Protecting your privacy
A word of advice media column about protecting your privacy on social networking sites.
Thursday 6 May 2010
A couple of photos from a big night out posted on a social networking site couldn’t do too much damage, surely? But what if these pictures came back to haunt you further down the line? Would you really want your Mum or a prospective employer to see you dancing semi-naked in a paddock near Levin?
Recent figures from the Privacy Commissioner reveal that around four out of five New Zealanders aged 18–30 now using social networking sites such as Facebook. And more than half of 30–44 year olds; about a third of 45–59 year olds; and almost one in 10 people over 60 are active users of social networking sites.
But even if you think your own page is well protected from prying eyes, do you know which of your friends have public social networking pages, open for all to see? Any images or comments on their page would be accessible to everyone, including information you’ve posted.
Social networking: protect yourself
- There’s no reason to stop using social networking sites but if you want to continue to use and enjoy your on-line networking you should consider the information you put on your profile and others.
- Next time you’re online, remember to check your privacy settings. You can set them so only your real-life friends can see your full profile.
- Be careful what you write on other people’s (public) pages and remember that any information you put up could be copied and pasted – don’t post anything you wouldn’t be happy for everyone to see.
- Be careful about accepting friend requests from people you don’t know or trust.
- Be wary of the information you post. Don’t list your full date and place of birth, or other information that could be used for passwords/PIN numbers etc.
- Step back and think about the information you’re posting. Put yourself in the shoes of an identity thief, would they find the information useful?
- Remember, posting pictures of a big night out may seem innocent enough but employers are increasingly checking out job applicants’ online profiles.
Scammers love social networking as much as you do to target their victims. A hacker will “phish” (trick you into giving your log-in details) and hack into your social networking site – then assume your online identity. Suddenly, your social networking friends are deluged with spam, links to dodgy websites containing malware or requests for them to wire money to ‘you’.
One report to Scamwatch said: "I received calls from two friends in Australia saying that they had been 'chatting' to me on Facebook. Apparently I was in London, had been robbed and had lost everything. I then asked these friends to "loan" me $700 to be sent immediately via money transfer. My friends had the sense to ring me in NZ to check to see if the story was correct. Obviously it wasn't."
Concerned about identity theft?
A new online tool to help New Zealanders protect themselves against identity theft was launched recently by the Privacy Commissioner.
Using a multiple choice quiz, you can work through a series of questions on eleven different topics: for instance how well you protect information in your wallet, or on your computer. You’ll then get a score indicating how open you are to identity theft. There are also some simple tips on each topic to help protect yourself better in the future. Visit www.privacyawarenessweek.org and click on the ID theft link to try out the quiz.