Notes from Abroad - Go Public, at Your Peril

By J L Romanillos, MA TEP

Posting material on Social Media can be very dangerous and needs to be done with care and consideration.

I read a small item of news this week in the national newspapers that immediately caught my eye. It instantly made me think of Ridley Scott's extraordinary film, "Blade Runner", which presents a vision of a dystopian future world full of synthetic humans. In particular, there is a scene where the hero, Deckhard, played by Harrison Ford, recovers a photograph from the replicant Leon's apartment. Placing the photo in a digital photo-analysis machine, he is able to change the angle of the perspective and reveal a key clue he was searching for. Stuff of the future, you may say. Well, not exactly. For the article I had just read involved a similar story...about a young Japanese pop star, Ena Matsuoka, and a selfie she posted recently on her Social Media account. It led directly to her being physically assaulted...and all because of her eyes.

In a relatively short period of time Social Media has become a global phenomenon that has transformed the way we live our lives and interact with our fellow humans. The positive aspects to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and LinkedIn are considerable, allowing us to share information, images, messages and stories with an unlimited number of people across the world. Awesome. The dangers, however, are also starting to become apparent. Social Media platforms are now being blamed for the dramatic increase in mental health problems that our children are now suffering from. It is also being blamed, ironically, for the feeling of isolation that users are suffering. Connected to so many people, but in fact not really knowing anyone. And then there is the issue of social skills - conversation, dialogue, banter. Are these skills dying out too? - now that a family meal (if there is such a thing any more) may well involve virtual silence as everyone (adults and children alike) is fixed to their mobiles, responding to the latest posts and messages on their accounts.

Like many modern things, including the TV, this is an animal (some say "monster") that needs to be caged and controlled. For me, though, perhaps the most worrying aspect of social media is the potential risk that one faces every time we post something. And recent news stories have highlighted this:

Rebekah Vardy & Coleen Rooney, wives of the ex England footballers, Wayne​ Rooney and Jamie Vardy, are currently involved in a Social Media spat that has filled the tabloid papers. Coleen, now labeled as "Wagatha Christie" by some of the papers, has apparently uncovered the fact that confidential posts of hers on her personal accounts had been disclosed to the Press by her so-called social media friend, Rebekah. Having her suspicions, Coleen laid a trap, shutting out all her friends from her account, with the exception of Rebekah, and then placing some false stories to see if they would be passed on to the press. Which they were. The story is still running...

Bernardo Silva, the Manchester City Footballer, was recently in the news​ for mistakenly putting an apparently "racist" post in the public domain which should have just been kept as friendly, joking banter with a fellow player, on his private and personal account.

And of course, there are numerous examples of famous people putting up posts of their wonderful homes and holidays, only to find that on their return, their home has been burgled. John Terry​ , ex Chelsea and England​ footballer, is a good case in point. With over 3 million Instagram followers, John and his wife Toni regularly posted images of their home, their lifestyle and holidays. In 2017 he took his family on a skiing vacation, posting images while they were there. While they were away, their £5 million home was burgled with thousands of pounds worth of jewelry stolen. The police investigation stated that the robbery had been "targeted" and could well have been linked to the couple's social media posts.

And perhaps the most notorious and high profile Social Media-linked robbery was that involving the Social Media Queen herself, Kim Kardashian​ . In 2017,​ while staying in a Paris hotel, a gang of robbers broke into Kim Kardashian's apartment, tied and gagged her, and then left with over £8 million pounds worth of her jewelry. In the lead up to her visit and during outings through the city, her Social Media posts had been displaying the specific items of jewelry. In other I am, and here are some very valuable items you could take. And they did. A very traumatic experience and one that commentators attribute directly to the social media feeds.

I too use Social Media, in both personal and business spheres. And I try to follow some basic principles when using these platforms.

  • Give a minimum of personal information, if any at all
  • Express no opinions on race, religion or politics
  • Always ask permission of others when posting their image
  • Give minimum detail about travel plans
  • Post holiday details AFTER the event
  • Give no details or images of valuables or home, either externally or internally
  • Never say things that could be taken out of context
  • Be aware that once posted, even if you then delete it, someone, somewhere will have a copy
  • Keep personal and private "chat" / "banter" well away
  • If in doubt, say and do nought

There are also, for those with serious names and reputations to protect, professional service providers who can look after one's social media accounts, providing a protective comfort blanket and "firewall". Certain mobile phone operations can also provide enhanced security and anti-hacking services. I have not yet reached that level...

One thing I do try and do with my mobile phone is to ensure that after 6 pm I put it away for the night. I have a special box where it sits - a little mobile "bed box". It is physically tucked away into its unique bed, with its own bespoke message: "Let your mobile rest here". No more messages and no more "checking" of social media activity. My view is that it can simply wait until the morning. Nothing is ever really that urgent.

So, back to that Japanese pop singer. What on earth happened? Well, the problem was linked to the fact that the photo she took and posted was a high resolution selfie. A full head shot, and in her big staring eyes were reflected the images of certain recognizable buildings in the area where she lived. By researching her social media photos, and then using Google Map's street view application, a certain Hibiki Sato, a 26 year-old man obsessed with this young lady, was able to work out the area where the pop star lived, identifying a railway station near her home. Police believe that the man then waited at the station and followed her back to her home, where he assaulted her as she entered her flat. A police comment read as follows: "People should be fully aware that posting pictures and video on social media runs the risk of divulging personal data". And of course, people can then use it...for good or bad.

It's already a pretty dangerous and risky world out there. We don't need to make it any riskier.



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