The Risks of Disclosing Your Birthday on Facebook And Other Social Networking Sites
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Here in Boston, Channel 7 television news broadcast an interesting identity-theft report which I believe all consumers of popular social networking sites -- like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter -- should be aware of:
"When you're connecting online - and filling out your profile - experts say you could be leaving yourself vulnerable. The trouble can start with something as simple as your birthday... It seems harmless putting your birth date in your profile - but with that one bit of info we found identity thieves can actually get a copy of your birth certificate - a key document. And it's not hard to do."
The news broadcast showed how the reporters were able to get a valid copy of consumers' birth certificates. Some states, like Massachusetts, have lax procedures for distributing birth certificates. The bottom line: your complete birthday (e.g., March 12, 1984) is one of the valuable pieces of sensitive personal data which identity thieves can (and do) use. Here's how consumers can protect their identity information:
"Experts say, to keep safe - Never list your birthday publicly. Online - you should only become "friends" with people you know. And make sure your profile page is set to "private" or "friends only."
Should consumers display a partial birthday (e.g., March 12)? I've noticed that some Facebook users display a partial birthday. I don't disclose my birthday at all. Why? It still seems risky to display a partial birthday, because a determined identity thief can pretty easily deduce your birth year from your high school (or college) graduation.
It's important for consumers to practice safe identity-protection habits when using social media sites. Interested consumers can view the video or read the transcript at the Channel 7 site. Want to learn more? Read this prior post about birth dates.
Great point! Social networking sites encourage you to list your birthday information, and it is convenient to do so because you can keep up with all your friends' birthdays, but it really reveals too much to thieves. If people do want to have a public or semi-public Facebook profile but also want their actual friends to see their birthday, they can edit their "Basic Info" privacy settings to control who sees that information.
Posted by: Defend My Identity | Monday, March 16, 2009 at 10:24 AM
One little tricky thing that Facebook just started -- a separate privacy setting for your birthday. I know someone who had it set as private but when Facebook changed their privacy options it went public to everybody and now you have to go in and set it to private separately, the options are different from what they were before.
Posted by: A writer | Thursday, May 13, 2010 at 01:38 AM
i like to read your posts. thanks for this one.
Posted by: Devremülk | Friday, December 31, 2010 at 07:09 AM
great. definetely i'm going to read your other posts...thank you.
Posted by: Anonymous | Sunday, January 02, 2011 at 08:57 AM
I don't trust any social networking sites to expose my real birthday
Posted by: johnwp | Sunday, March 06, 2011 at 11:25 AM
Nice visiting your site again. This is my first time to comment on your article after how many days. HAHAHA
I have bookmarked your site and really love to read your ideas and learned from it. Keep posting!
Posted by: Centro Metro | Sunday, September 04, 2011 at 05:33 AM
Hide my dob
Posted by: sreejith p vetathoor | Thursday, January 26, 2012 at 07:54 AM