Ever since the internet became such an integral part of everyone’s lives, doubts have been voiced regarding privacy in an environment that thrives on the gathering together and subsequent dissemination of information on a vast scale. Much of this information is highly personal and frequently financially sensitive. Unease relating to the standard of security maintained by social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn has grown directly in proportion to their popularity. What’s more, with the advent of cloud computing and stories of the highly publicised hacking of supposedly secure databases operated by companies such as Sony and Amazon, it sometimes appears that the bad guys are in the driving seat and the law is playing catch-up.
The vulnerability of their children is of particular concern to parents, many of whom do not have the faintest idea of precisely who their youngsters are talking to and how much personal information they are innocently passing on to strangers. Today, in addition to using the internet to socialise with friends, it has become an essential tool for day-to-day communication with their teachers and school administrators, a situation that creates even more opportunities for sensitive information to be inadvertently divulged.
Age-appropriate parental control blocking filters can be applied to prevent access to unsuitable sites and protect kids from online predators. It is also possible to install programs designed to monitor and track their online activities. However, the best way of ensuring children’s safety while using the internet is to speak to them, learn about the sites they are accessing, and make them aware of the potential risks to which they might be exposing themselves. A simple but effective tip is to have them use an online nickname rather than disclose their true identity. Other possibilities include preventing them from posting photos of themselves and accessing chat rooms, monitoring credit card and phone bills, and having them share email accounts. Warn them not to take anyone at face value; paedophiles operate by attempting to pass themselves off as being in the same age group and having similar interests as the youngsters they hope to “groom.” By acting in this way, they hope to learn personal information such as names, addresses and telephone numbers.
As mentioned previously, it’s not just children who are prone to falling foul of internet fraud and suffering breaches of privacy. Web search engines, such as Google, amass a huge amount of information on individuals, some of which may be inaccurate and, as a result, cause immense distress to those involved. One particular case involves Max Mosley, the well-respected former president of the de , the governing body of international motorsport. Max Mosley has become a leading activist in the fight to tighten the laws relating to internet privacy.
Many countries, including the UK, Australia and the US, have or are about to introduce new laws designed to enhance internet security. However, there is no substitute for taking precautions at an individual level to ensure that personal information is not inadvertently divulged to strangers via social media websites, chat rooms or other unsecured data connections.
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