven’t done so in the past. SIC does not just screen your Facebook profile on a one-time basis and then discards the information, but actually archives files of Facebook users for up to seven years, even after you deleted inappropriate posts, photos or status updates. With that in mind, we also suggest that you set up your Reppler account so that you will receive instant notification (by default we send a weekly summary) if there is any flagged content on your profile. You can chose your own content categories, including drugs, alcohol, adult content and derogatory language, and Reppler will notify you immediately if you or one of your friends posts something on your wall that is considered inappropriate.

What do you think about this information? Do you care that there might be a file of your Facebook usage archived for several years?

Google Launches New Privacy Tool, Me on the Web

June 17, 2011

At Reppler, we currently focus on monitoring social networks and Facebook in particular, but since we recognize that there may be other, possibly damaging information to be found via search engines, we want to give you a heads up about a new Google privacy tool that assists you with monitoring other web content. Designed to help users protect online privacy and identity, the new tool, Me on the Web, is easily accessible on the Google Dashboard and encourages you to keep track of your personal information as it appears on the web. While Google Alerts already enables users to receive notification whenever their name is mentioned online, the new tool provides additional links to resources about how to protect personal information online and remove unwanted information.

Already existing Google tools make it possible for users to post or search online under a pseudonym, but damage to your reputation often originates from outside sources. As Google states in their Me on the Web announcement,

Your online identity is determined not only by what you post, but also by what others post about you — whether a mention in a blog post, a photo tag or a reply to a public status update.

With an incredible boom in social networking sites, it is alarmingly easy to lose track of any personal information that is spreading through the web. Privacy and online reputation management has become a major issue in recent years, not just in the US, but worldwide. The recent and somewhat extreme case of Gennette Cordova serves as a chilling example for how fast social networking can get out of control and have a serious impact on your reputation and your privacy. Overnight, her name and personal information were displayed all over the web as she got caught up in the scandal over Representative Anthony Weiner’s photographs. So if you want to control how you are being perceived in content that can be found through Google, the Me on the Web tool may be a good start.