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Blacks more plugged into social media, user beware

JAZELLE HUNT | 11/1/2014, 9:13 p.m.
While Black and White people have similar rates of Internet use, Black people are slightly more plugged into certain social ...
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WASHINGTON – While Black and White people have similar rates of Internet use, Black people are slightly more plugged into certain social media sites, where sharing life’s minutiae is the norm.

“Social networks are a great way to stay connected with others, but you should be wary about how much personal information you post,” the National Cyber Security Alliance warns on its website, http://www.staysafeonline.org.

“The more information you post, the easier it may be for a hacker or someone else to use that information to steal your identity, access your data, or commit other crimes such as stalking.”

According to the Pew Research Center, more than 75 percent of Black people own a smart phone, and are likelier to access social media from their phones than a computer – making photo and location sharing even easier.

“Sometimes in the privacy of your home you say something, feeling like you’re just talking to your close friends,” said Angie Vaughn, a Nashville, Tennessee, resident. “You don’t really think much about it but then you come back to like 10,000 comments. And it’s like, oh, I didn’t think all these people were paying attention to what I say.”

She said she’s particularly cautious online, opting for the highest privacy settings on her social media accounts and taking necessary steps to have her information removed from marketing sites.

Ben Halpert, vice president of Risk and Corporate Security at an online security firm, said this is a primary consideration when sharing online.

“Social media really gives identity thieves a treasure trove of information,” Halpert said. “The security questions you have to answer on some sites – like your childhood home, or your pet’s name – all of that is information people give freely on social media all the time.”

It’s easy to lose control of a photo, comment, video or message online. Without privacy settings, anyone can stumble upon public posts at any time, even within Google results. If privacy controls are in place to only share with approved people, those people can simply save an image, video or message on their own devices, and post them elsewhere where strangers may see, save and share it.

Additionally, using the Internet – visiting websites, shopping, reading articles – creates a digital trail. That trail, and anything posted to the Internet, exists in archives, sometimes indefinitely, even if the user deletes the information from his or her own page, website or device.

Using the Facebook phone app, for example, allows Facebook to access a user’s location, down to the block. The app is also able to “read” whether or not a phone call is in progress, the phone numbers involved, and the user’s call log – It is stated in the App Permissions most people pretend to have read before clicking “Accept.” In the event that archives or servers are breeched, the intruder can expose this content at will.

While online security is often centered on protecting credit and identity and teaching minors about privacy and safety, it’s equally important for parents to understand how their own behavior can affect their children.