Saturday, August 1, 2015
Sites you use online, may tarnish your reputation and relationships
Cybercitizens use sites on the Internet as resources that offer them services with scant thought as to how their data and activity information could be used by site owners and others who have access to it. The others are entities who are sold this information, cyber criminals who steal it, third parties who provide services to the site owners and also innocuous users who come across this data because the sites privacy protection or in some cases security is not adequate.
Cybercitizens should note that many sites provide services for free, supported by advertisement revenue. These sites collect and analyze profile and activity information which includes clicks, page visits, and transaction information to selectively display advertisements suited to the user’s demographic profile or searches. This helps advertisers obtain better returns on their advertisement dollar. Most of the larger and more popular sites make their users sign up to lengthy terms and conditions, which few read or understand, to enable them use personal data. Larger more established sites lay out well worded privacy statements on their websites which users can read. In all cases, information related to financial transactions are normally governed by strict regulations and compliances which regulates use and specifies standards for the security of card data.
But, there are many other firms with questionable credentials and whose ownership remain largely unknown. They may be popular sites too, but on the vast global highway, there is no way that one can truly ascertain where your data resides, who sees it and what use it is put too. The case of the hack of the extramarital affair dating site Ashley Madison, clearly demonstrates the vulnerability of those users to reputational damage, blackmail and extortion. There are many sites, whose membership if disclosed could hurt the reputations of millions of people. Pornographic sites for instance.
The trail of personal data that one puts online remains. For example, curious users of the Ashley Madison site would have no way of proving to their spouse that they subscribed to the site out of curiosity and not for intended use.
The effect of disclosure of personal data varies from tarnished reputation and financial losses to minor privacy intrusions. Cybercitizens should evaluate these risks and their potential consequences when they use certain sites.