Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Why do you post what other people ask you to?

Note to friends.

Sometimes, a Facebook message, E-Mail, comment or other, suggests that you type something into your status or comments. That may not always be a great thing to do.

Right now, there is a popular Facebook image going around suggesting that you type in the '@' symbol, some other symbols, and some combination of numbers from your cell phone. What happens is that Facebook ends up replacing it with some other words, usually a person's name.

Here's why this is not a good thing to do:
1) You are typing something into Facebook (known for their high regard for your privacy) that you have know idea what it will do. In this case, it is fairly innocuous. It simply is interpreted by Facebook as a macro to replace with the title of a page it knows about. I could give you a special number to type in there and it would replace it (for all of your friends to see) with the title of the page "I am Gay". Sure, no harm. But, you had no idea what it would replace it with that. What if it was the title of a page that was very offensive to you or your friends. What if it replaced it with your Facebook password. Or it randomly picked a photo that you had deleted in the past that you didn't want shown. The point is, as soon as you type something into Facebook that you are not sure what it does, you are at risk of something happening of which you have no idea.

2) Sometimes, even things that look safe, can give away a little bit about you that you don't want to give away. In this case, you might have just put in the last three digits of your phone number, and it converts it into words. Someone could easily convert those words back into part of your phone number. With that, and other information about you in Facebook, it would be simple to figure out the entire phone number. Maybe not a big deal, but that is probably more information than you planned, or realized you were giving out.

So, before you type something into your status that a friend, acquaintance, or stranger tells you to. Stop. Think about it. Do you know exactly what it is going to do? Are you prepared to share your decision to do that with all of your friends?

Finally, notice that I am NOT asking all of my Facebook friends to put this in their status.

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