Personal Safety Online (Web Footprints)

This post is about your own personal safety and the information that you allow people to know about you that is stored and visible online. It is not a post that is supposed to scare anyone but I’m hoping it will make people think about what they place online. Before continuing with this post however I will let you know right now that I am no security expert and the advice given here is my own personal suggestions and things for people to consider.

  1. Information stored publically online is available to the world, that means that it is available to anyone in the world from any location on any device (that includes mobile phones!)
  2. If you own a website your address details are registered online. You can make these details private! Just change the settings with your service provider, unless you want anyone to know your registered address for the website (be that business or personal!)
  3. Phone numbers, e-mail addresses, home, and website addresses placed online in a public location can be found by anyone with a browser and the mind set to search for the information.
  4. Mashup’s of data and location mean that it is becoming easier to find people’s physical location and patterns of behaviour both online and offline. Be aware that this can also show repeat patterns of behaviour that could be used for monitoring or even someone following you about.
  5. The internet holds information that other people place online about you, that includes pictures, comments, views and a whole lot more. Be aware of what is online about you in case it comes back to bite you.
  6. You are accountable for your own actions!
  7. Anything you place online about other people attached to your name and details can be seen by the company that employs you, and all their staff, be aware of this and be aware of your companies or School/ College/ Universities policies.
  8. If someone does get hold of your e-mail address, contact info and uses it to harass you then you have a number of options, if it is a nuisance you can change e-mail addresses and contact numbers. If this doesn’t work (in the UK) you can report the numbers, have them traced by your service provider and request the details to be passed to the police. This tactic usually works well and is particularly useful if the calls or e-mails are abusive in any way. If you are a young person and you are having this sort of problem, you really need to tell someone, it can be a parent, teacher or just someone older that you know will take you seriously. Make your friends aware and they can be a safety mechanism to stop you walking anywhere alone too!
  9. Be aware that people can take what you say in a number of different ways online, be sure that what you are writing is taken in the way that you want it to be, don’t be surprised if people don’t quite see things the same way as you do. Explain further if necessary and don’t go off topic if you can help it.
  10. Be Safe, Be Aware, Be Sensible, but most importantly be you!

The main reason for putting this online is that I often see people on my MSN and GTalk lists with details of their whereabouts online and even on some blog sites. This concerns me a little, especially with those people who have a relatively public profile. I just hope that they are aware enough of their relevant level of vunerability to the evil people of this world. I for one know that there are more good people in the world than bad but I would hate for anyone to be complacent and find that they land themselves in trouble.

Too often I read the news and see headlines where someone has walked down a dark alley at night and ended up injured, attacked or worse. I just hope that people can start to think about their own personal safety and be aware and sensible in their approach to things both online and offline. At one point people thought that online and offline were two very seperate things, the distinction between the two was very clear. These days however people are almost constantly online with their phones, the internet, twitter (txt) and IM. This makes them more accessible but also helps to provide more information about them which can be used in many different ways.

This post is to raise awareness of the issues online and also to help people to understand the impact of online information. I am hoping it will be seen as a guidance and also as a way of encouraging people to look after each other online. There are also plenty of great reasons to have an online persona, this post should not take away from that! It’s a great place to share ideas, information and knowledge. Don’t be deterred from sharing the knowledge, information and ideas, it is the sharing of these things that make individuals shine out from the crowd and for ideas to become more than just ideas.

About Sarah Lamb

Sarah is a freelance writer with a masters degree in Computer Science. Sarah writes about innovation, technology and social media. She has a keen interest in gender diversity with the IT sector and founded Girl Geek Dinners in 2005

One thought on “Personal Safety Online (Web Footprints)

  1. Very sensible advice Sarah. Thank you for sharing. Folks need to be really careful what they put on social networking sites like bebo, myspace, facebook etc as they all come back and haunt you. What might seem like gossip between you and your mates is pretty easy to find and may ceom and bite you on the bum when you’re looking for a job or trying to establish credibility in your chosen professional field. Not sure how the myspace generation will feel about all this stuff when it’s their turn to be employers… time will tell.