Privacy Commissioner warns of social networking site dangers

Workplace use still hotly debated

Australian Federal Privacy Commissioner, Karen Curtis, today urged Internet users to safeguard their privacy when visiting social networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook and Bebo.

Curtis said Internet users need to take a proactive role in protecting their personal information on these sites.

"Many people are all too readily posting photos and personal details of themselves and their friends on social networking sites without necessarily thinking about who else may obtain access to the personal information," she said.

"Stories abound of people finding that posting personal information on a social networking site has come back to bite them at a later stage."

As part of the warning the Office of the Privacy Commissioner offers advice about these sites in a new FAQs available at http://www.privacy.gov.au/faqs/ypr/index.html#social_networking.

The FAQs provides a list of steps that can be taken to minimise potential risks such as reading the site's privacy policy, using privacy tools on the site, restrict access to search listings and profiles and ensure anti-virus software is up-to-date.

When it comes to privacy-related complaints, the FAQs recommends contacting the site in question, complaining to the site's 'trust-mark' issuer and finally, contacting the privacy commission hotline on 1300 363 992.

When it comes to social networking sites in the workplace, their use is still being hotly debated by IT managers.

Research firm Gartner believes organizations should find innovative ways to exploit the technology rather than blocking access.

Gartner research vice president, Jay Heiser, said it is not IT's job to buiild walls and locks down systems.

"Don't use regulation as an excuse to lock everything down, that is just value wasted," Heiser said.

"Don't think your partners only want access to a static Web page, employ Web 2.0 technologies.

"Security is not about zero risk it is about managed risk."

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