Where Does Your Personal Information Live?

March 23, 2012

You’d be surprised to find out how much of your information is out there. Your data lives in hundreds of locations online and may even be sold without your permission. Yet, a lot of people maintain trust and feel confident when searching, buying and socializing online–believing their personal information gets lost in the sheer volume of online transactions that take place on a daily basis.

Your personal information can be found through:

  • Search people databases such as Spokeo or Intelius
  • Major search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing
  • Social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn
  • The deep web – the part of the web that cannot be accessed through ordinary search engines

How does your information get there in the first place?

That’s easy. You offer it up. Consider all the things you do online: emailing, shopping, social networking, banking and many more. All of these actions require us to surrender personal and, oftentimes, financial information. It is difficult to always consider carefully where your information goes before sending it into the infinite abyss of the Internet

Here are a few pointers:

1. Check a company’s privacy policy before you sign up for their service. Is it going to sell your information to the highest bidder? If so, think twice before entering your information.

2. If a company doesn’t disclose a privacy policy, don’t provide them with any personal information.

3. Always opt-out when asked to if you are OK with sharing your information with third parties.

We face a serious trade-off between privacy and convenience. Short of never going online, it’s almost impossible to keep all personal information off of the Internet, but that doesn’t mean we have to give up online privacy all together. We just need to make more of an effort to be stingy and vigilant behind the keyboard.

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Location-Based Services Raise Privacy and Security Concerns

March 6, 2012

With apps like Foursquare and Facebook Places, you can share your whereabouts anytime, anywhere, linking yourself to real world locations. Sounds like a fun and useful feature, right? Maybe… but also potentially very dangerous!

Location-sharing services are popular features on social media sites, but they can also expose another layer of personal information that puts your security at risk. Criminals monitor Facebook and Twitter pages to secretly track their target’s location. And considering that the average home burglary takes just over 10 minutes, a quick trip to the grocery store could grant enough time for a potential break-in.

A quick Google search reveals multiple incidences of criminals using social networks and other interactive websites to target victims. Here are some simple steps to protect yourself:

  • Don’t announce that you will be out of town for trips and vacations.
  • Limit the usage of location-based services like Foursquare and Facebook Places.
  • Don’t share pictures that reveal your address or landmarks near your home.
  • Don’t give detailed accounts of your daily routine online.

It is also important to pay close attention to your privacy settings to ensure that you don’t “overshare” with complete strangers. Only trusted friends should be able keep track of where you are.