What your friends share online could be putting your personal info at risk


Protecting your information online may not be in your hands but in the hands of your friends.

“I use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, pretty much all the general ‘what the kids are into nowadays,” Christina Marquez said.

Marquez says social media helps her stay in touch with friends and share her interests.

“I personally like wildlife. I like trees. I like birds. I like a lot of food too,” Marquez said.

Sharing is nice, but when you tag a friend or check in at a location, you put yourself and others at risk.

“I'm not sure it's really a nice gesture if you tag somebody publicly,” said Eric Freudenthal, an associate professor of computer science at UTEP.

Freudenthal said tags and check-ins can leak more information than you would think.

“If somebody tags you in a picture, that means they have associated themselves with you. They have indicated what your name is, and that you've been at particular locations,” Freudenthal said.

Armando Melendez said he only uses social media occasionally.

“I stay up to-date on bands and events,” Melendez said.

But apps can mine for any available information. Freudenthal said he was surprised to read some of the details in a foreign language app's terms and conditions.

“The app wanted permissions to my address book and if I didn't give it that set of permissions it wouldn't run. It just insists on it,” Freudenthal said. “meaning someone else could allow an app to gather your information.”

It doesn't stop there. Public records are constantly shoveled to the web.

“Property owner information is public, of course, phone directory information. If you ever made information public, assume it has been recorded. People who own it will sell it,” Freudenthal said.

We used the website True People Search to see what we could find on the spot. We found Marquez’s address and a list of her relatives, including her grandmother.

We found several of Melendez’s relatives listed and they show up on his Facebook too.

Freudenthal said quitting social media isn't necessarily the answer but being careful about what you share on public profiles can help.

Also, remember to check the list of demands an app has before downloading it.

That could protect you and others you have listed on your phone.

To remove your information from the True People Search website scroll to the bottom of the homepage and click on privacy. From there, follow the step-by-step instructions on the site.

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