Protecting Personal Data in the Age of Facebook (Rep. David Price)

In an age of increased electronic communications and the popularity of social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, it is extremely important for Americans to know how to protect their personal information.

To that end, the House will vote today on a resolution I have authored (H.Res.31) to designate Wednesday, January 28, 2009, as “National Data Privacy Day.” A number of states, including North Carolina, Washington, Oregon, Massachusetts, and California, will also recognize Data Privacy Day on Wednesday. Educators and privacy professionals across the country will be leading discussions this week with pre-teens, teens and young adults about privacy and data protection, focusing on social networking websites like Facebook and MySpace.

The way we communicate with one another has been revolutionized by advances in networking technologies. At the same time, we must recognize that as it becomes much easier to communicate, we must be vigilant in protecting our personal information.

Specifically, young people who are participating in social networking sites should be made aware of the dangers of failing to protect their personal data. The vast majority of American teens use the Internet, and over half of those between 12 and 17 who are online use social networks.

While pre-teens, teenagers and young adults are often the most sophisticated and skilled Internet users, many too often neglect their personal safety online. They need to know that not everyone on Facebook and MySpace is a “friend.”

Privacy experts encourage teens to remember the following tips when using social networking websites:

  • Be aware that anyone – including advertisers, potential employers, and even dangerous people – can access, use and forward information you share online.

  • Use privacy settings to control access to your information online, and do not share phone numbers, home address, date of birth, school or team name, travel plans, identification numbers and financial information. Don’t share your password with anyone.

  • Don’t accept “friends” whom you do not know, and never agree to meet anyone in person you have only “met” online.

  • Do not post any information, photos or video that you would not share with your college, prospective employer or your parents. Ask friends to take down content that you would not post yourself.

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