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TMCNet:  Maintaining online privacy ; Keeping personal information safe in a web-based society [Florida Times Union]

[March 24, 2014]

Maintaining online privacy ; Keeping personal information safe in a web-based society [Florida Times Union]

(Florida Times Union Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Most people don't think twice about going online and sharing personal details.

But a University of North Florida professor who will lead a discussion about online privacy Tuesday evening said they probably should. Peter Casella, a professor of journalism at UNF, will lead the discussion after a screening of the award-winning 2013 documentary "Terms and Conditions May Apply." "If watching this documentary about online privacy doesn't scare you, then I don't know what will," he said.


The discussion will highlight how individuals have become less concerned with disclosing information online due to the lifestyle they have grown accustomed to.

Casella doesn't claim to be an expert on the topic of online privacy, but he said he keeps himself informed on a regular basis due to how important an online presence has become for journalists.

Casella said he plans to lead the presentation in the form of a question-and-answer discussion in order to engage the audience as much as possible.

"The problem is that we currently live in a culture where life is practically lived online," Casella said. "It's the age of tell everything, do everything, show everything and share everything." Because it's so easy to share everything with the click of a mouse, it becomes routine and you don't think about just how many people have access to your information, he said.

Most online services include a list of terms and conditions as well as information on their privacy policy for users to agree to before creating accounts. But most users don't read all the fine print and just click the "I Agree" box at the bottom without truly knowing just what exactly they agreed to.'FREE ACCESS' "What most people fail to realize is that the government has free access to all of their information," Casella said. "Based on my Internet use, my identity could be stolen, my assets could be wiped out, and my reputation could be ruined." As the violation of online privacy has become a topic of increased debate, many still argue online activity needs to be monitored for national security reasons.

"We need to look at the other side of the coin with national security," Casella said. "Steps we should take to protect our privacy include sharing the least amount of information possible." The documentary discusses the case of a man who shared a violent quote from the film, "Fight Club." A short time later, police were searching his house. Misinterpretation of online activity is also growing increasingly common.

If it falls into the wrong hands, any personal information - credit card numbers, phone numbers, birthdays - can be used illicitly.

"It really doesn't take much to learn all sorts of things about a person. Even online purchases can be risky," he said.

When you make purchases online, create social media accounts or engage in anything as simple as watching a YouTube video, you are exposing personal information to the Internet.

"The delete button doesn't actually delete," Casella said.FILM AND DISCUSSIONThe University of North Florida's Department of Communication is putting on a series of documentaries and discussions at Sun-Ray Cinema in Five Points. The first is at 7 p.m. Tuesday, when the 2013 documentary "Terms and Conditions May Apply, which explores the disappearance of online privacy, will be accompanied by a discussion led by UNF's Peter Casella. Tickets are $9 for adults, $7 for seniors, students, teachers and active military.Future presentations are scheduled for March 25 on Egypt and April 22 on crowdfunding.PROTECT YOUR ONLINE PRIVACYThe federal government's website, usa.gov, says the key to protecting your online privacy is limiting access to your personal information.- Lock or log off your computer when you are away from it.- Disconnect your computer from the Internet when you aren't using it.- Be familiar with your computer's security settings and make sure virus scans, firewalls and pop-up blockers are up to date.- Look for a site's privacy policy statement and read it before agreeing to anything.

(c) 2014 ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.

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