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Social networking

Stay safe when interacting with others

Social networking sites such as Facebook, Bebo and MySpace are becoming more and more popular, especially among teenagers and young adults. The nature of these sites creates security risks, so you should always be cautious when using them.

These types of sites promote personal connections and communications, and require you to provide a certain amount of personal information.

However, the more information available, the easier it becomes for others to take advantage of your identity. In some cases, criminals could fraudulently exploit this to obtain products and services in your name.

Personal information could also be used to conduct a 'social engineering attack'. Predators may form relationships online and then convince unsuspecting individuals - often young people - to meet them in person, which could lead to a dangerous situation.

Essential tips for protecting your identity

  • Always limit the amount of information you provide - do not post information that could be used by third parties, such as your address (home, school or workplace), date of birth, postcode, job title or information about your schedule or routine
  • Always read and understand privacy policies - some sites may share information such as email addresses or user preferences with other companies. This may lead to an increase in spam and unwanted emails
  • Remember that the internet is a public resource - so consider how others may view any information provided. Avoid using inappropriate language in your profile in blogs and other forums
  • Never converse with strangers - the internet makes it easy for predators and cyberbullies to misrepresent their identities and motives
  • Be sceptical and maintain your integrity - don't believe everything you read online. People may post misleading information about various topics, including their own identities, to lull you into a false sense of security
  • Change passwords regularly - and use a separate email address for social networking sites

Children are especially susceptible to the threats presented by social networking sites. Parents should inform their children about internet safety and be aware of their online habits. Some useful tips are:

  • Keep your PC in a central, public part of your home
  • Set clear rules for your children's internet use
  • Use family safety or parental controls software

For more information, visit the Information Commissioner's pages for young people.