Across the UK, 60% of internet users now use social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Nearly one in three (29%) admit that they now reveal more online about their personal lives than they would have done a year ago. Yet while the sharing of personal information is on the rise, awareness of the risks remains low. More than a third of web users (36%) do not lock their personal profiles on social media sites, potentially allowing strangers to access their personal information and ‘follow’ their movements.
Close to half of all social media users (46%) admit to freely sharing their date of birth online, while one in three have no qualms about publishing their email address (36%). One in ten will post their telephone number (10%) and one in eight (12%) will think nothing of uploading pictures of their home.
Commenting on the findings, Social media expert Olly Mann said: “Although sharing your phone number or a photo of your house online sounds innocuous, web criminals are very cunning. They can match this sort of information with other personal details they find, enabling them to build up a picture of who you are, where you live and more. They can then use this information to carry out online crimes such as credit card fraud or identity theft. It can even leave you open to burglary, if you have revealed enough information online for people to know where you live, and then ‘tweeted’ that you are not at home but out and about.”
Home insurer LV= commissioned experts to analyse the tweets of the ‘most followed’ British celebrities for a month. Each celebrity was then assigned a ‘risk score’ based on the number of times they divulged their location or personal information when tweeting.
The full list of risky celebrity tweeters, starting with the most risky, is as follows:
1.Tom Felton (TomFelton) – Actor
2.Calvin Harris (calvinharris) – Musician
3.Fearne Cotton (Fearnecotton) – Television presenter
4.Davina McCall (ThisisDavina) – Television presenter
5.Jonathan Ross (Wossy) – Television presenter
6.Jimmy Carr (jimmycarr) – Comedian
7.Jamie Oliver (jamie_oliver) – TV chef
8.Aled Haydn Jones (ahj) – Radio producer
9.Phillip Schofield (Schofe) – Television presenter
10.Noush Skaugen (noushskaugen) – Singer/songwriter
The study showed that younger, high profile celebrities are more likely to be cavalier with their personal information online, reflecting the habits of the ‘internet generation’ who have grown up with new technology.
John O’Roarke, managing director of LV= home insurance, said: “The last few years have seen a dramatic change in the way we communicate. Paradoxically, although an increasing number of people share their personal information publicly, one of the biggest concerns we all have is for our privacy.
“We urge social media users to be more circumspect with their personal information. What might seem at the time to be an innocuous comment, could be just the detail a fraudster or burglar is looking for. Most of the major social media networks give users options on privacy and if in doubt they should be used.”
Olly Mann added: "The LV= research is a wake-up call for people who share personal information online without a second thought for who might be reading it. Most of us have the common sense to leave a light on when we leave the house, or double-lock the front door, but many celebs might just as well be holding up a big sign saying ‘I’m not in, please burgle me’. You wouldn’t stand in the middle of a pub and shout ‘I’ve got £500 in cash in my handbag’, but that’s more or less exactly what some of these risky tweeters are doing."
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