/ Technology

How safe is your identity online?

With ID theft soaring and Facebook’s Timeline requiring extra attention for your privacy settings, is your identity safe online? Our research shows you may be revealing more than you might expect…

In a survey of Which? members, 61% of Facebook users told us they were worried about strangers accessing details they’ve posted. And 59% told us they can’t keep up with the number of changes Facebook has made to its data security settings.

This latter figure is an 11% rise since the last survey we ran in September 2011, and reflects the introduction of the new Facebook Timeline.

A bit of time spent checking and tightening up your online privacy settings is a good idea to ensure strangers can’t easily access information you might not want them to see.

Posting everything and anything online

2012 is shaping up to be a record year for ID fraud. There were almost 36,000 cases in January to March, a 40% increase on the same period last year. And ID fraud experts claim the internet is the main place where fraud is enabled and carried out.

Despite the increasing risks however, people don’t seem to be holding back from posting their personal info online. In a recent survey of 2,000 Brits by Experian, 18% said they would publish their town of birth online, while only 3% would give this information to a stranger over the phone. And 24% would post their place of study on the internet, while only 1% would do this over the phone.

Add in other personal info that people sometimes post (a mention of a favourite TV programme, whereabouts, or a pet’s name) and if it’s not securely locked behind privacy settings a criminal could begin to build up a profile of you.

We decided to ask online security experts to study the unsecured online profiles of 10 volunteers. Our experts found that the volunteers, many of them web-savvy, were posting sensitive personal information such as place of birth, email address, phone number and photos of the inside of their home, without applying secure privacy settings.

Who else can see what you’ve posted?

It’s not just criminals that pose a risk. Increasingly, employers are checking out prospective employees during the recruitment process and are weeding out those who have ‘imperfect’ lives outside of work.

So maybe it’s just as important to spend time managing your Facebook profile as it is to brush up on interview questions the next time you apply for that all-important job. Have you secured your online profile?


Many ignored the need for up-to-date anti-virus software on their computers but most people are much more careful nowadays.

I doubt that much will change until people have experienced problems such as ID theft or know someone who has.

It might help to feature ID theft in TV documentaries and soap operas.

Mark Ackley says:
11 October 2012

No body can talk about 100% online privacy but I use Hotspot Shield on my computer to build an encrypted tunnel between my PC/Mac/ or IOS device and its server to maintain a good level of online security.

i have never joined face book or any other gossip sites but i was told a few weeks ago that i have a face book account so i tried to join only to be told i allready have a account and my password was wrong so it looks like someone has stolen my name about time face book got to sort out id theft