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Study: Majority of Americans Post Risky Information On-Line

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS Staff Journalist A new study conducted by Consumer Reports magazine has found that a majority of Americans continue to post detailed personal information on social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace in spite of the high risk of cyber crime. According to the study which surveyed 2,000 households, 52 percent of American adults say they have posted risky personal information on social network sites such as their full birth date (40%), the photos of their children (21%), the names of their children (13%), their address (8%) and even details about when they are away from home (3%). The use of social networking sites is on the rise. Two out of three on-line households are now using social networking sites, nearly twice as many as a year ago. As a result, risks have increased substantially. “Within the past year, nine percent of social network users experienced some form of abuse, such as malware infections, scams, identity theft, or harassment,” the report states. “Among all computer users, established threats, such as spyware and phishing e-mail scams, persist at alarmingly high levels, and virus infections increased significantly since last year. Forty percent of online households surveyed reported that they had at least one virus infection in the past two years.” These findings should come as a reminder to networkers to use the best anti-malware software they can find. “Overall, we estimate that cybercrime cost American consumers $4.5 billion over the past two years. And it caused them to replace 2.1 million computers,” the report states. With social networks expanding online opportunities for criminals, the price of cybercrime stands to grow even more. "We're just at the beginning of seeing what the implications are for so much information being posted on social networks," says Nicole Ozer, the technology and civil liberties policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. Andrew Noyes, a Facebook spokesman, told the New York Times that “While we believe the study released today focuses only on the perceived risks of social networking without acknowledging the many benefits, we agree that individuals should be thoughtful and responsible when they post content to Facebook. We devote significant resources to helping people protect their accounts.” Consumer Reports is providing a list of things people can do to protect themselves on social networking sites such as making use of privacy settings, creating complex passwords and allowing children to use the sites unsupervised. For more tips, visit  © All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly®/Women of Grace®