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Most of us know friends who have experienced negative results as a result of an unwise posting on social media or other internet sites. Most of us know someone who has experienced negative fallout at a job for saying something online or posting a photograph which is not in line with their professional persona. People still have the mistaken impression that information they provide online in the privacy of their home which they needed to enter a password to post, is accessible only to those you intend. They also may have the mistaken impression than no one but the people who are supposed to care will. Quite the opposite is actually true.
Brandon Raub, a Chesterfield, Virginia former soldier had a Facebook page which was supposed to be limited to be viewed only by his friends and family. He made some negative comments concerning the current US president. He was unaware that the FBI has been asked to monitor the internet activities of former soldiers Not long after, Chesterfield police in a joint venture with the FBI and other alphabet agencies arrested Mr. Raub and placed him in a psychiatric lock up, in state, but hours from his family and most importantly, his attorney. A search of Mr. Raub's home indicated that he didn't even own a gun ! It took time but eventually a judge released him stating that he "should never have been arrested in the first place".
Too numerous to mention here are the number of people who have lost jobs because they made unwise commentaries on Facebook. We cannot quantify the number of jobs people did not get because their name was googled, and their employer found something which placed them clearly behind other candidates who had applied.
I know people who have announced their vacations online, and then been robbed. Please understand that between conventional telephone directories, intelius and similar sources, and what you convey on everything from Yahoo Groups, Amazon wish lists, Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin allows an interested party to fashion a pretty good dossier on you and on your family. Why does this matter when it seems that everyone else you know does the same thing ? A dossier on you formulated by someone unethical, criminal, or even insane can be used for everything from identity theft, to receiving health care on your card and your dime. Someone who uses your health card can have an irrevokable effect on your medical record, and corrections to it often absolutely cannot be made even when the data included is proven to be absolutely incorrect. Physicians will say that it is a legal record, even when someone entered data on another patient entirely while you were in the office or the emergency room.
The present social media frenzy is a field day and a dream for both spies and for stalkers. These are just a few strategies that may slow down the flood gates of information.
1. Select only the social media sites that you can watch and police for yourself. Don't pick all of them, if you don't have the time to watch them.
2. Only "friend" or associate with those you really know. Law enforcement does look for online associations. How do you know that the beautiful woman from Paris who connected with you on Linkedin isn't an ISIS operative ? The same may be true of the attractive man from North Africa, even if he is a CEO in a company in the same business as you.
3. Use sense about your criticisms online of your government or of revealing your political views. You can tell the truth, but always do it politely and without anger or anything that could ever be construed to be a threat. The alphabet agencies and Secret Service has absolutely no sense of humor, and in the present world, I can't say I blame them.
4. Don't ever indicate where you will be on a certain date or time. You open yourself to abduction, robbery, or any number of potential set ups. The criminals and fraudsters are getting smarter, and so we will have to also.
5. Review any pictures you plan to place online over a couple of day period. The pictures of the people themselves as well as the backgrounds to those pictures give a great deal more information than you believe.
The same is true of your You Tube video postings. As an experiment, one of my adult children found his friends new house in another city just using the exterior landmarks and the Google Search feature.
6. Craigslist is a wonderful tool and quite a moneysaver. However, you should always take someone with you, and if possible meet the seller at a well lit public location. Predators use Craigslist too.
7.. Make sure that children understand that the internet is a poweful tool but that it has potential to be very dangerous. Just as ethical law enforcement agencies are finding it to be a boon in solving some crimes, criminals all over the world are finding that it opens a realm of possibilities for them also.
8. Function online as if EVERYTHING you have written to your friends in an e-mail is public knowledge, because it easily can become so. Even internet acquaintances of mine have forwarded or even posted online a post I made which had been intended only for them, and had been marked as such.
9. This week Anthem Health Insurance revealed than eighty-million of their customers were subject to a hacking data breach. Our names, social security numbers, street addresses, doctors names, diagnoses, medications taken and all manner of other data may be out there for black market criminals to purchase. This may be time to consider Lifelock or a similar service.
10. If information is very sensitive, then perhaps it has no business on your computer. Perhaps your personal affairs portfolio, your Will, and other sensitive documents belong on paper in a file cabinet and not on a personal computer which can so easily be hacked even under present technology.