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Jennie's Journey

Social networking has its risks

There are millions of people who have been hooked on social networking, but what we don't take into account is whether or not we are putting ourselves at risk.

Social networking is a wonderful thing for those of us who have been able to get back in touch with that long-lost friend we had in high school or grade school even.

I personally enjoy getting on Facebook to keep in touch with the many friends I have encountered over the years, as well as family members living afar.

But, I recently learned through news coverage there is a risk to providing my personal information on the social networking site. Although I have set my personal settings on "Friends Only," my friends like to take fun little quizzes. I admit I have submitted answers to some myself.

This is where things get dicey. By answering these quizzes, we allow the software makers into our lives. We give them permission to access all that information we only wanted our friends to see.

I have mixed emotions regarding the information provided by both myself and those who are in my friends list. I provided some details to give others a way of knowing I am who they were looking for and to allow them a glimpse into the person I have become over the years.

I am sure my friends provided their details for similar reasons.

I don't believe we would have been able to find one another on the network if we hadn't provided that information.

But, I am concerned regarding unauthorized access to that information. I don't want some company using my information for marketing purposes. I don't want a hacker to take over my account. I also don't want a hacker to have access to other data that might expose me to identity theft.

Neither do my friends, but the ACLU has a quiz of its own kind that provides awareness to occurrences of this nature. The quiz, as you answer questions, shows you just what kind of information can be gathered about you and your friends.

It's scary because I also read a recent news story from England, provided by one of my social networking friends, of a teen killed by a predator who had been talking with her on Facebook.

My friend posted, "In my research for Predator (a book she is releasing) I learned this happens in America too. This is not just a warning for kids. Grown women post way too much information about themselves, talk too intimately with strangers and have wording posted in their profiles that invite sexual predators."

What I am saying is we need to be more aware of the information we provide about ourselves online. We don't just need to be aware of what our children are doing on the internet, but we need to police our own activities as well.

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