Are You Giving TMI?

The acronym TMI stands for Too Much Information, and it’s often used to stop people in their tracks when they are telling a story we really don’t want or need to hear, such as the details of their ingrown toenail operation, or the reason their toilet got blocked.  We all know someone like this, and in the age of social media we’re likely to get this TMI from their Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts, accompanied by lots of photos and the details you wish you hadn’t read.

Unfortunately, this tendency towards oversharing goes further than just the gory details of a trip to A&E, or that unidentified item you found at the back of the fridge. People also share details about their habits and locations, these details can be used by criminals to gain the advantage and burgle your home while you’re out enjoying yourself and posting a selfie every half hour.  A recent study commissioned by Yale asked 2,000 social media users about their posting habits.  We have to say, we are cheered to see that only 22% of people did share location information online; this figure would have been much higher a decade ago.  The high-profile robbery of Kim Kardashian in Paris, highlighted how easy it is for people to know where you are, and what you have from a single social media post.  This made a lot of people think twice about how much they reveal online.

Although most people are waking up to the fact that posting information about days out, and holidays, online can be a serious home security breach, there are still many people who can’t resist the lure of likes and comments on a great beach selfie.  A staggering 18% of respondents stated that the risk of being burgled was outweighed by the likes and attention they receive for the post.  Those who were aware of the risk continued to post TMI regardless of the danger.

What these people don’t realise is that tagging your location on a public post, and posting a picture or caption that clearly shows you are at that place at that moment is akin to leaving your front door wide open.  Only 20% of respondents in the survey considered that posting this information could have put their home security at risk; so there is still some awareness raising work to be done if this situation is going to change.

10% of respondents to the Yale survey suspected that they had been the victim of a crime as a direct result of something they had posted online.  This can be interpreted as many people realising that they shouldn’t post TMI, or that there is still an underestimation of the risk that posting location data online poses.  A similar number of respondents had not checked their privacy settings in the last six months, suggesting that the issue is actually complacency rather than an understanding of the dangers.

The first action to take is to check the privacy settings on your social media accounts.  All platforms have the option to restrict the visibility of what you post to a select audience and by ensuring only trusted friends and family can see your holiday snaps you can post away safely.  You should also check back through public posts to ensure you haven’t inadvertently given away clues to your routine – posting something like #TuesdayGymDay shows people you’re always going to be at the gym on a Tuesday, making that a great time to burgle your house.

Once you have taken these (very quick) actions you can start to become more mindful of what you post online and who might be able to see it.  You certainly wouldn’t walk into a rough pub and announce your address, and your intention to be out all night, so don’t do the same thing online.