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There’s been a lot of news about the mining of our personal data by companies (and countries) to use for advertising purposes or other nefarious reasons.

Most Social Media users are shocked to see ads for items they were viewing on the Internet or ads for things they were searching for on Google, even pleas from companies where carts were abandoned to complete the purchase.

While some of these ads can be attributed to a tracking code that websites have to find their visitors on Facebook, etc. there are other ways companies (and governments) get our personal data. There are also some serious tricks hackers use to obtain more personal information to generate our passwords or even more personal information. There are also things Social Media users do that put their home and family in danger.

Here are 3 threats when using Social Media and how to be more responsible and protect yourself from having your data mined.

1. Quizzes and Image Apps

Let’s be honest, most of us have taken the quiz to see who our celebrity boyfriend would be or to find out what our coffee choice tells us about ourselves. We have used the apps to generate a photo that is more attractive than we truly are in real life or to see what we would look like old (enter the FaceApp craze.)

These apps and quizzes seem innocent enough and they are a fun way to pass time. However, if you look a bit more closely at the disclaimers when you get the results to share you would see that you are agreeing to share your profile data from the Social site where you share the results. Any information, updates, friends, interests, other pages you like, political affiliations are now legally accessible to the companies sponsoring these quizzes or apps.

As you probably know there has been a lot of news reports and legal issues behind data companies mining Social Sites to use information to send out very specific political images and ads (a lot of it nefarious.) The problem is ongoing for the Social Sites to deal with; however most of us are willingly giving these nefarious organizations our private information.

Currently, the app FaceApp has gone viral. FaceApp is owned by a Russian company. When you use this app you have given permission to this company to access your photo gallery and in their Terms and Conditions (that you have agreed to) they have the right to modify, reproduce and publish any of the images you process through its AI. Additionally, they have access to all your personal information.

There are a lot of companies working on facial recognition software for various reasons, using these image apps gives your image directly to the company for this purpose, which may or may not be safe.

2. Find out your Heavy Metal Band Name/Elf Name/Stripper Name/Etc.

Sure, these little images using the first letter of your last name and your birth month to find out your Elf Name, or using your dog’s name plus name of the street you lived on growing up to get your Stripper Name can be a lot of fun with funny results.

However, survey of 2,000 people by Google Apps revealed that the most common way people chose their password was using their pet’s name. Another in the top ten of password choices found in the survey by Google App is using your place of birth (city, street, etc.)

Combine this basic data obtained from this little game with the other personal information you have that can easily be found online and hackers can attempt to get your passwords to just about anything, like your credit card accounts, your bank accounts, and more.

3. Vacation Photos

This is still a big one, posting your vacation photos could put your home in danger of being burglarized.

Even though you have your private data settings locked tight, even though you are only sharing it with friends, there is still the potential for your photo to get out and for strangers to see you are enjoying your Disney vacation.

Of course, we all want to share our exciting experiences (and humble brag a bit!) However, posting your vacation photos advertises your empty home. There have been numerous reports of home burglaries while people are on vacation that were a result of vacation photos shared on Facebook.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t share your experiences with friends and family. Just do it after you return. Enjoy your vacation while you are on it and then let everyone know on Facebook when you are home!

Take Precautions and Be Safe

Social Media is fun and a great way to connect and stay in contact with friends and family. However, be mindful about how your data is shared.

Companies will get your data one way or another (my business relies on it!) Companies will continue to advertise to you using the tracking codes and the information obtained but be aware of the other data you share with the not-so-above-board companies and protect yourself online.

Originally published here.