Government Sour on Social Networking

Dennis Faas's picture

Most visitors to are computer and Internet aficionados. Our readers know the web, and seem to generally enjoy it. Chances are, most of you have dabbled in its social networking sphere, posting profiles to Facebook, MySpace, or one of the other, lesser-known sites.

Now one poll is warning that this activity can backfire, and although it may not mean downloading a Trojan horse or other virus, it could perhaps offer something even more sinister: identity theft. (Source:

Although few readers will be surprised by the crime, some may be shocked by the chances of it happening. Members of the British government believe the threat is real, and are encouraging citizens to be vigilant.

Cabinet Office minister Gillian Merron recently stated, "The risks we are highlighting today can be easily fixed and do not mean that people should stop using social networking sites and wireless networks...People simply need to take a few basic steps and simple precautions which they can find by going to to help keep themselves, their families and their businesses safe online." (Source:

Clearly, the risk isn't limited to the United Kingdom, though some interesting statistics are coming out of that country. According to a Get Safe Online research poll, 25% of the nearly 11 million Britons who registered with social networking sites exposed their contact details (email, phone, address), or date of birth.

More scandalous is the percentage of those who join these sites to rekindle old flames. More than a third (39%) are hoping to meet up with old girlfriends or boyfriends. It brings a new medium to the "booty call," would you say?

Regardless of the purpose, the flow of information is concerning to those hoping to protect the average, law-abiding citizen. According to Tony Neate, managing director of, it doesn't take much to do some real damage. "Although some of these details may seem harmless, they actually provide rich pickings for criminals...Your date of birth and where you live is enough for someone to set up a credit card in your name."

With Christmas season fast approaching, it's about time we all asked ourselves this: is talking to an old flame worth a stranger's holiday shopping spree...on your dollar?

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