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Social Networking

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Social networking sites such as Facebook have become an immensely popular way to connect with friends, coworkers, and relatives on the internet.  Most are very user-friendly and provide methods to e-mail, chat, share pictures and videos, and even search for long-lost friends.  While it is very fun to be able to share all of your interests, information, and pictures with your friends, it is important to note that your friends are not the only ones with access to this information.

Most sites include in the terms of use the fact that all information entered into the website is the property of the website, so whatever you put on your Facebook can be sent, by Facebook, to companies for advertising purposes.  Facebook does have a security settings panel that allows you to control which users have access to what information, but many people are woefully ignorant of these settings and assume that they are safe.  

It only takes a few minutes to go into the security settings and switch everything so that only your friends can view your information.  Companies should not be given free reign over users’ information and perhaps social networking sites are doing something about this, but until then it is strongly recommended to be very conservative with how you share your data.  

Also, certain information such as your address, your phone number, your birthday, etc., should not be put on the website.  This is simply because even with the security measures in place, you can really never be certain about who is looking at this information, so assume the worst and play it safe.  Also, just as on any other website, be wary of phishing attacks where someone you don’t know will try to friend you just to gain access to your page.  Using a strong password to protect your account is also a good idea; using something that is easily guessed can cause your data to be leaked.  

With the fad of Facebook sweeping the web, there is no need to avoid it completely, but we must be sensible about how we use this and other similar websites, to protect our identity and personal information from those who would exploit it.


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