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June 28, 2013

Controlling Your Digital Footprint

digitalfootprint-teas.jpgWith all the attention the NSA scandal is generating in the media, it is important to consider your own "digital footprint" to determine how much information you are offering -- perhaps unintentionally -- to strangers on the Internet. Before this scandal, the majority of Americans had no clue how easily it was for hackers to access unsuspecting victims' personal information online. However, a recent NPR segment on Weekend Edition Sunday offered listeners important advice on how to protect their private information. A link to the transcript of this broadcast can be found here.

As host Rachel Martin notes, most of us choose to share certain information about our friends and family, personal accomplishments, and the like, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media sites. However, we may not know just how much information we are actually sharing with the world via social media platforms. With all the recent scandals, most Americans are putting more thought than ever into just how secure their private information may be, hoping to protect this sensitive information from prying eyes. When posting on social media sites, we know we may be sharing personal information with the world, but sometimes, we are unaware of just how much information we are actually sharing. This brief news segment offers several tips on how to "lock up" our private information to keep it out of the wrong hands.

The guest on the show, Steve Henn, informed listeners that one of the most common ways Americans share sensitive information with unwanted "creeps" is by posting pictures on social media sites. Unknown to most users, these pictures provide sensitive information about the precise location the picture was taken, allowing prying eyes to determine the location of potential victims. This "geotag" data accompanies all Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram submissions, unless the user is tech-savvy enough to know how to hide this information. Apps are available which allow users to enter these photos into the app's software to find out exactly where these and other pictures from emails and social media sites, were taken. Unless users know how to enter the phone's settings and disable location services info on their phone's camera, strangers may be able to determine your location by using readily-available mobile phone apps. As Henn notes, perhaps the most-unsuspecting victims of these attacks are children, who are often less-aware than adults of just how much information they are sharing with the world. As a result, a child's otherwise harmless picture posted on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram can be used to find out sensitive information through the geotagged photograph.

This information should be very alarming to parents. Knowing that their chlidren may be leaving a "digital footprint," allowing strangers to track their kids, is enough to scare any parent. However, certain apps have been created to combat his problem. One such app is Wickr, which provides a simpler way for adults and children to control their "digital footprints" and limit private information from getting into the wrong hands. Most Americans are leaving digital footprints everywhere, making it much easier for strangers to learn more about our families than ever before. Parents should talk to their children about the trails they may be leaving behind, and looking for ways to limit the amount of sensitive information they are unknowingly leaving behind. Although some people are more sensitive to their privacy than others, it would be wise for all Americans to consider just how much information they are providing to complete strangers looking to access this information. If you have any questions regarding potential legal representation, please contact our experienced attorneys today. To learn more about Coxwell & Associates, please visit our website.