Teenagers warned of identity theft

TEENAGERS have been warned to be careful about giving out their mobile numbers and what information or pictures they put up on their Bebo or MySpace websites.

The message from the Data Protection Commissioner’s office comes as schools begin to play a part in making young people aware of their rights in terms of privacy and how their personal information can be used and abused.

Deputy Data Protection Commissioner Gary Davis said: “With the growth of social networking sites, people are conditioned to be very open about the information they make available about themselves. But they need to ask if they would be happy about their parents or future employers seeing them and would they put it up if they thought that might happen,” he said.

“They might also post up photos in various compromising situations, which are all good fun at the time, but we are asking people to think about what their potential drawbacks might be,” said Mr Davis.

Concern is also growing about the use of direct marketing to young people by text messages or email, based on information received because they did not know about the importance of ticking a box when supplying other information.

“Young people might know they have rights in this regard but they might not be aware there is a place they can for help, which is available from our office. Parents are reporting to us about children giving out numbers and getting premium texts and that is something we’re very concerned about,” he said. A resource for use for Junior Certificate students has been launched on the Data Protection Commissioner’s website www.dataprotection.ie.

It highlights some of the ways data can be obtained, kept and used from people every day, such as shopping loyalty cards, website usage, CCTV in public streets or shops, interactive programmes on digital TV. It warns young people about the potential for personal information on their social networking sites to be used by identity thieves.

Education Minister Mary Hanafin launched the programme yesterday, with a video competition offering a top prize of €5,000.

Entrants can upload submissions of up to five minutes on the theme of Privacy in the 21st Century to www.youtube.com/privacycomp.

“Internet, email, social networking sites such as Bebo and Facebook all provide opportunities where we need to be careful what personal information we provide, how it might be used or abused, and to always remember that we can’t be sure who is accessing this information,” she said.

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