Sharing your vacation plans with friends, family, and co-workers is a wonderful way to gain excitement about upcoming trips while letting others know when you will be away. With today’s instant modes of communication and the public nature of social networking and the Internet, it will do us all good to stop and take basic precautions to protect our privacy. This concern won’t go away anytime soon but with some basic knowledge and useful tips, you will depart on your next vacation with minimal worry.
There are many ways that we all stay in touch online with the people we know including the most popular social networking site Facebook. Other places where people may post vacation plans include LinkedIn, MySpace, Twitter, FourSquare, Meetup, Yelp, and too many other general and specialized sites to name. Wikipedia offers a comprehensive list in case you are curious and a simple search for “social networking” plus the a word or two to describe your interest will reveal more.
What does this all mean? Why should you be concerned about privacy when discussing your vacation plans? The most often cited example of risk is if a criminal found out when you are not at home and took advantage of this opportunity to rob your house. While there is no strong evidence this is actually happening, it makes common sense to keep your travel calendar private and between friends and relevant people from work at all times.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a full article covering the topic of locational privacy that is worth a read.
Fortunately many social networking sites have taken a serious look at privacy controls and offer settings that you can adjust to keep certain kinds of personal information and status updates hidden from all but your inner circle of connections.
As promised, here is my list of ways to stay safe when telling others about your travel plans and when you will be away from home on vacation.
When you are on vacation the last thing you want to worry about is identity theft. Can your bank or credit card company get in touch with you if they detect suspicious activity on your account? Often when traveling abroad it can be difficult to stay connected, especially if you are on an international trip or going on a multi-day hike or on a cruise for example. I often buy a local SIM card for my phone when calling rates to receive or make calls are very expensive in a foreign country.
One smart idea is to lock down your credit so that no one (you included) can apply for credit without taking extra verification steps. The three credit reporting agencies can handle your request to put a lock on your credit report (rules and fees do vary) so do look each into those options if you are concerned. To take this advice to the professional level, sign up for a credit and identity theft monitoring service. Experian offers a service called IdentityWorks which does just that. They’ll monitor all 3 credit bureaus, keep an eye on the “dark web” to make sure your information has not been compromised, provides address change alerts, and offers identity theft insurance.
The purpose of this post is not to make you worry about communicating via social networking, email, and smart phone apps while on vacation, but to raise the issue of privacy so you are well-informed. Technology is changing rapidly and we are constantly asked to take responsibility for our online lives as what we share with others is a major part of our identity.
Take my advice as a starting point and based on the sites and apps you visit on a regular basis, come up with your own list of rules about staying in touch and taking reasonable precautions before, during, and after a vacation. Also ask your employer if there are official policies that all employees are asked to follow. You’re in control, so be smart with your vacation plans and share with care online.
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