This is a weekly column by Dale Goldhawk, Canada’s best-known consumer advocate. A journalist, author and broadcaster, Dale hosts Goldhawk Fights Back For You, on AM 740 or at AM740 ZoomerRadio, Monday through Friday from 11 am to 1 pm, in the eastern time zone. Visit his website at www.goldhawk.com.

Computers are marvelous tools and are coming in other forms so quickly it’s hard to keep track. There are iPhones, iPads, netbooks, and many more gadgets that really are mini-computers that will do a large number of things to make our lives easier and certainly more interesting. But each of these tools comes with its risks as well as its rewards.

As computing devices become smaller and cheaper, we increasingly let down our guard when we use them. Young people, in particular, have cell phones permanently attached to their heads and think nothing of pouring into them all their photos, their personal agendas, their current locations and their most intimate thoughts. I doubt if they think twice before posting most and perhaps all their personal data online through social networks without a care in the world. And we Zoomers aren’t far behind the ‘kids’.

After all, we’re not really talking to other people; our computers are just inanimate machines, just a step below our faithful dogs. And we tell our dogs everything, don’t we?

I could preach about using common sense when we go online through any of these various devices from the laptop to the newest tablet, but common sense is in such short supply these days; we don’t have the time or inclination for it.

So, let’s use a good measure of paranoia. When you post anything on a social networking site, it’s likely it can be seen and read by anyone. Your photos, including those of your children or your spouse in a skimpy bathing suit, can be seen and used by anyone including pedophiles. Your personal data from your birth date to your address can be used to steal your identify. A burglar will love to know your present location and your plans for the evening so he or she can break into your house and steal your belongings, trash the place or assault your family members.

The only way to use a social network site is with a great deal of caution. Limit your presence on any site or all sites because the bad guys can aggregate information — take it from a number of sites and put it all together to create a full view of your whole life online.

You have no real friends that you meet online because you can’t verify his or her identity. Do not post anything that you wouldn’t tell to a complete stranger because this describes everyone you meet online no matter how much you talk to them in cyberspace.

Never give your login and password information to anyone, no matter what guise they use to get this data from you. Online scammers use every trick in the book to get information from you even by posing as representatives from Microsoft or your bank.

Don’t forget that you don’t have control over the security of your data. You can have all the security software in the world set to the highest levels of privacy and still have others on the Internet relay your information as gossip or through using the lowest security settings on their machines. Whatever you tell to others, you may as well broadcast to the world.

Finally, don’t think your company network is totally secure. If you use social networking at work, not only are your posts open to the world at large, they are open to your bosses and IT administrators who might not appreciate your socializing on company time.

Have fun when you use social networking but keep your personal data personal. The risks are as wide as the Internet and that’s very wide indeed.

Photo ©iStockphoto.com/ CJMGrafx

READ OTHER COLUMNS BY DALE GOLDHAWK
Goldhawk Fights Back: The holy con artist
Goldhawk Fights Back: Protecting privacy in a high tech world
Goldhawk Fights Back: Don’t Bite on the Big Win

Dale GoldhawkGemini award nominee, journalist and broadcaster, Dale Goldhawk has earned Canada’s trust by his four decades of work exposing fraud and greed in the marketplace. To read more of his articles, go to www.Goldhawk.com (now part of the ZoomerMedia family of websites).

Don’t miss Goldhawk Fights Back , on the New AM740 Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m.

Copyright 2014 ZoomerMedia Limited

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Dale Goldhawk