Thursday, June 23, 2011

Anthony Weiner And The Myth Of Online Privacy

In the wake of Congressman Anthony Weiner's resignation, details continue to surface about the seven-time congressman's online dalliances. But beyond the obvious moral implications of online flirtation and implied sexual contact as a newly married man, Weiner violated another cardinal rule of 21st century America: he assumed he could keep his private life private.

When conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart began accusing Anthony Weiner of sending illicit pictures of himself to female friends via social media, Weiner went on the defensive, accusing conservative journalists of running a smear campaign. But this is the 21st century, where nothing ever dies. Weiner made active use of Twitter and Facebook, assuming a level of private browsing that is just not there. And he is not alone.

According to a study from Seton Hall University Psychology professor Joseph J. Tucciarone Jr., embarrassment as it relates to online interactions is drastically reduced when compared with actual, face-to-face interactions. The study, which examined Internet and social media use by college students, found users more willing to take social risks and even embarrass themselves online. For shy or socially awkward people, this freedom can be a blessing. But for some, there is not a lot of thought put into who is examining your information online. Hackers, identity thieves and even potential employers look to social media as a means of discovery. And with Facebook and Twitter now connected through search engines like Bing and Yahoo, people are finding more about you than you realize.

Without hiding your IP address or other private information, hackers and interested parties can and will invade your privacy. Being careful with what you post online is a good first step but it cannot protect you from accidentally sharing public information like your e-mail address or home phone number. Tools like VPN services, free proxy sites and phony e-mails are just a few of the features can provide to you or your business so you are not sharing your info with everyone on the local network.