Most of us spend a great deal of time online, whether conducting research for our jobs or connecting with friends and family on our social media sites. But let’s be honest, how often do you think about protecting your online identity? Unless you live and breathe in the infosecurity arena, the reality is, you probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about your online privacy, let alone worrying about it. But by the end of this post, believe me, you’ll think differently.
Ted Claypoole, an attorney and co-chair of the Cyberspace Privacy and Data Security Subcommittee of the American Bar Association’s Business Law Section, and Theresa Payton, a security advisor and CEO of Fortalice, LLC, have written a must-read book entitled, “Are You Naked Online? Protecting You Internet Identity.”
The book begins: “We are all born naked. We emerge into this world with nothing to hide. But we are born into a complex human society, and it soon forces us to cloak ourselves in secrets. We choose to hide many aspects of ourselves from the world. Finances and romances, opinions and frustrations, imperfections and bad habits are all sensitive personal information. We can find as many reasons to keep personal information private as there are people protecting their privacy. The longer our lives, the more private information we accumulate. [But] today the Internet threatens to strip us bare. By broadcasting many of our most sensitive and important secrets, and keeping that information available and searchable indefinitely, the Internet displays aspects of our lives that we thought we’d kept private. Even worse, the Internet allows other people to collect facts about us and to aggregate those facts into a picture of our identities and our lives.”
The book emphasizes the theme that “some aspects of our lives should not be shared with everyone…and you should have control over what you share and how you share it.” However, that is easier said than done.
For family and friends who don’t think about security on a daily basis, Claypoole and Payton provide an easy-to-understand explanation. Consider being at an airport in our post-9/11 world. Now, we all must walk through an X-ray machine. We feel exposed – but that is nothing when compared to how exposed we can feel as a result of the Internet.
Claypoole and Payton showed a family how easy it was to access information about them online. A search was conducted with the mother’s name, city, and place of worship. The search led to a site with a church newsletter that described a charity project the mother was working on and included her email address. Armed with the email address, the Facebook account could be found. Despite the fact that her Facebook posts were positive, what if they weren’t? And armed with all of this information about the mother, now a cyber thief could impersonate her.
So, instead of being naked online, make the conscious decision to be dressed when using the Internet. Keep important and confidential information offline. Use that famous rule: don’t post anything that your grandmother or boss shouldn’t see – that means credit card numbers, plans for when you will be away from home on a vacation, or photos from a late-night party when you might have had too much to drink. So, before you post anything, ask yourself, could this information ever be used against me? Then ask yourself a second time before you click okay or post.
As you “dress” when online, review the places you share information:
- Check your digital footprint: social media profiles, dating sites, photo sites, video sites, location-based sites, music sites, shopping sites, and merchant sites
- Do these sites allow you to limit access to friends only, or is the information you post public for anyone to see?
- Have you used your real name or a fake name?
- Have your friends and family posted information on your sites also?
- What other sites may have information about you, such as, government sites, court sites, genealogy sites, newspaper sites?
- Have you run searches on search engines, such as, Google, Spokeo, etc.?
Even after you clean up your digital footprint, you cannot rest. Protecting your digital footprint is an ongoing 24/7 process. The scary truth is that you cannot rest because the cyber criminals who want to steal your identity NEVER rest. But, you’re better prepared to proactively protect your digital footprint after reading Claypoole’s and Payton’s book.