Facebook fraud dangers, warns UK data watchdog

Facebook fraud dangers, warns UK data watchdog

Swathes of personal information being posted on the internet by young people

Nearly three quarters (71 per cent) of young people would not want a college, university or potential employer to conduct an internet search on them unless they could first remove content from social networking sites, according to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

But almost six in 10 have never considered that what they put online now might be permanent and could be accessed years into the future.

Young people are often not aware of the trail they leave on the web, said ICO deputy commissioner David Smith.

"Many young people are posting content online without thinking about the electronic footprint they leave behind," he said.

There is also the danger of fraud.

Sixty per cent of younger people using social networking sites post their date of birth, a quarter post their job title and almost one in 10 give their home address.

If this information is coupled with details that might be used to create passwords -such as a sibling’s name (posted by 23 per cent), a pet’s name (posted by a quarter of girls) and even mother’s maiden name (posted by 2 per cent) - and fraudsters have the information they need to obtain services in someone's name or access bank or online accounts.

"We have to help teenagers wise up to every aspect of the internet age they’re living in – it may be fun but unfortunately it is not the safe space many think it is," said Smith.

The research findings are unveiled as the ICO launches a new website at www.ico.gov.uk/youngpeople to help young people understand their information rights.