Online Interaction Safety
Advice on what you shouldn't do when it comes to personal information on the Internet in order to protect yourself
Most of the information available on the Internet is viewable to the open public which means that any information that you publish could easily be viewed by unintended individuals. While usually there is no harm in sharing information such as personal hobbies or offering opinions on various subjects, many people get caught up in the atmosphere of being able to express a thought or feeling behind a semi anonymous environment within a specific social circle which provides them with a sense of comfort and belonging. Because of this, some people end up publishing sensitive information about themselves to individuals that they don't necessarily know a lot about.
A general example would be a person that has visited some form of online community for over a month where hundreds of individuals are discussing about topics that interest him. Throughout his interaction with others, he has met individuals that seem to know just as much about these topics than he does which is a new experience for him. One day, he receives an offer to meet one of the community members and since his experience has been generally positive thus far, he then proceeds by providing information such as his personal address to the member so that they can arrange a time to meet each other. While these types of meetings may seem like a safe and traditional way to get to know people better such as classmates or co-workers, in an online environment it is easier for people to create false information about themselves and because of this you should take extra care in handling your personal information. For all you know, the person could really be some kind of offender that has a hefty criminal record and as far fetched as that may sound, it is a situation that happens all the time.
On top of this, carelessly publishing your personal information just anywhere on the Internet would allow anyone to have access to it. For example, if you were signing a guestbook at a friend's site, which was open to anyone that has an Internet connection, and thought it would also be a quick way to leave him/her your new cellular phone number, what is stopping other people who visit the site from not retrieving your number as well? At this day in age, with technology such as search engines with the ability gather data all across the Internet, your information could be in the hands of another in an instant and one needs to be more careful about publishing sensitive information.
So does that mean you should never entertain the thought of meeting or conducting activities with individuals on the Internet? Of course not. For example, if you ever wanted to shop online with online retailers, then you would definitely need to provide some basic information in order to process your transactions. Does that mean you should provide your social security number to them just to buy a product? Definitely not and once again you have to use your best judgement when providing personal information. If you ever want to meet people that you have never seen in real life, my only real advice is to conduct your meeting at a public venue and to make sure some kind of third party is aware of your meeting. Unless you and the other person are a pair of high stature individuals who trying to conduct the next big business transaction that is going to be known to the world, there isn't any need to give out your person details in normal circumstances. Even in this case there would at least be other people within the organization who are aware of the events that are taking place.
While you are exploring the Internet, just remember to protect your personal information and do not give anyone person details about yourself based on an emotional decision.