Sunday, September 27, 2009

Public Service Announcement: The Internet is not Anonymous!

Despite the maturity of internet, and enough years of widespread use, many folks that should know better still have no clue that the internet is not an anonymous place where they can safely post whatever they like without risk of exposure. Anyone on Facebook is prone to having the occassional stranger send friend requests. I usually ignore these, but recently used one for a little experiment. The person's last name was obviously fake, so I decided to see how long it would take for me to find out more about them, and how much I could find.

I found full name, address, date of birth, more pictures, occupation, relatives names, where they attended school, and more. All this with just a first name, a picture and a list of their friends.

It is most shocking how many people under the age of 30 think they can post things on social networking sites and that information won't be available to others. One would expect that growing up in the information age and seeing people fired for MySpace Photos like Stacy Snyder, fired for Facebook comments like Kimberley Swann, or completely humiliated AND fired as shown in this fun video broadcast by the Young Turks.

Once you put something out on the internet, you have no control where it will go or who will see it. You may think you have secured your profile, but there is always a possibility of holes in that security. Many employers search these sites before and during your employment with them. That's how the Bishop came to call Alex a cross-dresser and a swinger, as immortalized here at Two Professors I know told me they often google their students, and their colleagues have declined to provide references to graduating students based on things they found that reflected poorly on the student.

So think long and hard before you hit post. And before friending and following people you don't know on social networking sites, please consider that they might well be information-gathering internet junkies like me. Do you really want your personal details in the hands of a stranger?

1 comment:

  1. I was tempted to google my clients, but then I thought I should adhere to my rule of not asking questions I don't want to know the answers to.