Saturday 18 January 2020

Should we be more careful with what we reveal online?

As Kim Kardashian's ex-bodyguard says social media flaunting played a part in her being robbed, Vicki Notaro asks if we should all be more conscious

Selfie queen: Kim Kardashian, who was robbed at gunpoint this week after revealing she was the owner of millions of dollars worth of jewellery on social media
Selfie queen: Kim Kardashian, who was robbed at gunpoint this week after revealing she was the owner of millions of dollars worth of jewellery on social media
James Kavanagh

Cyber safety has been a hot topic in recent years, particularly in relation to protecting children online. Sexual predators, bullies and con artists are rife on the world wide web, and taking precautions to keep ourselves safe, is a modern must.

However thanks to the ubiquity of social media, there's yet another thing to think about when it comes to our digital presence - just who is watching us, and why?

This week, reality TV star and celebrity mogul Kim Kardashian was held at gunpoint as thieves robbed millions of euro worth of diamonds from her Paris guesthouse. A terrifying incident, Kardashian was physically unharmed, but deeply shaken.

But in the aftermath of the news breaking, outlets worldwide began questioning just how the robbers knew all about her jewellery collection, and her whereabouts. Some speculated that it might have been an inside job, but others claimed that because Kardashian shares so much of her life on social media, she was a prime target.

James Kavanagh
James Kavanagh

Even Kim's ex-bodyguard Steve Stanulis, who provided security for Kimye during New York Fashion Week in February, told 'The New York Post''s Page Six, "Kim's social media and her Snapchat is her undoing. When she is posting, 'Here I am, and this is the $5 million ring I am wearing, here's where I am going,' you are basically inviting someone to rob you."

Some might say that Stanulis is victim-blaming, that social media is ubiquitous and that just because Kim is open with her followers, it doesn't mean she was asking to be robbed. In theory, it could happen to anyone at any time, regardless of whether or not we flaunt our possessions online.

And of course, Kim Kardashian has a massive online presence and millions of followers as well as millions of dollars and is not exactly just like us. But should we all be more conscious of what we share online with our own personal safety in mind? After all, apps like Snapchat allow us to instantly document our day in photos and videos, and anyone who had an interest in somebody's whereabouts would only have to follow for a while to get a sense of our comings and goings.

You can tag your exact location on Instagram, share your location on Facebook, and even update your status to let friends know you're leaving on a jet plane for foreign climes - surely all this information could be used against us if it fell in to the wrong hands?

James Kavanagh is a Snapchat star and social media influencer. He regularly shares videos from his north Dublin home with his more than 20,000 avid followers, but he says that recently he's been more conscious of all the eyes on his account.

"In the last few weeks, there have been young lads outside my house screaming something I say on the account, 'love your home!' - I mean, that's really cute but it has occurred to me that oh, people know exactly where I live!

"Another night there were three drunk girls shouting outside, I think they lived nearby. And then last week at a club night I run, a girl came up to me and told me she knows my house number. So while it's been cute and lovely, and not a bit dangerous in reality, I am a little more wary."

As James makes his living from sharing his life online, he says he thinks he's already shared so much, it might be strange to suddenly stop.

"I have heard of burglars following people on social media to see their whereabouts, so it has made me a little bit worried. At this stage, I don't know if I can turn back. But saying that, if someone broke in to my house, I have tons of candleabras and a huge, heavy marble table, but nothing else of value," James jokes.

Kavanagh's Snapchat was hacked earlier this year, and shut down. "It was a malicious thing to do, and I often wonder if it was because I was quite vocal about political issues I believe in, like repealing the eighth amendment. It did cross my mind, was this just someone trying to shut me up?

"I've also had an email from an unkown sender looking to confirm my address to send me something, that was strange - I know other people were sent horrible things during the marriage referendum. So I am more wary of not snapping my front door and things like that now."

Nadia El Ferdaoussi, 30, is an Irish travel blogger with a big online presence. She mostly travels alone, and frequently lets her followers know when she's out of the country online, and also where in a particular place she is.

"I am conscious of my safety, in the way that sometimes I'll do something silly without thinking like Snapping my hotel room number, realise and delete it. I don't ever snap my home address or even my general area, so that wouldn't worry me with regards to my house being empty when I'm abroad."

Nadia is of the opinion that while it's important to consider safety and there's no point in taking unnecessary risks, there's also a little too much worry about online activity.

"Someone can break in to your house at any time. A robber isn't necessarily watching your Snapchat or even aware of who you are, they're more likely to be watching your house seeing as you come and go. It's scary but true.

"There's little you can do about it other than taking ordinary safety precautions," Nadia adds.

"I live my life online in the same way I live my real one, because it's all one. I want to be able to walk around with my camera or on my phone, or wear expensive jewellery and enjoy it without fear of it being stolen.

"Similarly, I exercise caution in real life in the same way as I do online - I wouldn't be flaunting expensive gear recklessly in the pickpocket capital of the world, or give away my exact location online when I'm alone. I don't think people in the online world want to harm me anymore than a random stranger in the street."

Social media consultant Darragh Doyle says we should all be vigilant. "Today I heard about a friend going to tag a photo of his mate on Facebook but he said please don't - his wife and kids were at home, and he didn't want people to know he was away. So it's important to realise that even if you're quite private about your whereabouts, other people can tag you."

Darragh says we should all realise that information online is public and we should all be conscious of who might see it. "I periodically review my own social media to make sure that I don't give too much away about where I am, where I live. People sometimes check in to locations online that they've tagged 'my bed', which can be incredibly revealing. If you want to do that, or you know your kids are doing that, make sure to give the general area rather than the specific location. As much as you love social media, so do people who are looking to steal things."

So it seems it's not just the super rich that are a target, and that doing a little more to protect ourselves online is no bad thing. Snapchatting your front door when you've no idea who's watching mightn't be a good idea, nor is letting everyone know you're away on holiday.

Perhaps we can all learn from Kardashian's ordeal.

Irish Independent

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