The Privacy Epidemic

What are your social security, credit card, passport, and phone numbers? Your email address and home address? On many of the world’s top websites like Facebook and Twitter, to sign up for their services you have to give personal information. On many of these sites giving personal data can do permanent harm to your life. There are many dangers in putting personal information online. It can harm personal safety, student self esteem, and financial security.
First, putting personal information online can harm personal safety and even lead to death. Online there might be people who put your safety at risk by stalking you. According to privacy professional Tracy Gray, “Criminals can find you, where you live and other information about you,” (Gray Interview). Sexual predators look for kids to stalk. They look for kids who have open Facebook profiles and give out information, like where you live and where you are. Also, your safety may be put in danger while trying to sell or buy something off the internet. “Trying to buy a cell phone through Craigslist, 19-year-old Johnathan Clements paid with his life. Clements, of Hazel Park, posted an ad in the ‘wanted’ section of Craigslist, according to the Hazel Park Police. Then, when he got a call at 2 p.m. Tuesday from a man who said he was from Southfield, the teen arranged to meet the seller at his home,” (Battaglia pg. 1). He was killed on February 16, 2011, prior to buying the phone, and the $95 he was going to buy the phone with was gone when he was discovered by police. Also, a man in Washington was killed while he was trying to sell a diamond ring on Craigslist. James Saunders and two of his sons were murdered.
Second, personal information online can harm student self esteem and even lead to suicide. Students’ self esteem is brought down mostly by cyber bullying online. “26% of teens have been bullied/harassed online,” (Glor, pg.1) and “Online harassment has grown 50% in five years,” (Mooney pg. 1). Suicide from cyber bullying started with this story: “Megan Meier, 13, began receiving nasty messages from a boy after a few weeks of an online flirtation with him, via her MySpace account, ending with one that suggested ‘the world would be a better place’ without her. Megan, believing she had been rejected by ‘Josh,’ committed suicide in her home,” (New York Times). Also, “Soccer star Alexis Pilkington, 17, took her own life March 21 following vicious taunts on social networking sites -- which persisted postmortem on Internet tribute pages, worsening the grief of her family and friends,” (Glor, pg. 1). These are just a few of the stories of cyber bullying leading to death. After these deaths and many others, nine states have passed laws against cyber bullying to protect students’ emotional wellbeing.
Lastly, putting personal information online can harm financial security. Most financial harm online is caused by identity theft, and according to CBS News, “Every 79 seconds a thief steals someone’s identity, opens accounts in the victim’s name and goes on a buying spree,” (CBS News/Equifax). Identity theft and fraud ruined Dave Crouse’s life in 2009: “In less than six months, $900,000 in merchandise, gambling and telephone-services charges were siphoned out of his debit card. He now has no money in his retirement accounts. In present day his Social Security number, address, phone numbers, even historical information is still being used in attempts to open credit cards and bank. Crouse was among the 11.1 million adults last year who broke the record of the number of identity-fraud victims in the U.S., according to a recent study by Javelin Strategy and Research. That figure is up 12% over 2008,” (Waters). According to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service “3 in 10 households experiencing any type of identity theft discovered it by missing money or noticing unfamiliar charges on an account; almost 1 in 4 were contacted about late or unpaid bills,” (NCJRS). Identity theft can harm your life for a long time. Even if creditors claim that your identity will be back to normal in one year, all those debts are still on your record.

It is undeniable that putting personal information online is harmful to your life. The information you put online can be harmful to your personal safety. It can affect your self-esteem. And the information can harm your financial security. The next time someone asks you for your password or other personal data, know what you’re getting into. Think back to the story of Dave Crouse losing everything because of his love for shopping and banking online. The old fashioned way of going to the store and bank may distract your life, however your identity will be much safer.





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