Memory Lane Can Turn Into Skid Row

As I’m writing this, Governor Evers just updated his stay-at-home order, extending the deadline to May 26 and officially closing the schools through the end of the current school year. I feel bad for everyone during these difficult times, but I especially feel bad for two of my nephews.

Both of them are in their senior year of high school, the cherry on the top of their education sundae. However, each day new things are being canceled: class trips, concerts, solo and ensemble state competition, sports seasons, prom, senior awards night, graduation, etc. They had a lot of great highlights, such as an awesome homecoming halftime show and winning the state tournament for volleyball. It still feels like someone pulled the rug out from under their senior year.

In an amazing show of support for seniors like my nephews, a new Facebook trend has gone “viral” – people across the country are sharing their old high school senior photos to try and cheer up the soon-to-be-graduates. Contributors are using the hashtag #classof2020 to show their support (although I’m sure us old farts are enjoying it far more than the 18-year-olds).

Unfortunately, those nostalgic photos could also lead to some serious security issues.

I’ve written several previous articles about people bringing lawsuits against and government agencies cracking down on various online companies that have either sold or shared our personal information with other websites, such as Facebook. But what if the people sharing our sensitive personal information with Facebook is us?

In a press release earlier this month, the Better Business Bureau discouraged people from participating in the trend. The organization warned that while the fun photos are just meant to be shared with friends, “scammers or hackers who surf through social media sites” may also stumble across them.

The BBB also cited similar concerns about other recent trends on Facebook, including posting “personal lists” about the make and model years of all the vehicles you’ve ever owned, your favorite athletes, and your favorite albums, movies or TV shows, etc.

“What most people forget is that some of these “favorite things” are commonly used passwords or security questions,” the consumer watchdog group warned. Many websites that require users to log in often have a list of security questions the user needs to answer to access sensitive data. These questions often include the year you graduated from high school, the school you attended, or your high school’s mascot. They also sometimes ask about your first car or pet. The answers to all of these questions could easily have been inadvertently shared by people participating in these Facebook trends.

The organization pointed out that for users whose privacy settings aren’t highly restrictive, the valuable information could be up for grabs “for anyone to use.”

Accordingly, the BBB encourages people to “resist the temptation to play along” with these viral trends and to review their security settings on all social media platforms “to see what you are sharing and with whom you are sharing.” The Bureau also advises users, especially those who may have shared sensitive information on social media, to review and update their security settings for banking sites and other similar portals.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned during this pandemic it is that people are resilient and adaptable and that we will get through these difficult times together. And that I apparently love to touch my face.

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Reg P. Wydeven

Elder Law and Estate Planning Attorney at McCarty Law LLP
Hoping to follow in his father’s footsteps from a young age, Reg’s practice primarily consists of advising individuals on estate planning, estate settlement and elder law matters. As Reg represents clients in matters like guardianship proceedings and long-term care admissions, he feels grateful to be able to offer families thorough legal help in their time of need.

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