For almost 20 years the internet has changed the lives of millions of people around the world, and has brought friends and families together. The internet has helped people to study in foreign countries, learn about new cultures, and quickly share information across borders in an instant. The internet is a lawless place where it seems anything goes, and anyone can publish anything they want. Criminals have taken full advantage of the new playing field, and the anonymity of the internet allows internet scammers to find potential victims just about anywhere. As the number of internet users rises, and privacy is less protected, the number of fraud and identity theft victims continues to rise. Experts say the trend is quickly growing out of control.
Threats are present since the very moment you open your browser. Websites add files called cookies to your hard drive. Cookies help the user experience be faster, but also gather important information about how people use the internet. Websites, companies and criminals want to know where you’ve been, and who you are. For them, the more they have the better.
Some sites are now blatantly violating your privacy. In fact, law enforcement officials say increasingly in murder, rape, assault and robbery cases, the internet was used by the criminal to learn about you, know your habits, where you live, and when you are likely home. Online dating has led to murder. People have met someone from Facebook, later to be raped or murdered. These are extreme examples, but they are increasingly common and need to be addressed. Private investigator company representatives and law enforcement agencies advise caution.
Google Maps puts a street view of your house on the internet, for the world to see. They see what your house looks like, what your car looks like, and even if you’ve cut your grass in the photo. Criminals love having access to this information. Other sides such as 123people, Intelius and MyLife publish your private information from public records without your authorization, so criminals and anyone else with internet access can see your date of birth, address, marriage status, neighborhood information, and if you are married or have a criminal record. Thanks to big money in violating your privacy, the trend is getting worse, and identity theft is up.
Google and Facebook are experts at collecting users’ information with the excuse to make the experience friendlier. They have made very clear the fact that information is power. Facebook for example, can use anything you have posted in their social network for advertising purposes without sharing a penny for your thoughts or your pictures, or your contact list of friends. It is like working for them, for free! They make off with your private information and profit from it.
To be safe, the rule is simple: Do not share your personal information over the internet. If you need to make a purchase online, make sure you do so with a reputable online store or company, one that has privacy and trust seals such as McAfee, Better Business and Truste. When submitting data via the internet, make sure you see the lock on your browser, indicating encryption. And when using social networking sites and the internet in general, remember what you “share” may be fun for friends, but there is no guarantee your information will be protected, and what you share may be used against you if fallen into the wrong hands. Be safe, guard your privacy.
All the best,
© 2012 S. Birch