Public Papers


British Information Commissioner’s Office gives advice to young people regarding privacy in social networking sites

Millions of young people have made themselves vulnerable to identity theft as well as putting their future academic and professional prospects at risk by recklessly posting personal information on the Internet.

The British Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is concerned that it has issued guidance for young people using the Internet which is made available on a website www.ico.gov.uk/youngpeople.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) says that 4.5 million web users aged between 14 and 21 could be vulnerable to identity fraud because of the light-hearted way they give up information on the internet, especially when visiting social networking sites. A similar number are damaging their future education and employment prospects by leaving an "electronic footprint" which could compromise their chances of winning places at colleges and companies. The ICO reports also that a third of surveyed young people have never read privacy policies on social networking sites and do not understand how they can manage their personal information. An overwhelming 95 per cent of those questioned said they were worried about websites using their details to target advertising at them or to pass on to other websites or companies.

Some social networking sites have already begun using information from their members to link up with major companies and well-known brands. Facebook members complained about a new advertising strategy that automatically broadcasts what a user has bought on external partner sites to their family and friends. This shows that when young people are made aware that their details could be being passed away, they are worried. Young people need therefore help to wise up to every aspect of the Internet age they're living in - it may be fun but unfortunately it is not the safe space many think it is.

The website includes warnings that online information is for life and can leave a permanent electronic footprint. "If you don't think you'll want it to exist somewhere in 10 years' time, don't post it."


Available on the website since July 17, 2008
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