Nearly 40 years ago, I was witnessing the beginning of a trend which concerned me greatly because I could see the tremendous potential for abuse. I was watching people just giving away their personal information to strangers without so much as blinking an eye. It was at that point I realized that this would only be the beginning of something which would inevitably lead to what we have today.
Here is a little history lesson:
Over the years, we've gone from the PLATO’s Message Forum to the first chat room called Talkomatic to TERM-talk along with an instant-messaging feature, back in the 70’s; from there, bulletin boards sprang up which delivered blogs and news reports.
When the 80’s hit, the potential of abuse was thought of and countermeasures were first employed. Back then, Access Lists were deployed which would restrict users to key individual groups which would fill a Notesfile. Those groups could be anything like My Friends, Relatives, Work Associates etc. This limited access to only specific sets of users.
Then Windows 3.0, 3.1, 95 etc. hit the seen along with MAC OS which removed the need for command lines and typing in program executions. This new thing was something never seen before and was labeled a (GUI) “Graphical User Interface.” This enabled someone without any computer skill or knowledge of programming to run programs as if they knew what they were doing. Thus the beginning of the end of anonymity and confidentiality. I liken this time like those first cars being driven by people who had no clue who would yell, “WHOA” when they wanted the car to stop. Like the people in those days with cars first being purchased, these new computer users didn’t have a clue either, and quite frankly, they still don’t.
It was the early 90’s and (IRC) “Internet Relay Chat” was in full swing along with the bulletin boards which a decade later had begun with quite a following. Information sharing began to rise as people were blinded by all of the possibilities without any consideration to the consequences.
In the 2000’s, AOL hit the scene with AOL Instant Messenger and Windows Live Messenger. Multiple levels of sharing of information options came into effect such as Myspace and Facebook. Torrent programs allowed for sharing of your data with strangers and you too could receive their data. Blogging gained great popularity as anyone could be an author, a journalist, a poet, or simply carry on one’s rantings. Again, blinders on and no thinking about future consequences.
Today, Myspace, Facebook, Linkedin, Google Plus, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, and many new ones continue to pop-up again and again. With smartphone technology, all of us are walking around with computers in our hands capable of installing apps which seek to know us better. Why? So targeted advertising may be sent directly to you. After all, you really didn’t think all of this was truly free did you?
As we give pieces of information away, email address, contact list, address, phone number, etc., we are essentially giving away specific information related to us which identifies us. This information is compiled into a profile and sold to the highest bidder. But, it doesn’t stop there. That profile goes from place to place, is copied and new info is constantly being applied to it.
I have investigators as clients who have told me how amazed they were at the number of people who post photos of themselves and family members on social networking sites. I have been told that these people have given investigators not only a new resource to gather evidence, but it is usually the first place they look. Even the IRS now uses Facebook to gather information on people who have reported their income as a low figure yet post pictures of themselves in their new very expensive cars and boats. Now, these are the “good guys.”
Unfortunately, “bad guys” exist to do bad things. Why make it easy on them? I have had clients post that they were on an Alaskan cruise for a week. They were surprised to find that their house was ransacked and items stolen while they were gone.
I was asked a number of years ago why I wasn’t posting pictures of my family. I said that my son was a minor. I love him and don’t want to identify what he looks like to strangers who may have a grudge against me. It wasn’t until this year when I decided that it would be safe to post my wife and me from an old picture. I waited until my son graduated high school and could take care of himself physically and spiritually before even considering posting him out in the world for public consumption.
Why? There are bad people in the world who will harm others because that is what they do. They serve the evil one whether they know it or not. It doesn’t surprise me. I know, that as a Christian living in a Christian family, running a Christian computer ministry, ministering Christ’s love on others and working continually to spread the Gospel, I am a target. Jesus said in John 15:18-19, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
So, my words of advice to everyone, please employ God-given wisdom before telling the world about yourself or others. Be mindful of what it is you choose to share. If you lack wisdom, ask for it in prayer and it will be given to you. If you simply don’t understand, use common sense. If you are one who doesn’t believe in Jesus, the Bible, the Gospel, I’d love to hear from you.
As always, may God bless you in His Name.