uk: Privacy warning for young users of networking sites

Official guidance for millions of people who use networking sites will be published today by the information commissioner amid growing concerns that young people are being naive about the personal details they put online.

The watchdog fears that most youngsters do not realise that the information they place on websites such as MySpace and Bebo leaves an electronic footprint which could be traceable to them in the future. In a survey by the Information Commissioner’s Office almost 60% of young people aged 14-21 said they did not realise the information they placed online could be permanently linked to them.

David Smith, ICO deputy commissioner, said: “The cost to a person’s future can be very high if something undesirable is found by the increasing number of education institutions and employers using the internet as a tool to vet potential students or employees.”
http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2007/nov/23/news.facebook

Also see:

uk: Young warned over social websites
Millions of young people could damage their future careers with the details about themselves they post on social networking websites, a watchdog warns.The Information Commissioner’s Office found more than half of those asked made most of their information public.Some 71% of 2,000 14 to 21-year-olds said they would not want colleges or employers to do a web search on them before they had removed some material.The commission said the young needed to be aware of their electronic footprint.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7108627.stm

New front in the battle against identity theft
Millions of young people have made themselves vulnerable to identity theft as well as putting their future academic and professional prospects at risk by recklessly posting personal information on the internet, Britain’s privacy watchdog warns in a report published today.
http://news.independent.co.uk/sci_tech/article3187110.ece

4.5 million young Brits’ futures could be compromised by their electronic footprint [news release]

– Survey reveals extent of online content that could damage the prospects of young people and leave many more vulnerable to identity fraud –

As many as four and a half million* young people (71%) would not want a college, university or potential employer to conduct an internet search on them unless they could first remove content from social networking sites, according to new research by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). But almost six in 10 have never considered that what they put online now might be permanent and could be accessed years into the future.

The research findings are unveiled as the ICO launches a new website at www.ico.gov.uk/youngpeople to help young people understand their information rights. The first section contains tips and advice on safe social networking.

As well as not thinking ahead before posting information on the web, the survey of Britons aged 14-21** also revealed that youngsters’ online behaviour is a gift to potential fraudsters. Two thirds (eight in 10 girls aged 16-17) accept people they don’t know as ‘friends’ on social networking sites and over half leave parts of their profile public specifically to attract new people. More than seven in 10 are not concerned that their personal profile can be viewed by strangers and 7% don’t think privacy settings are important and actively want everyone to see their full profile.

As for the data that young people make available, 60% post their date of birth, a quarter post their job title and almost one in 10 give their home address. Couple this basic information with details that might be used to create passwords e.g. sibling’s name (posted by 23%) pet’s name (posted by a quarter of girls) and even mother’s maiden name (posted by 2%) and fraudsters have the information they need to obtain products and services in a young person’s name or access existing bank or online accounts.

David Smith, Deputy Commissioner for the ICO, said: “Many young people are posting content online without thinking about the electronic footprint they leave behind. The cost to a person’s future can be very high if something undesirable is found by the increasing number of education institutions and employers using the internet as a tool to vet potential students or employees.

The research also found that a third of young people have never read privacy policies on social networking sites and don’t understand how they can manage their personal information. But when asked how they feel about websites potentially using their details to target advertising at them or to pass on to other websites or brands, a huge 95% are concerned about this, with 54% caring ‘a lot’ about how their personal information is used.

David Smith continues: “This shows that when young people are made aware that their details could be being passed between parties – legitimate or unscrupulous – they are worried. We have to help teenagers wise up to every aspect of the internet age they’re living in – it may be fun but unfortunately it is not the safe space many think it is.”

This news release was originally sourced from: ico.gov.uk/upload/documents/pressreleases/2007/social_networking_press_release.pdf

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