Would you hand out your name, social security number and email address to a total stranger on the street? Probably not. However, when it comes to giving out the same information online, we are somewhat less adamant. Is it really easy to gain information on an individual from seemingly trivial data? How could your online presence be used against you? In this article, we answer these questions and discuss how to mitigate these risks.
Would You Give Out Your Email Address?
A social experiment conducted by People’s ID Bot Project and London agency Abundance has shown how incredibly easy it is for fraudsters to glean a disturbing level of personal information online, by simply using an email address. Bar customers wrote their email address on a sham mailing list, then researchers used their email addresses to evaluate the target’s details online. Within a matter of minutes, the researchers had gathered so much private information on the individuals that they succeeded in convincing the patrons that they had known them for years. Would the same have happened to you?
Sharing Your Life Online
The shocking experiment highlights the dangers of leaving yourself open to online identification fraud – it reveals how easy it is for a stranger to research individuals. People should be aware of the how much of their personally-identifiable information is freely available online. In the wrong hands, this information is used to commit identity theft or sold to other criminals. Usually, the victim is only made aware after a crime has been committed against them.
Often, people disclose all types of personal information on the Internet that allows identifying data to be deduced. Social media services such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are libraries of personal minutiae – school and work chatter, snapshots of family vacations, and books read are just the tip of the iceberg. Such seemingly superficial pieces of self-revelation can gradually be gathered and reconstructed by computers to help create a picture of a person’s identity, sometimes even down to the Social Security number.
How to Prevent Victimization
People can increase their defenses against identification in social networks by implementing tight privacy controls on information in personal profiles. Unfortunately, an individual’s actions are not sufficient to protect privacy in the interconnected world of the internet. In today’s online world, personal privacy is no longer an individual phenomenon; although you may not disclose personal information, your online friends or colleagues may do it for you, denoting your gender, education or employer, location, and interests.
The Web offers us excellent value and convenience, however it is important to be vigilant in protecting our online identities. It is essential to exercise caution and implement these simple adjustments to online behavior in order to prevent victimization. People should exert more caution with personal details – it is by obtaining such data that the process of identity theft starts.
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