With millions of people contactable at the click of a mouse, social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook have become the go-to place to find out what your friends are up to.
The majority of this information is harmless, but ever-more personal details are being shared online as people simply forget that what they write is visible more than just their friends – putting careless users’ personal and professional lives at risk.
And it’s more than just a theoretical problem.
“Well I hate my boss, he’s a little b***h”. “Hey guys, my new number is 07***878***”. After just a momentary check it is easy to find posts that not only pose a threat to personal safety, but could also see the author out of a job.
To combat this and raise awareness, a number of people have attempted to name and shame those who share about too much online.
One such domain is weknowwhatyouredoing.com, which shares public Facebook and Foursquare statuses from across the globe. Posted under categories which range from “Who wants to get fired” to “Who’s taking drugs?”, the portal highlights posts that probably should have never seen the light of day.
The site’s creator, 18-year-old Callum Haywood, told Yahoo! News that the project was intended to highlight the growing problem.
“I was looking through Facebook’s API [Application Programming Interface] and wondered whether I could get information out of it that people wouldn’t necessarily want publishing,” he said. “That’s when I started to type in queries like ‘new phone number’ and I released then that quite of information then comes up.
“It came to me that this is a massive problem so I decided to set up a site to demonstrate this using real information.”
By feeding this information into a site, Mr Haywood was able to give up to date posts from across the globe – complete with names and profile pictures.
“I think that has shocked a lot of people,” he said. “The idea is that once people have seen the site they go back and double check their privacy settings. I’ve had a lot of tweets and emails to say that the site is really good as people were not previously aware of the ease in which this data can be accessed.”
Despite a mass of information revealed, Mr Haywood stopped short of posting full phone numbers under the category “Who’s got a new phone number?” – choosing to censor digits. Conversely, a Twitter account that has accumulated more than 6,000 followers has chosen instead to give full disclosure – in this case retweeting pictures of debit cards users have uploaded to the social networking site.
“Some people would regard this kind of thing as irresponsible,” Mr Haywood admitted. “Others would argue that they are not putting it on themselves, they are simply retweeting what is already there. I was aware that if I simply just reposted this information it could end up in the wrong hands.
“It is simply shocking what people are putting up without a thought, users really need to be more aware of it.”