The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has produced a Fact Sheet to protect the privacy of individuals who engage in online social networking. The Fact Sheet identifies a number of key risks including fraud, online identity theft and reputation damage, cyberstalking, scams and malicious software (malware). Some of the simple steps individuals can take to protect themselves include reading the terms and conditions before signing up to social networking sites, checking privacy settings, and knowing where to go for help.
Online identity theft and reputation damage
ACMA explains that fake profiles can be created on social networking sites to gain trust or post inappropriate messages. If false and malicious information or doctored images are posted on an individual's profile, this can cause damage to reputation and may justify legal action. The Fact Sheet recommends that individuals monitor their personal information on social networking sites by restricting those who have access (the default is normally set quite low), removing disagreeable pictures or pages and reporting false or abusive pages to the site administrators.
The more information an individual provides online, including posts and live chat in online social networking sites, the easier it is for people to commit fraud. Therefore an individual should use reputable sites so that their information will be safe and secure and not misused, especially financial information.
An individual can unintentionally install malicious software when using online social networks, for example, by downloading applications containing viruses or clicking on links in live chats. These can collect sensitive information such as passwords or banking details and send it back to people who can carry out fraud. The Fact Sheet alerts individuals to keep a closed profile so that strangers cannot post infected links to their profile, to be careful which applications are downloaded and to not click on links or open attachments unless they are from a trusted source.
It is important to remember that if you are offered something that appears to be too good to be true, it usually will be. Common scams are listed at www.scamwatch.gov.au. The Fact Sheet recommends that before an offer is accepted, the individual should contact the organisation or person through an independent source.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.