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Kids’ Web Footprint a Gift to Fraudsters November 24, 2007

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in News, Social Media.
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Young people’s futures could be compromised by their electronic footprint as many do not think ahead before putting information on the Web. A survey has revealed the extent of online content that could damage the prospects of young people and leave many more vulnerable to identity fraud.

The findings by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) were revealed today as it launches a new website to help young people understand their information rights. ICO is the UK’s independent authority set up to promote access to official information and to protect personal information.

The survey of Britons aged 14-21 years old shows that seven in 10 would not want a college, university or potential employer to do a Web search on them unless they could first remove content from social networking sites. Six in 10 have never considered that what they put online now might be permanent and could be accessed years into the future.

Youngsters’ online behaviour is a gift to potential fraudsters. Two thirds accept people they don’t know as ‘friends’ on social networking sites and half leave parts of their profile public specifically to attract new people. Seven in 10 are not concerned their personal profile can be viewed by strangers and 7% don’t think privacy settings are important and actively want everyone to see their full profile.

As for data young people make available, 60% post date of birth, a quarter their job title and one in 10 give their home address. Couple this with details used to create passwords – eg names of siblings, pets and mother – and fraudsters have the information needed to obtain products and services in a young person’s name or access existing bank or online accounts.

The ICO has these tips for protecting identity online:

• A blog is for life – remember you risk leaving a permanent electronic footprint. If you don’t think you’ll want it to exist somewhere in 10 years time, don’t post it .

• Privacy is precious – choose sites that give you plenty of control over who can find your profile and how much information they can see. Read privacy policies and understand how sites will use your details.

• Personal safety first – don’t allow people to work out your ‘real life’ location e.g. your place and hours of work. Your personal safety offline could be affected by what you tell people online.

• Password protected – change your passwords regularly, don’t use obvious words like your pet’s name and don’t use the same passwords on social networking sites as you do for things like internet banking.

• Address aware – use a separate email address for social networking and one that doesn’t give your year of birth or ideally, your full name.

• Reputation is everything – what seems funny to you and your friends now might be not be to your teachers, university admissions tutor or prospective employer – or to you in years to come.

Read the full Data Protection Topline Report.

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