Protect your personal information and beware of fraudsters on social networking sites
There are many social networking websites allowing anyone with internet access to create a profile and to view the profiles of others.
A surprising proportion of internet users succumb to the friendliness and ease of the on-line world and happily publish even the most personal information about themselves on social networking sites. Many are then surprised when that same information is used by others. For example, teenagers posting their journals online - only to become outraged when they find that their parents are logging on to read it. Privacy in a public space is a paradox yet to be resolved.
If you doubt the extent of this problem just take a few minutes to browse this selection of representative social networking sites: Yahoo!, 360, FriendFinder, FriendWise, and MySpace. With a simple click of the mouse, information that you may have thought to be private is no longer: ages, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses. It is truly amazing what some people will reveal about themselves without batting an eyelid!
The message is clear - it is vitally important that you consider what you include in your profile before publishing it.
This requirement for caution may take away a little of the fun of joining a social networking program, but it will help keep you safe. For example, when building your social networking profile - especially on a website that anyone can view - you should carefully select the pictures that you post. If you post a personal picture of yourself in the same place as you provide your full name and maybe your address you have provided nearly everything necessary to enable someone to create a new identity.
If you are a social network user be sure to enquire about private profile settings so that you can limit the number of individuals who can view your profile. Most such facilities at least give you the opportunity to control who sees your profile information, and this at least lets you distinguish between what you show your friends and what you show strangers.
Some social networking sites are more 'on the ball' with privacy issues than others. These include, but are not limited to, Orkut and Facebook - where the default settings provide that your profile will only be seen by other members. This is done to help ensure your safety online. However, as with all other social networking websites, it is fairly easy for you to make online connections and friends, but, in a way, these private profile networking sites are a safer way to make those connections.
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