Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Criminals and Nice People on the Internet

Sometimes I am shocked at how our information is so available to whomever seeks it.

This afternoon my daughter and I were talking about who has Facebook pages at her age. She knows our rules about social media and while she respects our decisions, she is understandably drawn to the grown up things of this world. I get it - it's part of growing up. So, I decided to show her how a stalker could find info about one of her friends on FB.

I typed the girl's name in the search box on FB and clicked on her page. (I am not friends with this girl on FB, so this is all public information that I dug up.) This child has no information on her FB page, except photos and a list of family (the family app that she uses displays all of her relatives). Using ONLY the photos and captions, I was able to find information to allow me to search the internet for subsequent info. From her pictures, I knew that she is definitely not 24 as her birthday states, so assume she is under 13. I suspect that she is between 11-12. I was able to identify the names of her parents (including her mother's maiden name), that she has a sibling, her sibling's name, the name and address of her school, her father's business name and address and subsequently, GET THIS - her home address. I used Bing and found the map to her school and home and her dad's business. I was able to find her two BFF's first and last names, her friends' FB pages (some of which were quite a treasure trove of information), the breed and name of her dog, her favorite foods at one of the restaurants that she likes, a ceramics place that she has frequented, the spa she goes to for pedicures (including the exact location of said spa), when she goes to this spa, confirmation from mom's comment on a picture of the girl's birth month, that she has gone shark fishing, etc.

I could go on and on. If I were a creeper, I could totally do damage with this information. I found all of this information in about 10-15 minutes. My daughter was in shock. She shuddered and said, "That is creepy ... and disturbing" And it is. And this information in the hands of a criminal could be so devastating.

So, then, to bring it home a little more, I typed my daughter's grandfather's name, city and state into Bing and found all kinds of information about her grandparents, a map to their house, and information including that I was related to them, my age, my city and past cities that I have lived, who I am married to, my husband's age... It's just alarming what is on the web. It truly is a web and so interconnected.

I feel strongly that my daughter is not ready to be "loose" in a world like this until she can conceptualize more of the ramifications of her actions.  As a child, she is innocent - as she should be - and doesn't realize that the innocent information she shares on a photo could be so lucrative to a criminal. 

Thus, I am keeping her in a bubble from as much social media as possible for a while longer.  It's what works for me.

No comments: