Have you ever posted pictures of your children on Facebook? Did you know that once you post anything to Facebook, they own it and can use it in advertising if they wish?

Or how about this. Google yourself in the white pages. I was highly disturbed today to find that not only was my name and phone number listed, but my exact physical address was also posted. For anyone who wishes to find me, my address was just a key stroke away.

Color me a little freaked out. In the age of cyberspace and especially for a public figure like an author (or in my case an aspiring one) the fact that anyone could Google me and come up with not only my address but my husband’s name and my phone number was incredibly disturbing.

While social networking is critical for the success of any author in this day and age, it also means that authors have to be selective about what information they do allow. NY Times Bestselling author Julia London has tweeted about received emails from prison inmates asking her to write their story. But what if that same content came by way of the regular mail?

It is all to easy to find someone these days. Be cautious about how much information you do choose to put on Facebook. If you own a domain name, if you did not register the account privately, your address and contact information is easily available in the WhoIs database.

I’m not writing this to scare you or to urge you to get offline. Doing so would damage potential future sales. In the online social networked world, readers expect to connect with their favorite authors. But be cautious. The internet is full of people pretending to be someone they are not.

Recommendations: when you register your domain name, register it privately. GoDaddy charges extra for this privilege but I have done so with every domain name I’ve bought. Google yourself in the white pages and then sign in to edit your publicly available settings. You can remove the listing easily enough so that only your name and city are available.

Once you do that, look at who you have for friends on Facebook and MySpace. Do you know them? All of them? If not, do you really want to share baby pictures with random strangers? Check out your followers on Twitter. It seems like every week there is a new hacking attempt at violating your account. Only click on links you know, which is often difficult because of URL shortening services that are so commonly used.

From snopes.com “Facebook users can prevent their profile photos from appearing in association with social ads by selecting the following options:
Settings –> Privacy –> Facebook Ads (tab) –> Appearance in Facebook ads (pull-down menu) –> Set to “No one””

The online world is full of dark corners most of us cannot imagine. It doesn’t take much for those corners to extend into our own social networks. Use caution with the information you put online and if you’re disconcerted, take action to hide yourself. In today’s day and age, it’s still incredibly easy to find information on people but you can make it just a tad more difficult by practicing some common sense.