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BizReport : Research archives : May 05, 2010

Socnet users "oversharing", risk privacy

It's good to share, but many social network users are sharing a little bit too much information which could put them at risk from cyber attacks, according to a new survey from Consumer Reports.

by Helen Leggatt

Social networkers aren't paying attention to their privacy settings and are broadcasting their personal information to opportunist criminals. In fact, Consumer Reports found that around a quarter (23%) of the 2,000 American households surveyed either didn't care, or didn't know, about protecting their privacy while on social networks.

The publication's "State of the Net" survey found 9% of social network users had been the victim of some form of online abuse in the past year such as malware infections, scams, identity theft or harassment.

Yet, despite the continued stories of identity theft ruining people's lives, and data being stolen by hackers, over half continue to post "risqué" personal information to their profiles - even broadcasting when they will be away on holiday.

Forty percent had posted their full birth date, exposing them to identity theft and 26% of Facebook users with children had potentially exposed them to predators by posting the children's photos and names.

"Criminals are opportunists," said Charles Pavelites, a supervisory special agent at the Internet Crime Complaint Center, a partnership of the FBI, the National White Collar Crime Center, and the Bureau of Justice Assistance.

"Wherever you have lots of people, they'll see lots of opportunities. How savvy the criminal is versus how savvy the social network is will determine how much happens. It's a race, but we can't say who will win."

Consumer Reports gives readers several tips on what social networkers can do to protect their privacy and data.

Tags: online privacy, social networks

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