Monday, July 23, 2007

The dark side of social networking

Every time we start to have a little fun online, some government regulator or "concerned" citizens' association has to go and ruin everything.

The latest scaremongering comes from credit information group Equifax (aka the ultimate Big Brother), which warns that subscribers to social networking sites like Facebook and MySapce are sitting ducks for potential identity fraudsters.

Wow--good thing you told me! I was just about to add all of my personal financial details to my FaceBook profile....

To be fair to Equifax, people probably ought to think twice about posting too much personal information to any website and this will obviously present some challenges if (or, more likely when) these sites decide to enter the travel fold.

Details such as your date of birth, where you were born, and your marital status are particularly sensitive, says Equifax.

There is no denying (unfortunately) that identity theft is rampant in the UK. Last year, 80,000 people were victims of ID theft, costing the economy in the neighbourhood of £1.5 bn.

But it's wrong to imply that social network users are more at risk than online banks, for example.

I've had my bank details ripped off three times in two different countries because some genius figured out how to hack into my account or copy my debit card.

Yes, it's bloody annoying, but, sadly, it's a fact of our virtual world.

Equifax is advising people not to give too much away online....I think Equifax has probably never been on a social networking site.

Why else would they think the personal details on these sites are true anyway?

I know for a fact I'm not alone in embellishing my profiles.

Take how I met my FaceBook friend Nick, for example. He wasn't really the roller skating champion at the Croydon Blink-O-Rink.

I could be completely wrong here, though I hope I'm not, when I say that Equifax may be overreacting just a tad. I mean, if my own profiles are anything to go by, then the worst that could happen is someone snatches the identity of my avatar.

That's OK by me. I was planning a new autumn personality anyway.

Tricia Holly Davis, chief writer, Travolution


Stephen A. Joyce said...

It's sad but true that thousands of people still fall for the Nigerian scam, so undoubtedly there is a legitimate concern about people revealing their private data online. That said, I would expect that users of social networking sites like Facebook are more sophisticated then your average email user.

Karl Wolfbrooks Ager said...

What concerns me most is the theft of my avatar's identity. Like you mentioned, this may be the worst case senario. I have no idea where my avatar banks or how much money he has. I'm very concerned, but don't know if he'll listen to me if I tell him he's at risk!