Friday, May 1, 2009

Dangers of Online Social Networking

I remember when AOL came out with their "Instant Messaging" application. It was a huge hit and people didn't realize that instant messaging had been available through other services. ICQ came out in 1996 and AOL's IM came out in 1997. Wow, was that over 10 years ago? Did people even have computers back then?

There are some serious public health implications associated with online social networking. I've been reflecting on this topic as I've immersed myself in the Twitter community. It's so easy to meet complete strangers and to fall prey into fraudulent schemes. If you're not careful, you could lose money or have your identity stolen. People may also experience physical harm if they disclose too much information to social predators and other dangerous people. There's absolutely no way to know who's typing on the other end of that message you receive.

Recently, a fraudulent website was trying to lure Facebook users into providing personal information, including passwords. This type of schemes are becoming so common and there are still many people who don't know how to differentiate a valid website from a phishing site. We must educate the public about safe practices when it comes to online social networking.

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