Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Consumer Reports notes that many people's carelessness on social media invites identity theft and other security problems

Consumers Reports has recently run a survey that found that about 52% of social media users routinely post birthdates, home addresses, vacation plans, and other information that could endanger both home security and increase the risk of identity theft through the Internet.

The San Francisco Chronicle ran a story May 4 by Benny Evangelista, “Social network users found to endanger privacy”, link here.

The article mentions a number of steps that can improve security, including better use of social media privacy controls, especially using “only friends” option on Facebook and unchecking search engine availability.

I did find an article on Consumer Reports, "7 things to stop doing now on Facebook", link here.  I did find the recommendation "letting search engines find you" a bit glaring, and it needs to be understood in context.

On the other hand, many individuals have, from their viewpoint, good reason to want to be found by everyone, including by search engines. This includes people who self-publish political or social materials, or artists and musicians attracting new performance opportunities. Furthermore, there is a big of a logical contradiction in sharing things only with “friends” if the purpose of social media is taken to be to make more “friends.”

Everyone’s situation is different, with regard to such matters as living circumstances, job conflicts, job travel, family structure, and most of all, skill in monitoring one’s own circumstances. So perhaps the adage “different strokes for different folks” applies here. A well implemented home security system is a good idea, as is the ability to monitor one’s own accounts and credit score online and ability to detect problems very early. Still another issue is maturity, and the ability to see through scams. Prevention of identity theft or other security issues has a lot to do with “whether you know what you’re doing”. Still, as I noted on the “BillBoushka” blog April 20 (and again April 29), interests ranging from property insurance companies to school principals are becoming increasingly concerned about the reach and subtlety of these problems, especially when there are minors at home without the maturity to deal with them.

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