Social media has changed the way people interact with each other in both good ways and bad ways. It’s amazing to connect with people all around the world or to find a long-lost classmate from seventh grade. It’s something else altogether, though, to find yourself in a compromising situation because of something you posted online.

One of the more recent features of different social media sites like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter is the ability to broadcast live video to your followers. This feature can be fun and entertaining or even educational, but if you’re not sure how the platform works or what kind of surroundings you’re broadcasting from, you may be unhappy with the results.

1. How long is my video accessible, and who can see it? – Those questions depend on the platform you’re using. Twitter’s Periscope or the Meerkat platform, for example, are available to anyone who chooses to click on your name. Facebook Live can be limited, meaning you can broadcast to everyone or just to your friend’s list. Instagram Live, though, is by default set to allow anyone to see your video; you have to adjust that setting yourself if you want to keep it private.

As far as how long the video is available, there are key differences you should know before you press the button to go live. Instagram Live videos are gone the moment the camera turns off, but Facebook Live videos can repeatedly be viewed and at a later time.

2. What’s going on around you? – You’ve probably seen some viral videos with hilarious background images, such as an adorable wedding couple sharing the first kiss during their beach ceremony only to have a man in a tiny swimsuit standing behind them. It’s not so funny when the visible area behind your video contains anything incriminating, illegal or simply embarrassing.

Remember, depending on the platform and the settings, you might not control who can see your video. If anything behind you is a dead giveaway for your location, any of your identifying information or even the answers to typical security questions (i.e., posting a video on your birthday and mentioning it), you might be sharing far more than you intended.

3. Is this content allowed? – Each platform has regulations for what is and isn’t permitted, and it’s up to you as the user to know what they are. Obviously, behavior that violates copyright—like broadcasting live from a concert, movie, or other ticket-holder events—is a no-no; even if you don’t necessarily get in trouble, it’s still theft, and it’s wrong. Broadcasting live for anything other than journalistic reasons from a crime in progress can also land you in hot water with both the platform and law enforcement.

If you want to go live on social media, you need to be smart. Know how your platform works, understand your privacy settings and surroundings, and make sure it’s approved, beneficial content… then smile for the camera and enjoy!


Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

April the Giraffe became an internet sensation in 2017, bigger perhaps than any pop-star-behaving-badly, for her adventure park’s YouTube live stream of her pregnancy and delivery. It took a little longer than expected, but she gained a following of millions of viewers for the birth of her first baby to be born at the park, Tajiri.

At that time, many people had a tongue-in-cheek criticism of the whole sensational affair: how would you feel if someone broadcasted your pregnancy and delivery to the entire internet?! In fact, in recent years, more and more hospitals have instituted policies against this very thing, banning video cameras, digital cameras and even cell phones from the delivery room to give the mom and baby both some privacy.

Obviously, April didn’t seem to mind either the jokes or the constant attention directed towards her medical condition. Hopefully, she’s just as calm about the April Cam going live once again for her next delivery. But that doesn’t mean we should be so laid back about our own privacy and oversharing of personal information.

Oversharing happens when we post more information or content online that might be safe. It could be sharing too many details in your social media profiles, entering information online without finding out where it will end up, even posting photographs that in hindsight probably shouldn’t have been made public. In any event, oversharing is a serious problem that can lead to consequences like identity theft, account takeover, repercussions at school or in the workplace and more.

In order to avoid oversharing, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Social media settings – Who can see your posts? Do you know how to keep others’ prying eyes out? Depending on the platform, such as Facebook versus Twitter versus Instagram, you have options when it comes to keeping your content limited to people you personally know. To check up on your privacy settings, log into your account and go to your profile. Note: that’s not to say everyone must lock strangers out altogether, but it’s good to know how to set up your preferences and change them if you wish.
  2. Locations – If you have location settings turned on for your phone or other devices, you might be handing a criminal the exact location to where you’ve taken a photograph, even down to which room in your house. A concept called geotagging incorporates these coordinates into the digital file for the image, and when you upload that image, you can retrieve the coordinates by someone who accesses the picture. In order to keep your location under wraps, be sure to turn off the location settings for your device’s camera so, anyone with malicious intent doesn’t come looking for the flat-screen TV or MacBook in the background.
  3. Sensitive content – Finally, once you’re certain that the posts aren’t giving away too much, really think about what’s in the post, photo or video. Is this something that paints you in the best light? What will an employer say about it? Is it embarrassing to anyone in your family, including your kids?

Remember, April the Giraffe may not understand that millions of people around the world watched her every move—including an event that most people consider to be very, very private—but you and your friends or family might care a great deal. Protect your privacy and your dignity with safe, smart sharing behaviors.


Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

The era of the Internet of Things ushered in innovations, better convenience, and more personal safety, but it also brought with it a host of security flaws.

Wi-Fi routers were some of the first devices to be attacked on a large scale, giving hackers access to entire networks. Wireless medical implants have also been infiltrated, leading to terrifying speculation about what a nefarious operative could do with access to a patient’s pacemaker or an insulin pump. Now, even our homes can be a target… not just the devices in the home, but the building itself.

The Ring doorbell, an IoT gadget that replaces your existing doorbell, connects over your home Wi-Fi to your smartphone. It lets you “answer” the door with your phone, giving you the ability to see who is at the door, hear that person’s voice and even speak back. The range on Ring is virtually limitless since the home Wi-Fi is talking to the smartphone app, which receives its signal over Wi-Fi or cellular. You could answer the door while you’re at work or on vacation, theoretically thwarting an intrusion.

Ring even offers the ability to record what’s going on outside the house, turning your doorbell into a security camera. There have already been several instances where the homeowner’s Ring either prevented an attack or led to an arrest in a crime.

So what about the flaw? Ring has to connect to your smartphone via its app in order to offer you this convenience and peace of mind. The app is installed on every users’ phone in that household, or at least the people who should be answering the door. One Ring user found out the hard way that the app remains connected to the doorbell even if a particular smartphone owner no longer lives at the residence and even if there’s a password change.

The Ring owner in question made news recently after suffering a romantic breakup. Unbeknownst to the homeowner, the member of the relationship who’d moved out was still able to access the video footage from the doorbell and therefore was able to see who was coming over. This person was also able to ring the doorbell at any time, including in the middle of the night.

The problem was in the way the account and the app “spoke” to each other. Changing the password on the account didn’t block anyone or require the password to be re-entered on the app. Ring has now announced that they’ve fixed this flaw but also reports that it can take up to an hour to remove someone’s app access once the password is changed.

This issue might seem minor compared to other kinds of newsworthy security breaches, but it demonstrates a few key points about our technology. First, we might be a little too quick to adopt the latest connected device, especially if it doesn’t have all the bugs worked out. Also, what are we giving up when we download an app or connect a new gadget to our Wi-Fi? Finally, those permissions and passwords that we turn over to an app don’t work the same way in every app, so it’s up to consumers to understand how it functions.


Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

The very first selfie is believed to be a photograph of Robert Cornelius in October 1839.

He stood in his family’s backyard to snap the self-portrait, which in that day meant holding very still and facing the camera with a rigid posture for anywhere between three and fifteen minutes, depending on the available light. Even then, there was no guarantee that the photo would develop correctly, be framed around the subject in the right way, or even survive the test of time. (Spoiler alert: it did, and it’s a pretty neat photo!)

The technology behind photographs has come along way since then, but the fascination with taking our own pictures has only gotten stronger. Now, selfies even have their own holiday—National Selfie Day on June 21—in spite of the millions of people who celebrate the occasion on a daily basis.

The purpose in a selfie can range from harmless fun to serious work (like submitting a headshot when a potential employer emails you), but no matter why you do it, there are some important physical, emotional and privacy safety concerns to keep in mind:

1. Physical Danger – It might seem like a bit of funny satire, but there have literally been safety manuals written on how to take a “safe selfie.” The Russian government released its top ten safe selfie tips quite some time ago, including important hints like don’t take a selfie while leaning off a bridge or skyscraper and don’t walk out into traffic while taking a selfie. Before you scoff, remember that Yellowstone National Park has to remind visitors which places within the park are safe or unsafe for a selfie!

2. Emotional Safety – If social media has taught us anything, it’s that bullies and trolls can strike at any time. Some reports show that selfies can be addictive and can place too much emphasis on cultivating our outward appearance. It’s safe to assume that most selfies uploaded to sites like Facebook and Instagram probably get the same response: “soooo cute, luv u!” Unfortunately, selfies have also been known to lead to extreme cases of bullying. A simple celebratory post from your teen that says, “So excited to finally have my braces off!” can be met with derogatory comments like, “Yay, now lose 50lbs and you might look halfway decent.” While these comments are sadly not limited to callous teenagers, they are quite likely to be victims. It’s important to talk to your teens and tweens about what’s safe to post, what privacy settings to enable and what to do if someone engages in this way.

3. Privacy Control – Now we get to the real problem with selfies, namely, your privacy. There are quite a few privacy concerns you should be aware of before posting that image. Facial recognition from platforms where uploading photos area major issue, as is government data collection for “faceprint ID.” Some sites are finally giving users control over whether or not they can store and tag faces, but it’s not widespread for every platform. Reuse and altering of shared photos online is another key concern, as is geotagging of your photos with precise coordinates to the location of the photo.

Celebrate your confident, happy, best-face-forward self with a snapshot if you choose, but remember to keep all of your safety considerations at the forefront of anything you share or post online. Say cheese!


Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

Fourteen million Facebook users recently woke up to an email in their inboxes, informing them of another privacy issue with their accounts.

According to the message, between May 18 and May 27, a software bug within the company turned some users’ private posts into public shares. Even after they found the bug on May 22, it still affected some posts.

The privacy settings you choose for your Facebook posts are “semi-permanent,” meaning once you choose either “public” or “private,” all of your posts will fall under that setting unless you manually change it. The issue with the bug is this: Facebook’s software switched that setting to “public” for millions of users without their knowledge and without Facebook employees realizing it. All of the content that the affected users posted during that time (believing that their privacy settings were still active) were made public.

Facebook apologized for the error and instructed users to go back through all of their posts since that date and reset them to private. But as the latest in a long string of privacy blunders (both intentional and accidental), users may be becoming more and more frustrated with the platform.

Part of the frustration may come from the familiarity we have with social media and the internet. We’ve moved on from the days when this “newfangled” concept left us feeling cautious about where our information might end up and who could see it; now, too many of us are either unconvinced that anyone cares about stealing our data or unconcerned with how they are using it.

A survey about phone scams and similar crimes revealed our attitudes towards our personal privacy. While senior citizens are still more likely to lose a slightly larger amount of money to a scammer, millennials are more likely to fall for a scam in the first place. Experts who evaluated the findings attribute it to two things: first, younger people may mistakenly believe they are less of a target than older, more naïve consumers, and because millennials may put more trust in technology and their privacy. Another factor seemed to be an “oh well, my information is already ‘out there’” mentality in younger consumers who’ve already endured years of record-setting data breaches.

For users who are concerned about their privacy and data security on social media and other websites—and let’s face it, that should be everyuser—it’s important to take every precaution when it comes to what you share and how it gets spread. Whether purely by accident or as part of innovating their platforms, every website could change how it operates; that means users cannot sit back and trust that the account settings they enacted a few years ago are still adequate to protect them today.

The old advice still rings true: nothing is ever truly private on the internet, and nothing is ever really deleted. If you let that tongue-in-cheek advice guide your content posts, your privacy awareness, and your habits concerning monitoring your accounts, you can feel a little more confident with what you share online.


Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

Standing in long lines, waiting to get into your favorite singer’s concert could soon be a thing of the past.

Ticketmaster has announced a new wave of technology that is already testing at certain venues in limited markets. Now, instead of handing over your ticket or scanning your phone’s screen at a concert, sensors can capture a peek at your face and compare it to your stored facial parameters. Just smile and wave as you breeze through the turnstile, right?

However, the process, which takes less than a second, is far from foolproof. Developed in conjunction with Blink Identity—a company that has developed this technology for military applications in the Middle East—Ticketmaster’s use of this kind of tool has already got security experts scratching their heads. What happens to your stored facial data? Who else can use it? How is it being protected?

More importantly, if Ticketmaster can use a nanosecond glimpse of your face to identify you in a crowd, then who else can do it, and how will it be used?

There are some less obvious concerns than the futuristic “what if” of using this technology for mass surveillance. First, there’s very little in the way of legislation concerning this kind of recognition and tracking, at least in the U.S. Only three states—Illinois, Texas, and Washington—have laws to protect the public from the unauthorized use of their faces or other biometric markers like iris scans or fingerprints and there are no federal laws in place at this time.

Another key issue is understanding who may already have this data and who can access it as a third-party to that company. Facebook, for example, rolled out facial recognition quite some time ago based on photographs that users uploaded and tagged with names. Any company that is entitled to use Facebook’s stored data could potentially use facial images and accompanying usernames. Currently, a class-action lawsuit over this practice is still underway.

Self-incrimination is another chief concern among advocates for stricter control over facial recognition. If merely walking down a street means surveillance cameras can spot you and put you near the scene of a crime at the correct time of day, the burden of proving the case shifts from investigators proving that you’re guilty to you having to prove you’re not.

Finally, a new report by The Independent demonstrates that facial recognition as a crime-fighting tool was ineffective in 98 percent of the cases. These findings, culled from freedom of information requests, found that only two out of 104 alerts were able to identify facial recognition from public surveillance cameras in the U.K. correctly.

As new technologies are developing and implemented, it’s important that lawmakers work to keep up with the potential uses—and abuses—of the innovation. While legal precedents remain, it will be up to consumers to determine for themselves what level of biometric use will make them comfortable.


Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

Following the recent Facebook/Cambridge Analytica incident, the social media giant is taking steps to help users have a better understanding of their terms of service, as well as, allowing users to personalize their settings.

The Facebook terms and data policy have been updated to explain how they collect, use and share data from your profile. And it’s requiring you to review before going further with your social session.

Users can now remove information they no longer wish to share. This includes religious views, political views and dating preference. Facebook will allow users to adjust privacy settings to pick who gets to see this information. However, if users decide to provide this information, Facebook will use it to personalize features and products tailored to your preferences.

As far as the ads that appear on your Facebook page, you can now control whether or not they use your data to personalize them. Facebook can collect when you make online purchases, download apps, like a partner’s page and when you make an in-store purchase from one of their partners. So if you purchase a phone online, you might see ads for phone cases and phone chargers. If you decide to disallow Facebook from collecting your data you will still receive ads; they will just be randomized.

Facebook is also allowing users to turn off facial recognition. This technology helps Facebook recognize when you appear in photos, videos and the camera. It also helps protect you from strangers using your photo, find photos you’re in that you’re not tagged in and tell people with visual impairments who is and is not in a photo. However, you can still tag yourself in photos and report fake profiles if you do decide to turn off the face recognition option.

Users can go to their settings at any time to make these changes. All of this information is on Facebook’s updated terms, data policy and cookies policy. It also states that Facebook will clarify how they are using data so users can make decisions on whether or not they want that data collected.

The most important privacy setting isn’t in your account, though, it’s in your own behavior. Never post anything—a photograph, a viewpoint, or even an offhand reply to someone else’s post—that you would not want shared with others.


For toll-free, no-cost assistance, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

There is a hoax going around based on speculation in a now-deleted article, one that claims Facebook will owe all of its users $17,000 each. The article was suddenly removed, but that hasn’t stopped others from repeating its message that Facebook users are entitled to a payout.

The issue behind the hoax is the recently uncovered misuse of profile information for around 87 million Facebook users. Investigations are still underway into exactly what happened and how far the misuse went, but a third-party app paid Facebook for access to members’ profiles, then apparently sold that information to other sources.

When the article about the compensation was first written, it cited a UK privacy law and mentioned that Facebook could be responsible for paying its UK users that amount, if a court found reason to order it. As with any kind of rumor, the claim morphed a little every time it made the rounds until other sources began stating it as a fact.

Hoaxes like this one rarely harm people who read them, but users need to worry about scammers who are taking advantage of the buzz surrounding this event. Even if Facebook was somehow found to be at fault in this event, the type of information that was accessed by outsiders isn’t the “sensitive” data that might trigger credit monitoring, no-cost credit reports or other compensation.

For more information about whether or not your profile was accessed and what apps and websites can even see your information, visit Facebook’s Help Center and search for the name of the company that accessed millions of users’ accounts, Cambridge Analytica.


Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

It’s easy to understand why a lot of users enjoy meeting new people and new potential love interests through the Tinder platform.

Unfortunately, there have been some encryption issues in the past. The “full-sized” website seems to be relatively secure, according to a recent security analysis, but the mobile device app had problems with encryption. That’s especially troubling when you look at the volume of messages that are passed along via Tinder. The company has reported traffic levels of 1.6 billion messages sent between users each day and, without secure encryption, someone with the right skillset can intercept, gather, or even alter a user’s messages and images.

Now, a new security issue has been reported to the company. Rather than just being able to break into your messages with other users, a researcher was able to exploit a security hole in Tinder in combination with Facebook’s Account Kit tool, and actually take over a user account. Fortunately, the researcher was actively looking to see if there was a problem; he contacted Tinder and Facebook with the details of the flaw, enabling them to issue a security update.

Cybersecurity issues are a daily battle and can seem more like an ongoing war. The bad guys find new ways to steal data or manipulate it, and the good guys rush to reinforce the security and protect the people. Every time a new security measure is created, hackers find another way to break through the defenses and experts step in to correct it.

That leaves the users trapped in the middle, and unfortunately, there have been catastrophic identity theft events as a result. Rather than shunning all technology or apps in an effort to protect yourself, you can develop some good security habits instead:

1. Watch out for oversharing

Whether it’s too much personal information or even a picture that you wouldn’t want to fall into the wrong hands, think of your data as being thrown into a giant mixing bowl. The person who’s supposed to receive it is the only one who should be able to access it, and in a perfect cyber world that would be true. If you remember that someone else could reach into that bowl and grab it instead, you might be less likely to share something that could hurt you.

2. Lower-level security is fine for lower-level results

If you’re using your laptop in a coffee shop to search through online job boards for employment, you’re probably safe. But that same coffee shop’s Wi-Fi connection also makes it so those same job boards are no place to enter your Social Security number or other sensitive information. The same is true for sites like Tinder. Swiping right to meet a new person is fine, but sharing personal details and images is best left to more secure communication methods and not an app.

3. Always make sure your device software is up-to-date

Anytime you’re using a socially connected platform, it’s important to make sure your antivirus and anti-malware software is installed and up-to-date. Remember, if you don’t install the latest updates, you’re not protected against the latest threats.


Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

The world has enjoyed Comic-Con, DragonCon, WriterCon, and more…so now it’s time to take on PrivacyCon.

No, you won’t need to cosplay as your favorite piece of antivirus software or the latest ransomware attack mode in order to take advantage of the event (although that might be interesting), but rather you’ll want to focus on the latest innovations and expert findings surrounding our privacy.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, who is once again hosting this event, “The 2018 PrivacyCon will expand collaboration among leading privacy and security researchers, academics, industry representatives, consumer advocates, and the government…The 2018 event will focus on the economics of privacy including how to quantify the harms that result from companies’ failure to secure consumer information, and how to balance the costs and benefits of privacy-protective technologies and practices.”

In order to understand the changing landscape of privacy in the connected, digital era, the FTC will examine a few key topics as part of PrivacyCon, including the greatest threats to our privacy and the costs associated with reducing (or even eliminating) those threats. From a business and industry standpoint, experts will weigh in on the costs and benefits of moving to personalized, tailor-made security solutions rather than the more common “off the shelf” and a one-size-fits-all approach.

Interestingly, the FTC will also be exploring the relationship between businesses and consumers’ own privacy preferences. Individuals have been cautioned for a quite some time to ask the hard questions about how their information will be securely stored and who will have access to it; companies have been urged to reevaluate what data they gather and store, and why. This relationship between industries and the level of consumer comfort will finally be addressed.

Finally, PrivacyCon will focus on what steps lawmakers can take to mitigate the threat of data privacy fails, keeping in mind that every industry has unique needs for data and very specific threats that target it.

PrivacyCon is a free, open event that the public is invited to attend. Those who cannot travel to Washington, DC for the event are invited to join in via webcast of the live proceedings. In order to join in, visit the PrivacyCon page on the day of the event; the link will appear at the top of the screen ten minutes before it launches.


Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.