Recently, a friend of mine has had some pretty disastrous rumors being spread about him. Where did they come from? Supposedly, from his "private" Myspace. This isn't an isolated incident either. For the last few years many internet users have utilized social networking sites like Myspace and Facebook and creating and posting to online blogs (like this one).
What many internet users don't realize is that people actually read their blogs and personal profiles. In fact, some schools and police departments actively search the internet for information about people. Users of blogs, Mypace, etc. need to realize that if they post any personal information, it has the potential to be read by anyone. That's right. In an age of identity theft and hackers, your information is not private even when a website claims that it is. If you can access your page from any computer, your info is fair game.
I have noticed another bad trend. Most of my students no longer use email, their only source of online contact is through instant messaging and Myspace. While email is a much safer option when it comes to your personal information, many teens are trading security for convenience.
Here are a few tips for protecting your privacy while using the internet:
1. Never give out your personal information (address, phone number, name, social security number, etc). If a website requires some personal info, make sure that it will not be shared with anyone...ever. Do not post your phone number or address on Myspace or other social networking site.
2. Do not put any information in your myspace or on your blog that you don't want everyone in your life (and the world) to know. Do not trust the "private" features of Myspace...they have been cracked before. If you leave yourself signed in to Myspace for instance, anyone can gain access to your account through your computer. This leads us to #3
3. Unless you are the only one that uses your computer, and you have a password - NEVER STAY LOGGED IN, SAVE YOUR PASSWORD TO THE COMPUTER, OR CHECK "REMEMBER ME" IN ANY WEB SERVICE. This is the most common way for others to gain access to your accounts. The second most common way...
4. Never, NEVER, NEVER, give your passwords to anyone, period. Just like gossip, you cannot control the spread of your password to others. Even if your friend never shares your password, they might by mistake allow someone else to access your account.
5. Use email for personal, private communication with other people. Email is much safer than putting your private communication up online for everyone to view. Just make sure you follow #3 and #4.
Blogs and Myspace are great to keep in touch with your friends and family...just don't be stupid with them. Use common sense and be careful what you let the world know about you. One last tip...don't depend on other's lack of computer savvy. Your parents/friends can ask someone else to log on and view your profile. Be warned ;)