Online users may live to regret digital tattooPeople are putting too much personal info online

03 September 2009

Online security

If a web address starts with https, the site is secure


Many internet users are being too blasé about the information they post on the web, according to a survey by security specialist Symantec.

The survey found that under 25s especially were exhibiting a devil-may-care attitude to internet security with two thirds saying they aren’t worried about the information they leave behind.

For details of how to protect younger members of your family see our report on child internet safety

Nearly two thirds of under-25s have uploaded personal photographs and private details such as postcodes (79%) and phone numbers (48%). One in 10 has put their bank details online and one in 20 has uploaded their passport number.

By comparison older internet users are more cautious about the information that they post online: under a third of 36-45 year- olds share photographs, and only two in 10 people over 46 share their photographs online.

Digital tattoos hard to remove

Symantec says people of all ages should be wary of the information that they are posting online. 

‘In a rush to embrace the advantages of sharing information on the internet, many young people have created online databanks or "tattoos” that much like a real life tattoo are difficult to remove,’ said Caroline Cockerill, Family Safety Advocate for Symantec.

Job prospects hindered

Recruitment experts warn that online profiles such as blogs, tweets and online videos such as those posted on YouTube, can spoil people’s chances of getting a job at a time when unemployment is at a high.

‘A fantastic CV can be dismissed in moments if the online story doesn’t match what I’m reading, said Steve Mallison-Jones, managing director of Indigo Red.

Thirty-one % of under-25s, many of whom are applying for their first full-time jobs, now wish they could erase personal details posted online.

Posting personal information online can also leave you vulnerable to identity theft

‘Details such as postcodes, birth dates or mother’s maiden names can all be used by cybercriminals to crack passwords and hijack accounts to send out spam or malware to contact lists for financial gain,’ said Cockerill.

Protect yourself

Despite these threats Symantec found that only 35% of people in all age groups considered it important to have a strong password. To protect your personal data Which? recommends that you install and update security software. 

How to follow the latest Which? Tech news

Are you a Twitter user? Follow WhichTech on Twitter for regular tech tweets.

Prefer RSS? Don't miss a thing with the Which? tech RSS feed

For just the main headlines in newsletter form, sign-up to our weekly Which? tech email.

Apple iPad 2 3G data plans compared - find the best 3G plan for your iPad
Best Android tablets round-up - we look at the best iPad alternatives around
Best cheap laptops for under £500 - find the best laptop deals