In spring 2020, as U.S. high schools nationwide remained closed to curb the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus disease, Facebook users began a new posting trend: sharing senior photos — no matter how recent they are — to show support for the year’s graduating seniors who are finishing high school at home.
With the #ClassOf2020 hashtag, the posts quickly became a popular way for people to not only show how they’ve aged but also commiserate with high-schoolers who were missing popular commencement festivities, such as senior prom, graduation parties, and athletic competitions. “These kids are resilient and tough. They’re the September 11 babies, and now they’re the COVID-19 graduates,” one Facebook user posted. “They’re nervous that they may not be able to walk the stage and get the diploma they have been working hard on for 13 years.”
In the meantime, some users came across reports that the consumer-protection organization the Better Business Bureau (BBB) was advising against the practice, and those users asked Snopes to verify the claim.
The BBB, an internationally recognized nonprofit that investigates scams and complaints against businesses, has indeed warned people to “think twice” before posting their senior high school photos.
On April 13, 2020, the Virginia-based group posted an advisory on its website, urging Facebook users to “resist the temptation to play along” in the portrait-posting movement. The advisory reads:
Watch out, scammers or hackers who surf through social media sites will see these #ClassOf2020 posts, and will now have the name of your high school and graduation year, which are common online security questions. All it takes is an internet search to reveal more information about you, such as family members, your real name, birthdate or even where you live.
Better Business Bureau (BBB) cautions everyone to be aware of what they are sharing. Even if you think it’s just going to your friends, it could also be going somewhere else.
Other types of popular posts — listing cars you’ve owned, favorite athletes, preferred TV shows — could make Facebook users vulnerable to hackers and scammers, too, according to the BBB. “What most people forget is that some of these ‘favorite things’ are commonly used passwords or security questions,” the advisory read. “If your social media privacy settings aren’t high, you could be giving valuable information away for anyone to use.”
After the warning was published, news media outlets including CNN and CBSNews published stories with the headlines, “Here’s why you probably shouldn’t share your old senior photos on Facebook” and “Have you shared your old senior photo on Facebook? Hackers may be using your post against you,” respectively. In the CNN story, , a producer for CNET, said information in such posts is traded by advertisers, hackers, cybercriminals, and data brokers. “It’s highly probable information used in this social media trend will be weaponized or co-opted by bad actors and in the future. Once your data is in the wild, it stays in the wild and can be used by any number of unscrupulous characters.”
In sum, the marketplace watchdog is urging people to reconsider posting senior high school photos on Facebook. Given the advisory on the BBB’s website, we rate this claim as “True.”