Whether it’s a once in a lifetime experience meeting a celebrity you admire, or eating out at a fancy place where the food looks so beautiful it shouldn’t be eaten - we all look for the great moments in life to feature on our social media, even as some of us may choose to filter all of the lows out. But everyone also has concerns about how they and their family (especially the kids) should be staying safe online - are we oversharing our lives on social media these days?
Thanks to constant reminders and public service announcements from our banks, we no longer need some Captain Obvious to save the day and inform us that we shouldn’t share our IC or banking information online. While that may be the case, we can keep ourselves safer by looking out for some legal and, especially, security issues that are often overlooked or ignored.
In that regard, we’re highlighting 5 common types of posts you see shared on social media, and how they are either illegal, or could compromise your online safety.
1. The Name n’ Shame
You probably didn’t expect to see that shame posts, as common as they are on Facebook, are something people should think twice before posting and even sharing. The reason? What you are sharing could be considered defamation - both recognized as a civil wrong (private dispute between two people, aka a lawsuit) and a criminal offence in Malaysia.
But even if that nasty person you encountered truly deserves to be called out and punished, there is a better way to bring justice than to publicize incidents on Facebook - reporting them to the authorities. If your intention is merely to shame and bring ruin to their reputation, then you could actually be held liable for defamation - even more so if what you were spreading turns out to be untrue.
Usually, this gives the person you’ve shamed the right to sue you for compensation, but they also have the right to make a police report, as defamation is listed as a crime under Section 499 of our Penal Code - which is exactly what happened to some university students who were spreading rumours about another student.
So…the better thing to do about these !@#$% people is to report them, who in your books might include inconsiderate double parkers and people who book parking spaces by standing in them.
[READ MORE - How does defamation work in Malaysia?]
2. “Off for my dream vacation!” posts
You’ve finally put aside enough money and carefully planned your next vacation! The day of your flight approaches and when you finally get your boarding pass, you may be tempted to celebrate this occasion by snapping a picture of the boarding pass and sharing it on social media.
Except you shouldn’t do it… for safety reasons. Because while your personal documents like your IC contain information that is clearly more sensitive, even innocent details on your boarding pass can help a hacker gain access to your booking details and even modify them. Some airlines only require a few details from your boarding pass for you to access their bookings menu online. Upon access, anyone can see details like your departure time, seat number, and even your ticket number and frequent flyer info.
If you do have to share your boarding pass online, make sure you always blur out all the sensitive details, as well as any barcodes, which can be easily read with software available online. Sure, this information is quite harmless when kept among friends, but anyone who might have criminal intentions also gets to plan very nicely around this information.
This is not to mention any burglars who might plan a break-in, knowing full well you are off on a retreat, especially if you have a habit of checking-in at your home address...
3. “Bobby has checked-in at…” posts
Would you say that checking-in your location wherever you go is oversharing?
If you value your safety, it might be best not to leave a public trail of your daily routine online. Of course you have every right to share your location...but if it opens you up to a risk, it’s best to be prudent about whom you share your routine and habits with, especially if your exact location can be tracked down in real time.
Some social media users apparently share their exact home and work addresses publicly when they check-in using location services. Yet again, while this information is usually safe among friends, sharing it publicly is probably not very safe given that stalkers, robbers, and other unsavory people can also use it to target you.
While some of us believe we have the right to post what we want (who does it even harm right?), taking precautions is better than taking a risk we don’t have to. If you’re the kind of social butterfly who frequently shares their location, you could consider only sharing it in private messages with friends, or maybe only mark the place after leaving it.
4. “PM me if interested!”
Online platforms make so many things easier, including starting your own side-business supplying goods to others. A lot of us have sold items on social media before, where we usually put up a post advertising what we have, the price we’re offering, and a short sign-off: “PM me for more details”.
If you used that kind of post for your online business, it could have gotten you into trouble with the Consumer Protection (Electronic Trade Transactions) Regulations 2012 since 3 August 2017. The law was actually in place since 1 July 2013, but the Consumerism Ministry gave traders a grace period to adapt.
It basically says that online sellers need to include the following information when listing their products and services:
a) The name of the seller (whether a person, business, or company name)
b) The business or company registration number (if any)
c) The contact details of the seller or business (e-mail, telephone number, address)
d) Descriptions of the main characteristics of the goods or services provided
e) The full price of the goods or services, including transportation costs, taxes, etcetera
f) The methods of payment accepted
g) Any terms and conditions attached
h) The estimated delivery time
Unless you’re making a one-off sale like an item you want to get rid of, hiding any of this information from customers is an offence (which you can report by calling 1-800-886-800).
5. Posting photos of the kids
Pride and joy of parents, who could resist sharing the cute and funny moments with their young children among friends? Not many.
It’s not exactly a crime to share pictures of your own children online, but it can be a concern especially if you’re not familiar with how to safeguard their privacy by tweaking the privacy settings on social media posts. Some Malaysian parents have actually found pictures of their infant children uploaded to pornographic sites. And if photos taken around the home have location tags on them (which will indicate where they were taken), it may give away where the child lives to sexual predators out there.
Misusing photos of children is certainly recognized as a crime under the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, but when the damage is done and the child is exposed, bringing the people responsible to justice may not return the feeling of safety.
Once again, the privacy settings on your social media account are ever useful here. Our former Women, Family and Community Development Minister recommended keeping kids’ photos entirely off the internet, but if you wish to share them, do exercise extreme caution online. You should also teach your kids how to safeguard themselves online from the day they start using social media, as predators use all sorts of tactics, and kids are that much more vulnerable.
In short, use your privacy settings well and don’t simply accept friend requests!
With many safety issues on social media, the best way to control who has access to your information is by limiting access to your friends only. But for that to be effective in the first place, you have to be very selective about who you accept to be friends on social media!
A good guideline is to only accept people whom you know in real life; but if you use social media to expand your network, make sure you can look into who they are and what they are contacting you for. There are a lot of incidences of “catfishing” on social media where some people use a fake online identity to con people of their hearts and their money, often by gaining access to compromising pictures and then blackmailing their victims.