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Privacy & Safety Issues

Online privacy is a growing concern in the digital age. ABC News recently reported that social networking sites such as MySpace are great targets for hackers and criminals wishing to access users' personal information for malicious use. Web sites like this, the report says, are vulnerable to hackers because flaws still exists in their privacy capabilities. That means that even if a user has their profile set to private, it is still possible for someone to view it and access their information. Users must be extremely careful about what they choose to post on the Web in general, and especially on social networking sites.

Parents, especially, must supervise their children's social networking use. Children and adolescents are more vulnerable to sexual or other inappropriate solicitation online, because they tend to trust more and be blind to the potential dangers of online interactions. The Pew Internet & American Life Project reports that over half of U.S. Internet-using children and teenagers ages 12 to 17 use social networking sites.

Many sites have not yet figured out how to really verify a user's age when they first sign up for a profile, making any child who knows how to use a computer (most children in the digital age with access to one), capable of creating a profile, sharing information, posting pictures, etc.

Further, Internet transactions, like the ones completed every time you interact with another user on a social networking site, always leave a trace. Although these sites all have privacy settings that can be altered according to an individual users' preferences on sharing their information, every move you make on one of these sites is recorded by the site for social data mining purposes.

Social networking sites can be entertaining. They can also be very useful for networking and keeping in touch with friends and family in today's hectic world, but they can become destructive if users are not careful about the information they post, the interactions they have, and the amount of trust they choose to place in the sites' hands.

Computer and Internet Privacy Expert, Gerald M. Haskins,
Talks About Privacy and Online Social Networking

Gerald M. Haskins, ComputerScience and Engineering Professor at UF



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