Expert advises caution in online sharing

Online sharing can lead to problems


Lecture by Seymour Goodman, an expert on information security. 10:30 a.m.-noon Thursday. $5 or free for members of Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta. At MJCCA's Zaban Park, 5342 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody. 678-812-4064,

Seymour “Sy” Goodman, an expert on information security at Georgia Tech’s Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, does not have a Facebook page.

Goodman knows the risks of spreading personal news and information on the Internet probably as well as anybody — he will give personal safety advice in a talk in Dunwoody on Thursday — but even he does not know as much as he should. The field is too vast and it changes too quickly.

“I am going to tell (the audience) what kind of risks they have out there and what they can do to mitigate those risks, and it’s not the type of thing I would have said to them 10 years ago. … People can’t keep up with it. I can’t keep up with it,” he said.

And why does an Internet security expert not have a Facebook page?

In a word, privacy. It’s that thing we hold so dearly yet give away in the public forums of cyberspace, where others can take advantage of it.

“You don’t provide Facebook with a penny,” Goodman said. “So how does Facebook make its money? You are their product.”

Well, not you, but everything you post. Pictures. Family names. Where you travel. Pictures of things you like.

Facebook, Google and all of those handy apps on your smartphone collect your data and locations and use information to figure out how to sell you stuff. Or some unscrupulous firms may sell your information to others. But however your information gets out there, there are people trying to figure out how to use it to their advantage, legal or not.

Online theft and fraud is a growing problem. Recent numbers from the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network say Georgia in 2011 had the second-highest theft of identities per capita. Florida was No. 1.

But it does not take a thief to cause damage. Friends or employers see something floating out there on the Internet, and bad things can happen.

“I’ve seen how people have not been hired or lost jobs for indiscretions,” he said.

Like the Barrow County teacher pressured to resign in 2011 after Facebook pictures showed her on vacation with glasses of wine and mugs of beer.

“One thing I want to make clear is that there have been enormous benefits to having the Internet and mobile telephony — arguably the most singular and widespread diffusion of multivalue technology in history,” he wrote later in an email. “But with all the benefits and dependencies comes a good deal of risk that most of us have limited means to mitigate.”

“Each of us needs to give some thought to how to handle that risk. There are many ways available to us, although nothing guarantees security, and we all need to think about what we might lose if some things go wrong, and act with that in mind,” Goodman wrote.

“I am going to explain to them why they are vulnerable and give them a sense of what little they can do about it.”

Georgia and identity theft

Rankings by state for ID theft complaints

Rank Complaints per 100K Total
1. Florida 179 33,595
2. Georgia 120 11,625
3. California 104 38,607
4. Arizona 99 6,296
5. Texas 96 24,162
6. New York 92 17,880
7. Nevada 90 2,427
8. New Jersey 86 7,599
9. Maryland 86 4,980
10. Delaware 84 750

Source: Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel