Just how is it that companies always seem to know just how to advertise to us? Ever get a chill up your spine when Target sends you a coupon for the exact type of jacket you’d been thinking of purchasing for the last week? If it feels like internet marketers know what products you’re likely to be interested in, it’s because they do. It is well known that internet activity can be tracked by marketers and used to more effectively reach the consumers who are likely to be interested in the product or service they offer. What is less widely understood is how different websites track your information, and how they use it. Simply changing your privacy settings in your browser can limit the information that you share across the entire spectrum of internet advertising. But what if you want to go deeper?

 

In order to truly understand how each site you interact with tracks your information, and just who they share it with, would require the consumer to read each individual privacy policy for every single website they frequent. By law the terms of use and related privacy policy must outline exactly what information they harvest from you, exactly how they use it, and with whom they are sharing it. There is no law however, against making your terms of service long, using lots of tiny print, or against writing it in legalese jargon that makes it very difficult for the average consumer to understand.

There is a company with a new product that seeks to address this particular issue. PrivacyChoice has developed a digital service that indexes and disseminates privacy policies from a multitude of various websites, and has developed a scale designed to rate these sites based on how they collect and use your personal data. Their idea is to provide a one-stop easy tool that will allow consumers, site publishers, and administrators to compare various privacy policies across a given field at a glance. The hope is that not only will this spur more careful web shopping and browsing by the consumer, but will also provide greater exposure to how companies act with your information, making it advantageous from a public relations perspective for companies to create stronger privacy policies, and to encourage more responsible handling of consumer data.

Specifically, PrivacyChoice measures whether a website shares personal user data with other sites, how long the site retains that data, and whether there is a confirmation process to confirm eventual deletion of that data. Users who visit privacyscore.com can search for Web sites they wish to have scored. Users also can download a plug-in app for their web browsers that, when activated, will show a privacy score at the top of each Web site they visit. There is also a downloadable plug-in that will function like an additional tool-bar in your browser that will show you the privacy score of various sites as you surf the web.

“What Is PrivacyScore and What Does It Do?” was written by Matt Davis. Matt is a Victim Advisor at the Identity Theft Resource Center. We welcome you to post/reprint the above article, as written, giving credit to and linking back to the ITRC Blog.

A company called OneID is developing some innovative and interesting solutions to identity and password security. Vinod Khosla, Founder of Khosla Ventures, one of the principle groups that invested heavily in bringing OneID to market, briefly outlined why his company was willing to infuse 7 figures of capital into this relatively unknown company in the information security space.

“We believe OneID will attract the most forward-thinking businesses to offer a more secure alternative to the way we sign in to sites and share personal information.”

Information security is an issue for every consumer today. In attempting to make their personal information as secure as it can be, consumers are routinely expected to handle a multitude of different usernames and passwords across various internet portals to manage each of their virtual profiles or identities. This obviously can be problematic, forcing the account user to choose between remembering literally dozens of different username/password combinations, or using the same username/password (or close derivatives) for multiple account credentials. Sadly, there is a great deal of potential damage which can occur if through cyber hacking or phishing, any one of these online identities is exposed. A hacker will understand that the email address and password for your Facebook account that they just harvested will likely be very similar to credentials used for your financial accounts.

When the hacker successfully opens a user account, it can often place the account owner in a “guilty until proven innocent” scenario, where they must actively prove they are not responsible for a certain online action or transaction credited to their identity. Businesses that rely on online transactions must invest more and more in password security, fraud mitigation processes, and consumer compensation issues. And, this problem is definitely not going away. As the prevalence of online commerce continues to grow, so too will the issues surrounding digital security.

The idea behind the OneID approach is to allow both consumers and online businesses to benefit from a highly secure digital identity system without sacrificing convenience. For consumers, the advantage will be that they will no longer need to remember multiple usernames and passwords; allowing for greater control of their personal, financial and credit card information. For online businesses, OneID hopes to provide a one-stop convenient, secure, and relatively thrifty solution to the digital authentication problem. It remains to be seen whether or not this will significantly reduce the costs and headaches associated with digital identity verification, but what is clear is this is an innovative, elegant new solution in the battle against digital fraud and identity theft. Now, which version of “GreenElephantTusks” did I use for my Yahoo password…..

“Introduction to the “OneID” System” was written by Matt Davis. Matt is a Victim Advisor at the Identity Theft Resource Center. We welcome you to post/reprint the above article, as written, giving credit to and linking back to ITRC Blog.

Facebook privacy seems to be an ever more common theme of discussion. While the positive uses for Facebook and social networking platforms like it are numerous, use is not without risk. Aside from malicious use of personal information stored on Facebook, controlling how you share your information is an imperative skill set for anyone who has a Facebook page and makes a living in the corporate world, where unflattering pictures or posts could result in a negative impact on one’s career. It’s important to note that photos and posts you’re tagged in can show up on your profile even if you didn’t post them yourself.

The best way to take control of what shows up on your Facebook is to understand how to control the privacy settings related to Facebook tags. Here is how you do it:

From your home page which displays your news feed. Click the drop down menu tab in the top right corner, designated by a down facing arrow directly to the right of the “home” button. From there click the “privacy settings” option. That will bring you to a page where you can customize what information you share and with whom. About half way down this page is a section that’s labeled “timeline and tagging” with an “edit settings” button directly to the right of it.
From this page you can control what things you can be tagged in and where it will appear. For those in the professional world, it is wise to select the option that requires all tags to be pre-approved by you the user, before it can show up on your profile page.

This way, no matter how inappropriate you behave on Friday night, you can rest assured the co-workers in your office won’t be snickering at them on Monday morning. You can approve the tags you like and reject the ones you don’t. Learning how to manage the flow of information displayed through Facebook is an essential practice for most users, and especially those with a professional reputation to protect. Spending 20-30 minutes perusing through this section is all it should take to be comfortable with the settings and it could save you a mountain of trouble later on.

“How to Stop People from Tagging You in Facebook Pictures” was written by Matt Davis. Matt is a Victim Advisor at the Identity Theft Resource Center. We welcome you to post/reprint the above article, as written, giving credit to and linking back to ITRC Blog.

Most of us at some point in our lives have had to struggle our way through the difficult task of sorting through old pictures, scrap books, and family albums of a deceased friend or relative. The idea being that family members and loved ones may cherish the memories associated with these deeply personal reminders of a person’s life and experiences.

As more and more of these types of photos, albums, and shared experiences are becoming digitalized in social media platforms like Facebook, a new legal dispute has arisen, and has become more and more common. It involves the loved ones of someone who passed wanting access/ownership rights to photos, posts, and digital information shared on (and therefore owned by) Facebook.

Under Facebook’s current policy, deaths can be reported in an online form. When the site learns of a death, it puts that person’s account in a memorialized state. Certain information is removed, and privacy is restricted to friends only. The profile and wall are left up so friends and loved ones can make posts in remembrance. Facebook will provide the estate of the deceased with a download of the account data “if prior consent is obtained from or decreed by the deceased or mandated by law.”If a close relative asks that a profile be removed, Facebook will honor that request, too.

The problem is, for those of us without the foresight to leave our consent for family members with access our “digital estate,” loved ones longing for access to the shared memories on Facebook may be at a loss. The current standard operating procedure upon notification of a death seems to be to change passwords and lock down the account, prohibiting even close relatives from gaining access. Currently several states are pushing legislation through that would grant users rights to their “digital estate,” which would allow family members to have a kind of shared ownership right of the material on their loved one’s Facebook page. Right now, the only option for concerned relatives may be to bring legal action to compel Facebook to grant them access.

While it is stated in the Facebook terms of use that any and all material posted becomes the property of Facebook, with the rise of the digital age it is about time that social media users had more control over use and ownership of the personal material they post. Hopefully digital estate laws will catch on and become commonplace in the US over the next several years.

“Facebook Profiles and the Deceased” was written by Matt Davis. Matt is a Victim Advisor at the Identity Theft Resource Center. We welcome you to post/reprint the above article, as written, giving credit to and linking back to ITRC Blog.

Traveling overseas offers a unique set of risks for American consumers. Travelers by necessity have to carry several pieces of sensitive information like a passport, bank cards, drivers license, and an assortment of additional documents that could put them at risk if lost or stolen.

So the next time you’re traveling abroad, be mindful of a few tips you can use to reduce your risk of becoming an identity theft victim while in another country.To protect your identity while you travel within your own country or abroad, it’s a good idea to take the following precautions:

oversea travelTravel light: and we don’t mean that you should leave behind the extra set of shoes and winter coat. Leave behind unnecessary credit cards, bank cards, social security card – anything you have in your wallet that you won’t need on your trip. The less information you bring, the less you put at risk.

Make copies of your passport, driver’s license, and any credit cards you plan to take with you: Leave one copy with a friend or family member you can call while on your trip and keep one copy with. If your stuff is stolen while traveling, you will have the information you need to lock down your credit and start the process of obtaining new documents.
Leave the checks at home: You won’t need them while traveling, and most places have significant restrictions on check-writing these days anyway. Besides, checking account fraud is one of the most difficult types of identity theft from which to recover. Use cash and credit cards while traveling and pay the bill when you get home.

If you have a hotel safe, use it: Many hotel employees have access to your room and there is tremendous risk of burglary while you’re out. If the safe in your room is not working, ask for a room with one that does.

All that being said, there are so many wonderful places to travel throughout this world of ours and these tips will help you do so more safely! So get out there and see how amazing travel can be…oh and don’t forget your sunscreen!

“Guarding your Personal Documents While Traveling Abroad” was written by Matt Davis. Matt is a Victim Advisor at the Identity Theft Resource Center. We welcome you to post/reprint the above article, as written, giving credit to and linking back to ITRC Blog.