If privacy is really an illusion, it’s one few of us have experienced lately. The open and transparent use of social networks by people of all ages and stripes has more than doubled since 2007. The news is filled with amusing and shameful stories of people who’ve lost their spouses, jobs, or reputations due to antics posted without enough forethought onto Facebook profiles. Those party photos have landed many professionals such as lawyers and teachers in hot water. Even so, people can’t seem to control themselves when passion strikes at the keyboard.
There’s a dangerous side to this as well, especially when underage users are involved. Has it really been two years since Mark Zuckerburg shocked the world by suggesting Facebook should allow members under the age of 13? Notice it still has not happened. This is because of overwhelming evidence that children are routinely victimized by older online predators, and lack the judgment necessary to protect their personal privacy online. We often read of missing children in the news whose last known contact was with an adult stranger they met online, frequently on Facebook.
It isn’t only children who are compromised by a lack of online security; many adults have their financial information stolen each year while completing online shopping transactions while their computers are being spied on by hackers, or having their keystrokes recorded by undetected malware on their own systems.
Further, there are dangers associated with online dating. With so many stories available that point to perfect romances that began with online dating sites, people are tempted to dive into this form of meeting new people head first. They forget to take common sense precautions while communicating with potential online dates. Carelessness and a sense of false trust can lead to a very unhappy ending.
Is there any solution to over exposure to social media, short of closing all your accounts and living life as on offline recluse? Thankfully, yes. The same precautions you would take in your offline life apply to online behavior, and should be practiced universally. By following a few online security tips, you can be more confident when faced with situations arising from people you associate with over the Internet.
1) Monitor all Internet use for children under 18 years of age. You are legally responsible for them until that age, so safeguarding their online activity should be as important as keeping your doors locked at night.
2) Don’t give all of your personal information away through profile pages on multiple social media websites. Make sure that the only people who see your most personal information (phone numbers, home address, etc…) are actually friends or relatives.
3) Pay attention to SSL when making a purchase online. Make sure you are logged in via a Secure Sockets Layer by looking for “https” in the address bar where you are shopping. This makes it harder for hackers to spy on your information remotely.
Got any tips for staying safe online? Let us hear from you.
Melonie is a technology blogger who enjoys writing about Internet culture, gadgets, computers, and even dogs. Follow her on Twitter @meloniemclaurin