Idiot teenager’s gaffe proves we have no clue about Facebook privacy

Today, an Australian teenage girl’s indiscreet Facebook post led to a break-in and robbery at her mother’s home.

The girl, 17, had been helping her grandmother count the 72-year-old woman’s personal savings. Apparently wishing to impress her friends and the world at large, the teen snapped a picture of the cash and uploaded it to Facebook.

Within hours, masked robbers showed up at the girl’s own house with a knife and a club, breaking in and stealing cash and personal possessions from the teen’s 47-year-old mother.

Local police issued a general warning to Facebook and other social network users that they shouldn’t be total nimrods about what they post and who they make their posts visible to. The teen’s home address was listed publicly on her Facebook profile; fortunately, the robbers didn’t have the grandmother’s location.

Cops have asked citizens to “be cautious” when using social media. We would add to that subdued note: “Use the sense God gave a horse and don’t share your location, or anyone else’s, publicly on the Internet. Ever.”

We’ve already given our perspective on why public checkins are a pretty bad idea, especially for more vulnerable demographic groups such as young women flying solo. But location-sharing isn’t limited to checkins. The same provisos should apply to sharing your location publicly via location-tagging for images on Twitter or adding your address to your Facebook profile.

The teen in this cautionary tale didn’t only endanger herself and potentially her elderly grandmother; she also put her mother directly in harm’s way.

Facebook takes a lot of heat for its stance on privacy, but all thing considered, the network is a relatively neutral sharing platform that will let you expose as much or as little information as you want — up to and including residential addresses. Ultimately, our privacy is up to us, and if this one young lady’s behavior is any indicator, we still don’t have a clue about how to cover our own butts on the Internet.

Image courtesy of Couperfield, Shutterstock


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