Networking Not So Friendly After All
By Robin Harris
When you use words like “friends” and “sharing,” you don’t think of the possible dangers that could occur being part of a social network but the reality of it is there are many. We all have the great chance of being part of the statistics, from identity theft to our employer snooping, or maybe even cyber-stalking. The problem is the Internet leaves us very vulnerable to a long list of threats.
According to National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA)-MacAfee Online Safety Study in 2011, 26% of Americans said they were sharing more information on social networks than the previous year.
When Joan Goodchild, senior editor of CSO (Chief Security Officer) Online was asked “do people really have privacy on Facebook,” this was her answer:
“No. There are all kinds of ways third parties can access information about you. For instance, you may not realize that when you are playing the popular games on Facebook, such as Farmville, or take those popular quizzes, every time you do that, you authorize an application to be downloaded to your profile that you may not realize gives information to third parties.”
With the rising hype of social networking, employers are getting involved too. Some companies have polices regarding what you can and cannot post about that employer on your website. Other employers are gathering information about you from wherever they can. They are looking at your social media pages for unflattering pictures or posts and may even discriminate due to religious views and sexual orientation. Let’s not forget about HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) violations for those of you working in fields that are responsible for other people’s privacy. Employers have sought out and fired individuals for disclosing information (names, pictures, addresses, and incidents) that should be protected, all in the name of sharing.
Our relationships aren’t safe either. We’re letting everyone know just how we feel unasked and it could hurt us more than we ever imagined. According to a survey completed by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers on Facebook, more and more lawyers and clients are coming to divorce court armed with evidence from Facebook that their spouse is cheating, flirting, or changing their relationship status on Facebook. In fact, the survey claims that 20% of divorce cases are Facebook-related breakups.
Mashable.com did a survey stating that:
Almost 25% of respondents found out their own relationships were over by seeing it on Facebook first.
Around 21% of respondents said they would carry out a Facebook breakup by changing their status to single.
Nearly 40% of respondents have updated their status on Facebook so the person they’re dating sees they have plans.
Almost 35% of respondents have used their Facebook status to make someone think they have plans, even if they don’t.
Examiner.com goes as far as naming the top three problems that social media causes in relationships:
•Reveals too much information. Any “Friend” or “Fan” can look into your past photos, wall posts, comments, events, etc. and learn everything social media presents “About” you, without speaking to you once.
•Pressures relationships by publicizing private issues. Conflicts and interactions can be publicly presented and lead to comments and opinions from any person who views the information.
•Goldmine for jealousy. Changing privacy settings to avoid presenting misinformation and differing on- and off-line personalities may make it appear that you are hiding something and cause conflict.
We also have to be worried about stalkers. National figures show victims of cyber stalking tend to be females during the ages of 18-29 but women are not the only targets. A survey of 765 students at Rutgers University and the University of Pennsylvania found 45% of stalkers to be female and 56% to be male. National figures show most stalkers to be male by an overwhelming margin (87%).
Here are 10 tips to help keep you safe during your social networking provided by About.com
1. There’s no such thing as private. Whatever you post, tweet, update, share -- even if it's deleted immediately afterwards -- has the potential to be captured by someone, somewhere, without your knowledge.
2. A little bird told me every time you use Twitter, the government keeps a copy of your tweets. Sounds crazy, but it's true. According to the Library of Congress blog: "Every public tweet, ever, since Twitter's inception in March 2006, will be archived digitally at the Library of Congress.
3. X marks the spot. Be cautious about using geo-location services, apps, Foursquare, or any method that shares where you are. Women use geo-location services less compared to men; many are afraid of making themselves more vulnerable to cyber stalking.
4. Separate work and family. Keep your family safe, especially if you have a high profile position or work in a field that may expose you to high-risk individuals. Some women have more than one social networking account: one for their professional/public lives and one that's restricted to personal concerns and only involves family and close friends.
5. How old are you now? If you must share your birthday, never put down the year in which you were born. Using the month and day are acceptable, but adding the year provides an opportunity for identity theft.
6. It's your fault if it's default. Keep track of your privacy settings and check them on a regular basis or at least monthly.
7. Review before posting. Make sure your privacy settings enable you to review content where friends have tagged you before they appear publicly on your page.
8. It's a family affair. Make it clear to family members that the best way of communicating with you is through private messaging or email -- not posting on your page. Don't hesitate to delete something that is too personal for fear of hurting Grandma's feelings -- just make sure you message her privately to explain your actions, or better yet, call her on the phone.
9. You play, you pay...in loss of privacy. Online games, quizzes, and other entertainment apps are fun, but they often pull information from your page and post it without your knowledge.
10. How do I know you? Never accept a friend request from someone you don't know. This may seem like a no-brainer, but even when someone appears as a mutual friend of a friend or several friends, think twice about accepting unless you can concretely identify who they are and how they're connected to you.
Who knew that making friends on-line, sharing, and what appear to be harmless games would lead to Internet crimes. Social Networking has made us vulnerable and more susceptible to being victims. Beware of how you spend your free time and maybe all those hours in front of the computer or attached to your phone could be used to get out and make “real” friends.