The Internet's "erase" button doesn't work too well, so it's vital that people understand that comments, photos and other bits of information they post to any online site may live forever. Using a little cyberspace common sense and understanding what information about you already exists online can go a long way toward protecting you and your family.
A reader of last week's column on Internet safety Googled his name and was surprised to see information from public records so easily accessible.
He writes: "I was dismayed when I Googled my name and found my home address and other private information listed on a site called lasvegas.blockshopper.com.
"Any person who owns a home or pays taxes on land is listed on Google from this site. In contacting Blockshopper to have my name and info removed, I was informed they could do this 'service' since our own city/county offices provide this info to anyone who wants to know. It just isn't right! Is there any law or way to stop this blatant form of invasion of privacy?"
Rob Sugrue, managing director of New York City-based Insite Security, said public records searches are online: it's reality.
"Block and lot numbers have always been a matter of public records. Now, it's just at your fingertips," Sugrue said. "Be aware that stuff is out there and that people may know something about you, but not necessarily know you."
One way to avoid having your name associated with a parcel of property is to set up a limited liability corporation.
"If you have the means, set up an LLC or a corporate structure and buy property under that," Sugrue said. "When you give to a political candidate, give your work address, not your home address. (Political contributions) are usually one of the first things to show up when you do a search."
Even if you delete a Facebook profile, Sugrue warns that not everything you posted on the social networking site will vanish.
"If you are tagged in someone else's account or posted something on someone's (Facebook) wall, any comments you made or pictures you're in will stay there."
He also warns that employers are now searching social network sites when considering job candidates.
"Some stuff never goes away," he said. "If you're looking to get a job someplace and there's a picture of you with something funny in your hand. Well? We check social media."
A final word about Facebook security from Sugrue. "I have two tips for parents: Friend your kids and make your kids friend you.
"I have one client who forbids his kid from deleting the Internet history from the Web browser," he said. "He goes in there and looks for time gaps. If there's a gap, the computer is taken away. You have to be vigilant."
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