The West Wing was a superior TV drama series that ran from 1999 to 2006. I was a big fan and watched all the episodes a couple times and may even revisit them again. One particularly memorable scene for me involved a discussion in the Oval Office about the surging technological pace. One of the president's senior advisors, after pondering the benefits and consequences of such advancement, made a prediction that has proved to be prophetic: Privacy is the final frontier.
I'll shout a hearty Amen! to that. Take a look around our world today. We're on the verge of instantaneous global communication. Oprah is touting her "No texting" pledge for drivers who insist on thumbing out mindless Tweets while hurtling down the road toward us, just the other side of that useless yellow line. Facebook is attracting the dregs of humanity and providing a forum for all our dirty laundry. Web cams are spying on hotel bathrooms, dorm rooms, and have been installed under women's office desks. I won't even mention spy satellites that can read designer clothing labels from outer space. What's a private person to do, especially those of us in very public places, like dorm rooms?
As Tiffany Harrison of MSR Communications notes, "Not so many years ago, parents used to put together baby books, filled with everything from ‘baby’s first step’ to ‘baby’s first birthday.’ Nowadays, it’s much more common to see a Facebook post, an online picture upload, or a Twitter update of these moments. You might not realize it, but as college students, you’ve been “alive online” longer than you might think.” What does all this mean to you high school students, college students, and even parents out there? Better listen up." What does all this mean to you high school students, college students, and even parents out there? Better listen up.
According to a new survey released by Internet security company AVG, 92% of children in the US have an online presence by the time they are 2. A high percentage (34%) of these children began their digital lives before they were born, when their parents uploaded prenatal sonogram scans to the Internet. While you’re still focused on midterms, it’s important to think about your “digital footprint” and how much personal information about yourself is being shared with the world, information you didn’t post.
Though there is certainly nothing wrong if you post real-time pictures and updates, college students need to take the necessary precautions so as to have more control over who is viewing and able to access their personal information. It may not have been possible to control the type of information your parents made public, but now is the chance to take responsibility for your online presence.
AVG has put together a few tips to help control and minimize your digital footprint.
1. Periodically educate yourself and update privacy settings: It’s critical to share information about yourself only with those who you know and trust. To ensure this, you must regularly update your privacy settings as social networks often change their privacy controls.
2. Protect your Tweets: Know who you are adding to ensure you’re sharing information with people you trust. Regularly update your Twitter settings so that only those who you have approved can follow you and the information you are tweeting.
3. Make Sure it is YouTube not EveryoneTube: Keep your YouTube channel private, so that everyone doesn’t have access to its content. You can also use the new ‘unlisted’ option so your videos will not be tagged for public viewing and can only be found using a specific URL.
4. Use Facebook Lists: Segment who can see your status, wall posts and photos. You make so many new friends when you’re in college, so beware of who can see what.
Are you really concerned about your privacy? If so, here's a short list of blogs where you can find a lot of helpful information about protecting your privacy (or what little is left of it).
From guarding your identity to keeping your family safe to digital identity issues, these blogs cover personal security and privacy.
Privacy and Identity Theft. Get news and learn how to protect yourself with the information here that examines cybercrime, identity theft, and more.
Privacy Gourmet. Privacy and social networking, data privacy, privacy resources, and keeping families safe online are some of the subjects covered on this blog.
Emergent Chaos. This collaborative blog focuses on privacy, security, liberty, and economics.
Schneier on Security. This "security guru" and renowned author blogs about computer security, personal security, and Friday squids.
The-New-Internet-Security-Cyberhood-Watch-Blog. This blog focuses on such privacy and security issues such as identity theft, child cybersafety, and cybercrime.
Ceci n’est pas un Bob. Learn about issues surrounding security, privacy, identity, and risk at this blog written by Bob Blakley.
Identerati. Another blog from an employee of Burton Group, this focuses on identity management and security with a perspective from both business and the individual.
IdentityBlog. Kim Cameron writes about digital identity, privacy, and more on his blog.
Identity Woman. Social issues surrounding online digital identity are the focus of Kaliya Hamlin’s blog.
Adventures of an Eternal Optimist. Digital identity, privacy, and more are the topics discussed here.
So, whenever you feel like bragging on Facebook about that new Lexus SUV you just bought, keep in mind that there may well be someone nearby reading your post who just learned how to unlock and hotwire Lexus SUVs (if they haven't already stolen your Social Security number and online banking account's password). Don't be the Sasquatch of digital footprints!
Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.