Many of us check Facebook first thing in the morning. We’ve all been guilty of browsing away in bed before we fall asleep. It’s amazing how much social media has become a part of our everyday lives. Not to mention how it has the potential to reveal a lot of our personal information—including our sleep patterns. A recently discovered Facebook hack does exactly that.
Yes, you read that right. A Danish software developer recently created a computer program that identifies an individual’s sleep patterns by pinging their Facebook Messenger account every ten minutes.
Søren Louv-Jansen, the creator of the hack, wrote a post on Medium explaining his method. Facebook Messenger’s Web version includes timestamps for the last times users were active. By mapping out this information, his program can identify the hours when people are asleep.
The surprising accuracy of this hack is due to one fact: a lot of Facebook users are using Facebook Messenger frequently throughout the day. Our own habit of checking the service after waking and before sleeping is helping others peep on our personal information.
Now, that’s something all social media users ought to know. In fact, raising awareness around the “digital footprints” we leave online is exactly why Louv-Jansen created the hack.
This experiment has demonstrated how critical it is to protect our online privacy, in an era where many social media users are unknowingly giving away more information than they bargained for. We can apply this instance to any hypothetical compromise of our data. Consider all the ways we use social media and digital technology: there is quite a bit of information to be had, beyond merely sleep patterns. What about details in our personal lives? Our digital footprints could include a lot more data than our waking and sleeping hours.
So, how can you better protect your privacy in this always-on, digital age? Here are a few tips:
- Be aware of your digital footprint. Almost every action you take online is being recorded in one way or another. Be attentive of the sites you visit, and be cautious when sharing personal information on the Web. Think of it this way: what goes online stays online.
- Only accept friend requests from those you know. If you receive a friend request from a stranger, think twice before accepting. Don’t let just anybody into your circle. To protect your privacy and stay in control of who accesses your information, only friend people you know from real life or who have reputable online presences.
- Adjust your privacy settings. Most social media services will allow you to customize who can view your posts, or how much of your profile is visible to the public. Here are guides for Facebook and Snapchat, to get you started. Explore the privacy settings on your favorite platform, and be sure make adjustments so that you’re comfortable with who can see what.