October 22, 2013

Online privacy has probably been a myth since the start of the internet.  Maybe one of the things we have to understand is that from the moment we decide to share information online, we´re accepting its public. We agree that it can be shared and seen by anyone. Just think about who has control of what you publish online. It has never been the user. Even the U.S. government can't seem to keep their highly classified information private.  And the more you share online (or in public), the greater at risk you are for scams, fraud and identity theft.  This is the reason why professional private investigators are warning people and trying to educate the public on the risks of declining privacy, and your risk from sharing.

Social networks and other websites have privacy policies, and terms and conditions that claim they are safe and reliable, and that they respect and protect your information, etc.  But, websites are hacked, policies change, information is stolen or copied, and in one way or another, anything you share online can end up in the hands of criminals.  Think Google Maps and Street View is neat?  So do criminals.  Many robbery, assault, rape and even homicide cases now reveal that criminals often uses the internet in preliminary research to learn where you live, where you work, and how to get there.

If you publish or share your private information on the internet, such as your date of birth, address, place of employment, vacation schedule, and more, you are a the perfect victim, and it's only a matter of time before a criminal will take advantage of all those pictures and information you're sharing on Facebook, Match.com or Twitter.  What starts online can cause real world problems, and sharing too much information and the lack of privacy leads to serious crimes such as identity theft, romance scam, dating fraud, and much more serious in person, physical crimes.  Many thought they were safe on Facebook, until recently the recent Facebook changes to decrease privacy for its millions of users.

The bottom line is that most websites want you to share, because your information is valuable.  That's right.  The more a website knows about you, the more they can sell your data to advertisers.

When it comes to hackers, or the National Security Agency, or who knows what other international agency, the truth is there are no secrets.  If you share something online, assume you are sharing it with the world, and it's important you know the risk.  If you want to be safe, remember the less about you online, the safer you are.  Search for Google for your name to see what is out there about you for your worst enemy to see.  If you're alarmed by how much you can find, it's time to fight back!

There are a lot of tips and best practices available on the Stay Safe Online website.   Privacy experts say when you're doing business with website on the internet, look for trust seals, such as McAfee, the Better Business Bureau, Truste and Verisign.  It's no guarantee that your information will be safe, but it's a good sign the website is taking steps to show that they are serious about protecting your privacy.
Services like Facebook´s GPS feature let us share with our friends the places where we go. So we check in when we arrive at work, check in when we pick up our kids at school, check in when we get home. Anyone with a basic computer knowledge can find out what we do, if we´re home or not, the places we frequent and the kind of lives we live.  Think about your own safety, the safety of your family, and lower your risk for dating scams, identity theft, robbery and many other types of serious crime.

S. Birch
© 2013 S. Birch

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This copyrighted article was written and published by the editor and site author, S. Birch, or other guest private investigator, expert or contributor as stated.