When I was first in college in the early 90’s in the UK, there was no social media, email could only be sent internally to other students and lecturers and the internet was in its infancy and just learning to crawl. In 1995 I finally got a proper email address via Hotmail and I could communicate with the outside world. When I finally got the internet in my home 2 years later I got an email address with my ISP (Internet Service Provider ) Eircom.
My Hotmail address was no longer used and my new email address was the only one I used. In fact it was overused and that’s when I started to receive Spam email. The email varied from online Viagra shops to Russian women looking for a man to phishing. I had no idea why I was getting it and who was really sending it. It later transpired I was leaving a trail of breadcrumbs online that was leading back to me.
I had joined a lot of user groups, signed up to various newsletters and as I was freely handing out my email address that was my trail of breadcrumbs. When I finally realised what I was doing I took the only course of action. Since my email address was compromised I had to get a new one, and I decided that if I was going to give out my email address I would be more cautious. If I was giving out my email address to someone or somewhere that I trusted I handed out my new email address and everyone else got my old email address.
I have become more cautious with what data I share and now that Social Media has become more prevalent more and more people are willing handing out data and information that can be used to profile you. More and more websites and apps as well Social Media platforms are only allow you to sign up with your Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter accounts and this is supposedly for your convenience.
Once you sign up with your Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter account you are freely giving away access to these accounts and also providing them with details of all your friends and contacts. Even more worryingly some mobile apps want to access your phones contacts list so that they can tell you if one of your contacts is also using it. Once access is granted to your phones contact details you have to wonder what else have they access to.
With all this data being liberally handed over you have to ask yourself one very important question; If you met someone in a bar or nightclub, would you give them your name, address, date of birth, as well as information on your family. Your answer is probably going to be no. Why do you openly do this online and with mobile apps. If you are willing to do this you can be easily profiled and it’s plausible that your identity can be stolen so you are not being safe and secure.
So next time you are online be more careful with what information you share and more importantly who you are sharing it with. If you are using Facebook change your privacy settings so that you are not giving away too much information. As Sergeant Phil Esterhaus used to say in Hill Street Blues, “Hey, let’s be careful out there”.