New Reasons to Be Careful What You Post on the Internet

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"Be careful what you post on the internet." We've all heard the saying. It depicts a reality that frankly should be as commonplace as always looking both ways before crossing the street. It's been echoed in episodes of popular TV shows like Black Mirror and movies like Disconnect.  Repercussions for not taking heed to the saying are presented daily in familiar reoccurring news cycle themes which depict individuals losing their jobs, endorsements, votes, supporters, or even their freedom over just one ill-advised tweet, picture shared on Instagram, or comment posted on Facebook.  For the most part, these recurring themes have served as sound deterrents from making unwise choices on the internet. However, times are changing, and these well-known news cycle themes are no longer the extent of the negative consequences spawned from poor judgment on the internet.

With the constant advancements in big data and machine learning technology coupled with the lowering cost of cloud storage and the plethora amount of data individuals are continually sharing on the Internet, companies are coming up with a myriad of ways to leverage user-shared data. Firms like PredPol and Palantir are attempting to harness the power of big data to create predictive policing technology to help law enforcement prevent crime. Their predictive policing algorithms are believed to ingest diverse sources of data to include geography, weather, criminal records, and yes, you guessed it – social media posts. The last thing a person wants is for the police to come knocking on their door because of a careless tweet. Yet, this technology is likely to make these unwanted visits a reality of the future.

Furthermore, facial recognition software is getting better with time. Google’s facial recognition search engine gives users the ability to upload a picture of a person to their search engine and potentially find where that particular picture has been previously posted, locate additional images with that person present, and find out general information about the individual. Imagine what an employer could do and is likely already doing with this technology. Likewise, Facebook is also a big player in this space. Initially, Facebook's facial recognition software only suggested friends to tag in images posted on their platform. However, just this past March, Facebook announced that it will now give users the option to receive an alert whenever a photo or video of them is posted to Facebook. This use of facial recognition technology might seem like a great idea in the context of Facebook, but imagine if this technology was used more broadly by entities looking to scour the web to gather pictures and videos of a particular person of interest.

Nonetheless, it is ultimately the responsibility of individuals to understand that a continually growing set of consequences will always be linked to the reckless use of technology in which everything shared on it is etched for all eternity and potentially viewable by virtually anyone. But, if you do need additional convincing to exercise caution on the internet, you can add the various uses of predictive policing and facial recognition software to your growing list.

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***Opinions stated in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily express the specific views of  The Cyber Security Intellects or the author's employer***