Protecting Personal Information

Sharing and Protecting Personal Information Online

It is important to be careful if you provide personal data online. Never give personal identifying information (such as your Social Security number) to solicitors or agencies that contact you first, even if the email or online advertisement looks official. It can be challenging to distinguish legitimate solicitors from those who want your personal information for fraudulent purposes.

If you shop online, look for indications that the website is secure before you enter a credit card or other personal data.  A data use notice should be included on any site that collects personal data. The notice should define the reasons and uses for the data collected, including any data collected through cookies or hidden programs. In the case that information is used for promotional or business purposes, or any other reason that is not a service to the consumer, the user must agree to this, usually via opt-in selections.

If you meet someone online, while it may seem safe, and at times easier, to share your personal information with them over the internet, it is important to use caution. In reality, you do not really who is on the other end of an online conversation, and people on the other end of an online conversation may want to get personal information from you to use it for their own personal (and often fraudulent) gains.  Avoid revealing personal identifying information, such as your name, where you live, or where you go to school, to anyone you meet online. More information on Internet safety can be found at and at

TIP: When using public Wi-Fi “hotspots,” only do so for non-sensitive activities like research and internet surfing.  Do not do your banking over these public hotspots and be careful about typing your social network or any other passwords.

Limiting Your Exposure on Social Network Sites

Most social networks automatically set your account so “everyone” can see the information you post on the social network website, like who you are and what you do. You can decide how public you want to be with your privacy settings and with the content you decide to post. Periodically visit your account settings to customize your privacy settings to suit your tastes.  Keep your circle of friends recognizable – if you let an unknown person join your network, that person’s friends can have access to your information too.

Before sharing something online, take a minute and think about what you are posting and disclosing. Be careful about revealing where you are and never post that you will be away from home.  Protect your personal information by not posting your email address (use the social network’s messaging tool instead), full date of birth (omit the year), home address, or phone number.

Location-Sharing Services

Location-Sharing Services share the user’s physical location with others via their smart phones or social networking sites. Location-sharing is a great way to track down your friends or to let your parents know when you are stuck in traffic. However, there are risks as well. If you let too many people know where you are (or where you are not), you could also be more vulnerable to stalkers, ex-boyfriends or ex-girlfriends, or burglars who want to know whether you are home. Take the time to check the service’s privacy controls so that you are not unintentionally sharing your location with people you don’t even know.

Using Personal Email and Visiting Websites while at Work

Your employer and boss can legally monitor you emails and the websites you visit while at work. You should not expect privacy when you use your workplace computer to send emails and browse the Internet. If you work for a state or a government agency, all your emails can be reviewed by the general public, under the Open Records Act. In other words, use company email for company business only! Email is free – use a separate email for nonwork related communication.