You're Not as Private as You Think
Ten ways you may be living more publicly than you want to be.
Advice & Answers
Little Ways You're Leaking Privacy
These days, so much of what you do online actually creates a record of your activities and preferences. You may not realize that you and your kids are creating permanent records that can be accessed by everyone from marketers to future employers. The stakes are high because unintentional public information can last for a very, very long time. Here are 10 ways you may be living much more publicly than you think.
10 Ways You’re Not as Private as You Think
1. Allowing yourself to be publicly searchable on Facebook. Have you ever wondered if people can search for you on the Internet and find your Facebook profile? Unless you opt out of Public Search Results, they can. This goes for other social networking sites, too. Help your kids set their Facebook privacy controls.
2. Broadcasting your location. Kids can use Twitter, Foursquare, Loopt, Google Buzz, and Facebook Places to "check in" and tell people exactly where they are. When kids broadcast their whereabouts using these location-sharing programs, it not only makes them vulnerable to unwelcome personal contact, it gives away a ton of personal information to advertisers.
3. Ignoring your YouTube Activity Sharing settings. YouTube's Activity Sharing settings let you restrict all of your YouTube activities, including the videos you upload, to a closed circle of chosen friends. Review your kid's Activity Sharing settings -- and while you're at it, make sure their privacy controls are set to "only friends." And remember, regardless of your settings, anything kids upload could potentially become public, so they should never post anything they wouldn't be comfortable showing to say, grandma.
4. Video chatting with strangers. Your kid may video chat with friends using a webcam. But keep an eye on who they are chatting with. Lots of websites enable people to randomly video chat with total strangers. Many of these sites require no registration, so anyone with a webcam can use it and do anything they want -- including tempt your kids to give away private information, take your picture, and record your conversation. Beyond that, these types of programs reduce the time between thought and action and that can be risky for kids.
5. Not talking to your kids about online privacy. Kids create lasting records of their lives whenever they post something. Nothing is private online. Once they post something, it can travel far and wide and be viewed by who knows who. Talk to them about their responsibility in guarding their own privacy.
6. Giving your baby a Facebook page. Want to protect your kid's privacy? Let their footprints be the kind preserved in clay -- not the digital kind.
8. Using your real name as your user name in virtual worlds and other online games. Most kids' websites remind kids not to give away personal information, and employ filters and moderators to prevent kids from posting it. But kids who are active in cyberspace may have avatars, game tags, and other identifiers. They need lots of reminders about keeping personal information to themselves. Visit your kid's favorite online world or game and you'll find other users creatively trying to get around the site's filters.
9. Revealing your status. Instant messaging is the easiest way to give yourself up, but every social network allows you to reveal your current status. AIM, for example, makes anyone visible to all their buddies when they sign in unless they mark "invisible." MySpace uses an "Online Now" icon. Why does everyone need to know when your kid is online? They don't. The only people who need to know where your kid is at all times are mom and dad.
10. Letting your kid sign up for anything before you know the facts. Whether it's a new app, a new program feature, or even a ringtone, new things are coming out all the time -- and your kid may hear about them before you do. Do your homework on whatever it is and who's doing the selling. In this 24/7 world where information is constantly being bought and sold, you can never be too careful.