Protecting Your Privacy: Sometimes It's OK to Keep Secrets
by Lawrence J. Magid
Whether youre a child, a teen or an adult, you have the right to keep your information private.
Everything about you: your name, your phone number, your age, your passwords and where you live is your private information. Sure, you share it with your family and your school and your friends but you dont have to give that information to just anyone who asks.
When youre on the Internet or an online service you may get an e-mail message, an instant message or come to a web site that asks you for this type of information. If youre a kid, dont provide it unless you first check with your parents. If youre a grownup or an older teen, consider who is asking for that information and how they might use it.
It doesnt matter. Regardless of who asks, you don't have to provide any information that you dont want to share. Of course, they might not let you into their site or maybe you won't be able to play a game or download a program if you don't provide that information, but -- even so -- you shouldn't have to reveal information about yourself if you don't want to.
- Never give our your full name, address, phone number to anyone you don't know
- Never give out your Internet password to anyone, even if they say they're from your Internet service (or AOL)
- Never get together with anyone you "meet" online without first checking with your parents. If they agree to the meeting, be sure it's in a public place and that your parents are present.
Spam: Mail You Would Rather Not Get
One way that people invade your privacy is to send you "spam" otherwise known as "unsolicited commercial e-mail" or "junk mail." Whatever you call it, it's mail that you probably would rather not get. Most of this mail is designed to try to get you to buy something or to get you to visit a web site which, often, is a site that contains sexually explicit material. I call this "porno spam" and have written an article about it.
While some companies use unsolicited e-mail to promote legitimate products, a lot of people use it for "scams" which might be illegal or at least misleading. The Federal Trade Commission has issued a consumer alert called "12 Scams Most Likely to Arrive Via E-Mail.
In general, it's best not to respond to spam or to follow any links or purchase any products advertised in such mail. If you're a kid tell your parents about it or forward it to your parents and do not take any other action. If you're a grown up, consider forwarding it to the email@example.com (whatever is the domain from which it came). If you're an AOL member, go to keyword "Neighborhood Watch" for advice. Click here for additional ideas and resources for fighting spam.
Kids: Check out My Rules for Online Safety
Teens: Check out Basic Rules of Online Safety for Teens
Parents: Check out Guidelines for Parents
Click here for more on privacy including results of a government survey.
(c) 1998 by Lawrence J. Magid. Request permission if your wish to reprint or post.