24 Dec 2009

Give your loved ones a little Privacy this holiday

Do your loved ones have toys on their wish lists this holiday? A stuffed animal for a little one… a cell phone or a camera for a teen? These days, these toys and gadgets are more than they used to be. Just a few years ago a stuffed animal was something to cuddle with and a phone was, well, just a phone! Now, many stuffed animals come with codes that allow kids to register them online so that they can play games, feed and care for them, and even chat and play with other kids. And many cellphones are phones, computers and cameras, all in one.

And while such toys and gadgets can be fun, we want people to enjoy them without putting their privacy and personal information at risk.

Here are our tips for protecting your privacy as you and your loved ones enjoy your new gadgets and toys. For parents especially:

Understand new toys and their capabilities – It is important to understand the capabilities of new toys and how your children will use them. Speak with your kids about how they will use the toy and, where appropriate, agree on guidelines and limits.

Pay attention to privacy settings and parental controls – Privacy settings on social networking sites control what people see about you. Only allow your friends to see your page, your posts, your photos and your applications. Parents, if you depend on parental control software that is installed on your desktop, remember that. Those controls won’t be in place on new mobile devices.

Remember, with Wi-Fi, children can access the Internet from anywhere in the house – And if their new toy/gadget has Internet capabilities they can also use it to access the Internet from locations and networks outside your supervision and control.

Here are our tips for protecting your privacy as you and your loved ones enjoy your new gadgets and toys. For everyone:

Think before you click – The Internet is a public arena, and photos and comments you post are permanent. Even if you delete them from a web page, they could continue to exist in archived pages, in your computer’s cache or on the computers of other Internet users who may have copied them. If you don’t want certain people to see something, now or in the future, don’t post it!

Pick and protect the perfect password – Your information is only as safe as your passwords. Use different passwords for different systems; make sure they are strong (eight characters or more and a variety of letters or numbers); never share them with anybody; and change them regularly.

Know your friends – Online, you can’t be 100 per cent sure who you are talking to. Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know in real life.

Protect your identity – Identity theft is a growing problem and the Internet is the least private of spaces. Don’t post or e-mail personal details such as your social insurance number, phone number, home address or birth date.

Be careful on online gaming sites – Online gaming sites are hotbeds of people accessing personal information. Be aware that ill-intentioned people can use information from your profile to establish accounts in your name, or use your stolen identity to access your existing accounts.

Be wary of e-mail or instant messages from unknown people – Don’t open online messages that seem odd or are from someone you don’t know. They could contain a virus or let a hacker gain access to your computer.

Have a happy holiday and enjoy all your new toys!


2 Responses

Tweets that mention Office of the Privacy Commissioner » Blog Archive » Give your loved ones a little Privacy this holiday -- Topsy.com Says:

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J. Lambert Says:

One of the most worrisome, pervasive and seemingly overlooked privacy issues of children having an online presence, whether on social networking sites or in virtual worlds such as Webkinz, is their vulnerability to corporate advertising. Sharon Beder’s “This Little Kiddy Went to Market” (Pluto Press, 2009) presents a sobering view of how children are subject to “consumerist conditioning” throughout their development. Of particular interest is her discussion of how the internet and wireless technology enables unprecedented, often unmediated, interaction between children and advertisers, from market researchers monitoring the online activities of children and teens, to branded IMVironments with integrated advertising. The ramifications of this worry me far more that the possibility that my children will someday post embarrassing photos on Facebook.

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