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  • Writer's pictureBurton Kelso, Tech Expert

How The '10 Years Challenge' Might Expose Your Personal Data

Remember the 10-Year Challenge from 2019? Well, this social media craze is back and making the rounds on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If you're not familiar, this challenge asks people to post an older picture of themselves with a new picture to show how much they have (or haven't) changed. Like many of the challenges that appear on social media, they can be a lot of fun because they are a creative way that allows you to interact with your friends and followers. However, you should stop and think before you post then-and-now pictures of yourself on your social media feed. It may seem fun, but it could be a way big tech and cybercriminals can get access to your secure information.

We are social animals and we have a desire for attention. Social media capitalizes on this need, which is why so many of you are on social media and it's why people love joining viral challenges. Online games that challenge people to answer a few questions about themselves, or post an image, may seem innocent enough. But these games can extract your sensitive information such as your first job, your first car, or your mother’s maiden name—all of which can give criminals answers to commonly used security questions used on other websites such as your online banking or credit card sites. Oversharing on social media threatens your online security.

Most of you will argue that your personal information is already on the dark web or that Google and Facebook already have access to your personal stuff. It can be an 'Every Step You Take' situation in that a lot of your information could be lurking on the dark web. Information like your passwords, address, social security numbers, and phone number is a lot of useful information big tech and cybercriminals can use to get a complete profile of you to find out what you want to purchase or for the ultimate goal of stealing your identity. Think about it, do we know who started this current 10 Year Challenge meme?

Also, facial data is pretty intimate and I'm sure most of you don't realize how data-rich your photos are, especially when they are shared in a before-and-after scenario. When you have technology analyze your before and after photos, it can give details of the current state of your health. On a positive note, it could notify you of illness which can notify you of diseases. On a negative note, it could be used by insurance companies as a reason to deny you coverage.

It's not clear who started this current trend of the 10 years challenge. This is mainly speculation, but there are several reasons why this trend could be making its way around Instagram and Facebook.

  1. The Metaverse. As many of you are away, Facebook changed its company name to Meta and is gearing up for the Metaverse. What is the Metaverse? Well, basically it's a virtual world that is accessed via a VR (virtual reality headset). Part of what makes the metaverse real is the fact that it uses avatars that look like you. Perhaps Meta is collecting and updating your pictures for your avatar for the Metaverse

  2. Updating Meta's Facial Recognition Software. Facebook and Instagram claim they are getting rid of facial recognition software ... but they aren't for Meta.

  3. A User wanted to revive a popular meme and hashtag. The currently 10 Year Challenge could have just been revived by someone on social media to see how many people would participate. No harm no foul right? Well .....

On the flip side of things, there are several things that could happen if you participate in this challenge.

  1. Your photos could fall in the wrong hands. Many of the big tech companies subcontract their hardware and software off to smaller companies. One of these companies could fall victim to a data breach and your photos wind up on the dark web. It's happened in the past.

  2. People you were trying to avoid now know what you look like. If you were trying to escape an abusive relationship or had an online stalker, this latest meme could put you in the spotlight for someone you wanted to avoid. Simply typing in the hashtag #10yearschallenge could potentially allow someone to find you online.

  3. CyberCriminals are always scanning social media profiles. I'm sure you've had a friend of two cries out on social media that they have been hacked. In most instances, these are cyber criminals that have copied a Facebook or other social media account to gain access to followers to trick them with scam messages. Sharing a recent photo could give them fuel to create a fake account to score more followers.

There's probably nothing malicious about the current version of the 10 Challenge, but there are many big tech companies, as well as cybercriminals that are after your data. Most just want your information to get a clearer picture (no pun intended) to target ads to you. Other want your information to figure out how to target you for a scam. I just want you to always take a step back before you participate in the latest memes and challenges that pop up on social media.

If you want to participate in the 10 challenge, consider using the following options:

  1. Find a photo of your hometown skyline and take a current photo to show how things have changed in your area. You could pick your old neighborhood or your current neighborhood.

  2. Upload an old photo of your pet or pets to show people how your favorite furbaby has changed over the years.

  3. Share an inspirational post of how your life was 10 years ago vs how your life is today

  4. Share a 10 Year Challenge of where you are now in your life and where you want to be 10 years from now.

This blog post is to serve as a reminder of why should think before sharing information on social media. The bottom line is that you need to be more careful when you share information on social media. The 10-year Challenge is probably just another trending meme, but criminals can take advantage of the information that you post out there on the world wide web and use it in a harmful way.

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