Written by Kylie Barton
As online communities proliferate, and become a place where many citizens are increasingly active, there have been growing concerns relating to the safety of people online.
As with all areas of life, there are risks online, but these risks are very much unknown to some members of our communities. In this article we will have a look at some of those fears and the things you can do to make sure that you and your data is safe when surfing the web.
Your data online is really like a needle in a haystack, and you are probably just as likely to be subject to identity theft online as you are to be a subject of fraud in real life. There is always a risk, but it is minimal, and online there are more ways to protect you than there are in real life, and more ways to resolve any situations that occur.
There are many fears around registering for different websites, but most websites, especially those linked with national brands or organisations will follow data protection laws, and have a section on their website explaining all this. When you sign up to a website, there will be a number of boxes for you to check or uncheck. As you would do with anything you were signing with a pen and paper, read everything thoroughly.
Companies can often word things strangely so that if you skim read something you may thing you want to tick the box to opt out when actually it is an opt in check box – so take your time. If you think you have done something wrong, you can usually access your contact preferences through your account, or from the footer of their emails. So not all is lost. If they share your data and you haven’t checked a box to agree to that they are breaking the law.
The Data Protection Act (DPA) was originally introduced in the 1980s and it was updated and strengthened due to the increase of online data in 1998 and again in 2003. The DPA covers personal data which includes when you put in your name, email address and phone number to register on online forms. It covers how this information can be used and requires organisations to ask you if they can share with third parties.
You have the right to ask organisations what data they are holding about you, and to get rightful compensation should your data be used in a way other than for what you agreed to. The Information Commission also has lots of advice and information.
So although there will be horror stories, the system is geared to protect you and your data. So here are the top ten tips for staying safe online:
- Check your privacy and security settings on social media sites and make sure nothing is ‘public’
- Do not post personal information such as your address, phone number, or email in public spaces on the web. It is fine to do this when creating accounts on social media or websites as these places work to the data protection act as described above, plus you would have checked your settings!
- Change passwords often, and use a variety of capitals, letters, and numbers. Make sure that answers to ‘secret questions’ are not things others may be able to find out such as mother’s maiden name.
- Be especially vigilant with picture and video uploads on any site. If you wouldn’t want a potential employer to see it don’t put it up.
- Keep private conversations private.
- If someone asks you for some information, check who they are and why they need it, do not just give it out straight away no questions asked.
- When filling out online forms or registering, only pro
vide information that is shown as needed. This is usually signified by a red asterisks.
- Delete old accounts (email, social media, blogs) and keep on top of your subscriptions to limit the amount coming into your inbox and the amount of data you have online.
- Be as vigilant on your mobile. Do not join open Wi-Fi networks, and ensure your Bluetooth is turned off when you are in public places
- Get robust, anti-virus software and set up to scan at least once a week. AVG is a good free one.
Visit Stay Safe Online for more advice.