Tuesday, June 10, 2014

How safe are you online?




Months ago, one of my relatives (a teenager), showed me the photo of a girl on his laptop. When I asked who she was, he smiled and said, “I don’t know, an actress I guess, but I use her photo to fool my friends.”

When I demanded explanation, he confessed he was having huge fun online. He had created a fake Facebook profile using this girl’s photo as profile picture and posted genuine looking updates. He signed in to show me the home page of the fake profile. There were 142 new friend requests mostly from young boys, 2500 plus friends and more than a 100 unread messages. He claimed to have fooled all of his classmates and made them come and wait for this girl at random locations. He showed me chats of a few of my other unmarried cousins who were vying for the girl’s attention bragging about their non-existent cars and foreign trips. It seemed fun. But was it?

It is illegal to make such a fake profile, using a photo that is not your own, and if detected, the fun he was having would end him behind bars. From what I know, many young boys have such ‘innocent’ fake profiles, which I guess, portrays a disturbing trend. What if these so-called pranks, created irreparable damage to the persons involved? We do read about social media related suicides and even murders.
When I threatened to tell his parents, he reluctantly deleted the profile. He might have cursed me and his loose tongue.

I am active on three major social networking sites. Google plus, Facebook and Twitter. I was active once upon a time on Orkut as well. I think twice before posting anything online, especially Facebook or twitter, as they are more popular and accessible, but lacks privacy. An innocuous post may spur a controversy or even result in disaster or deaths as evident from the recent tidings in our country.

With the advent of the social media, not much seems a secret anymore.
People post their best photos, share their moments of joys, brag about their achievements and even uses it to promote their brand or business effectively using many online tools. But does it actually reveal all about the person? I believe No. No wonder Facebook is nicknamed Fakebook and twitter is flooded with fake profiles of celebrities. The virtual world is so plastic and negative at times. I cringe seeing some posts and even think about quitting. Posts that seem genuine turn out to be trash and negative sentiments trend, setting ablaze countries, destroying lives.

Online wars between politicians or rulers are the new cold-wars that precede actual wars. Whistle blowers create uproar with a single tweet and controversies spread like wild fire from a single photo. Many sadly forget that the social media is the most powerful weapon of this age. A joke intend to bring a smile ends up shattering a hundred lives.

There is infinite fun out there online. It is mostly a happy place for youngsters, especially boys. Girls, as in real life faces restrictions and real danger, online too. Many fall victim to blackmail, photo manipulations and online racketing. However, these of course are the rare few.

Would it be not wise to act a little careful while we are online? Even though no privacy setting is 100 percent foul proof, it still is a deterrent when it comes to the layman. Therefore, it helps if we adopt some small precautions while online. These are some of the guidelines I follow:

1.     Post or re-post genuine articles or news, else you invite controversy.

2.     On Facebook, set the privacy settings for profile photos to the option ‘friends’ or ‘Only Me’. (Do not set it to ‘friends of friends’ or ‘Everyone’, you never know who is going to view your photos, use them and for what?). For albums, also there are similar settings. On Facebook, in account settings set your privacy settings for each section of your profile, especially the personal information section and phone number. Google plus also have similar settings.

3.     Cover photos on your profile page on Facebook is always public. It can be downloaded by anyone. It becomes public property the moment you post it online. Act wisely.

4.     Check the app settings before you sign up for any app. Check the review of the app on google apps or playstore, otherwise you might end up in a mess. An app which promises to tell you the number of persons who visit your profile per day might be using your account details for some other purpose.

5.     Do not accept friend requests on Facebook from unknown persons even if you have many mutual friends. If you accept, put such persons ‘on probation’(J) in a separate list as ‘acquaintance’ and share your private posts only among friends minus these acquaintances. If he/she appears genuine then give them a promotion to the ‘friends list’.

6.     If you have a public page, it is better to keep your page strictly public. Never post personal information there.
7.     On twitter, if you want privacy, protect your tweets and set your privacy settings to maximum.

8.     On Google plus, do not add any stranger on chat. I love the invisibility mode.

9.     Social media eats up your precious family time and even affects your work output. Reduce the time you spend online. Focus.

10.  Do not blindly believe anyone online. You really do not know if the person on the other side is genuine. It might be an impersonator or worse, a hacker.  

11. This might sound vain, but Google your name. You never know what you might find.

12.   Never delete suspicious information or mails that come to you. Handover these to the cyber police, it will be used to seize the culprit.
 In case of anything suspicious, contact the cyber police. These days we have strict laws governing the cyber space. Keep yourself updated about these rules and the help lines available.

Check these links of Cyber police Bangalore for more information.

General rules for E-Security

Cyber Crime



 Linking this post to Project 365, A Post A Day

The open prompt this time was, 
How much of "the real you and your lives" would you like to reveal online?


Top post on IndiBlogger.in, the community of Indian Bloggers

25 comments:

  1. The thing about social media and youngsters that scares me the most is the incident you described above. Yes, I smiled too at this naughty prankster's creativity but I tell you Preethi, I am so worried already about the time my son will grow 13, have his own account to manage and privacy settings which will keep him mommy out of his virtual life.
    I guess awareness is very important, and you have very nicely included those points and the sites alongside your personal experience here. I would say you have managed a very well-rounded post.
    Thank you so much for writing for Project 365.

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    1. Thank you Sakshi. By the time N becomes 13, may be they will invent something to help mothers snoop on their kids..:P. Lets hope and Pray.

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  2. Awesome post..some very valuable points to counter a disturbing trend

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Salesh Dipak Fernando. Glad you found this post helpful.

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  3. That was wisdom in true sense.....will heed ur advice for sure...

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    1. Thank you Isaac. Hope you will find it helpful.

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  4. I agree with your concern. Teenagers keep putting photos on FB. It is dangerous. But who is listening?

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    1. I know. I tell many of my neighborhood kids who spend hours online, no one cares. :(

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  5. Thumbs Up Preethi!
    I follow a majority of the checklist you've penned for Online Privacy...
    Very wise of you... :)

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    1. Thank you Poonam. Maintaining privacy is tough in these times.

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  6. Preethi, great inputs there. Yes, children have to be protected and must be educated how to handle online accounts. In the initial years, the parents must have access to accounts to ensure that they are not falling in trouble. Your guidelines are great. In fact, I find so many adults being very frivolous on social media. I wonder if they realize the dange they are putting themselves and their families in.

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    1. True Rachna. I too find many parents creating profiles for kids as young as two or three. They handle their profiles initially but then the kids learn to do things themselves. And then trouble begins.

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  7. Preethi, Agree with your points. We need to be very careful with our & other online profiles. Trust can ve breached...
    Nicely listed and shared :)

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    1. Yes Anita, we need to be careful online..:)

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  8. That was an informative post Preethi. I agree with the points about privacy. Though I am a lousy user of FB and twitter, I always avoid adding people or chatting with unknown persons!

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    1. That was quite wise on your part Swathi.

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  9. Seriously Preeti, It gave me shivers to think that MY children will also be exposed to all the risque` social media is posing. Thanks for this informative well compiled post. :)

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    1. Yes Kokila, the social media is a necessary evil. We can only be careful. The good thing is we have strict laws governing the cyber space these days.

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  10. Well written and informative post Preeti.

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  11. good points.. and yes it is difficult these days.. when the bad element will do anything.. even big companies like Ebay , major banks are not safe..

    and when it comes to kids the world out there is very very bad, I hear and see stories that send a shiver.. I dont think it is a good idea to have online accounts etc till one is 16.. i know kids as young as 8 have profiles .. Not a good idea.

    I hope people know that law can say to people who get in trouble that it's their fault as guidlines do specify a age , so kids who make their profiles at a younger age are actually breaking the law .. and I think their gaurdians can be held responsible.. if it was me making law I WILL hold them responsible.

    have to be very veyr careful... lot of information you have put .. I dont have fb account and I am fine .. why kids need I cant understand .. as you say once a pic is uploaded it is public property

    Bikram

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Many schools here in Bangalore have taken a step to prevent kids using the social media till the age of sixteen which I think is a step in the right direction. I wish there were strict laws too. The danger these kids may unknowingly fall into is huge.

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  12. Wow. Quite a detailed post that. And welcome to Project 365 Preethi. Fortunately or unfortunately, social media and the rest are here to stay and I suppose we need to educate them. But then again, can we blame kids when sometimes adults set bad examples.

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    1. Yes Sid. The social media is here to stay. Only solution is to educate them. I guess with time the security settings also improves.

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  13. Well well., we have a problem here.

    It reminds me of an incident i learnt from a student of mine. Last year, at a school in Kolkata, a young female school teacher got embroiled in a relationship with her high school student and the guy later smirched her reputation by posting some indecent pics on fb . Of course, both got expelled from the school

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