14 News Special Report: Sharing with Strangers - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

14 News Special Report: Sharing with Strangers

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Sharing our personal information. We do it all the time. But that interaction can lead to some unforeseen consequences.

With every click and search, every 'Like' or 'Dislike' in social media, you are stripping away some of your privacy and building your digital profile. 

"This is the new treasure trove for marketing departments," cyber crimes expert Theresa Payton said.

Before you scramble for the delete button, it may be too late to get rid of those inflammatory emails, texts, pictures, and posts. 

"Depending on what systems they used, what search engines they used, they may still see some of that data. So 'deleted' is really never gone," Payton said.

Payton is an internet security expert and co-author of the book "Protecting Your Internet Identity." 

When you join social media sites, Payton says you're allowing companies to track you. 

"As soon as you step foot in the door at Facebook, they just follow you all around the internet, and you don't even remember giving permission, do you? These algorithms are tracking you, tracking your behavior, and trying to assimilate it to either market products to you, or store that research about you to use at a different date," Payton said.  

Its easy to get lured into sharing our personal information online and hard to resist the temptation of the latest online games or features, but participating in these things can come back to hurt you. 

"Yes, judgments are made quickly, online," said Patty Comer with Accrue Partners.

Comer talks to hundreds of job candidates each week. She relies heavily on a person's online persona to determine if they are a good fit for a client who's hiring. 

According to a survey conducted by Cross-Tab Marketing Services, 70 percent of human resource professionals in the US say they have turned down job candidates based on information found online. 

"We actually have icons to press and immediately look at their Facebook profile, their Twitter profile and we also Google their name to identify potential issues. We've found criminal history that before we ever brought the person in, we were able to find articles, and we didn't waste our time, or our client's time bringing the person in," Comer said.

"You are writing a permanent record of your life the minute you go on the internet," said Chris Swecker, a former FBI Assistant Director.

Swecker, a former assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Investigation Division says it's impossible to avoid all the technology contributing to our digital profile. 

"This data is coming from every direction, your cell phone, where you're traveling, the GO tracking data, the infinity cards that you use at stores to get a discount, your web searching history. There are even people who drive around all day and record license plates and sell that information," Swecker said. "These are all data aggregators and they're taking all this rich information and its rich for commercial purposes. They are selling it to people for a pretty good price. So, that's your data, it belongs to you. There are no restrictions on that right now." 

Once your personal information is out there, whether true or false, it's difficult, if not impossible, to change it.

Getting passed over for a job is bad enough, but your digital profile could affect your finances like how much interest you'll pay on a loan or whether you can get insurance.

"Insurers can and sometimes will actually do background checks on the internet and they will look for different pieces of information to see what your interests are. Do you have risky behaviors? Things like, do you see them drinking a lot on Facebook, or are they complaining about health issues," Payton said. 

While there are laws that put restraints on how and what government investigators can collect, for now, private industry doesn't have to follow these rules. 

"At some point, someone has to push back and say 'You know, we're going to have to put some restrictions on all this data out there because its creating, really, a 'big brother' in the private sector,'" Swecker said.

The next time you go online to search anything, post a comment on social media, send an email or play a game. Beware of the risks and understand your online activities today could impact you years from now.

Another thing you should do regularly is go to the major online search engines and type in variations of your name to see what articles or websites come up. 

If you find inaccurate information about yourself, like a criminal charge that was dropped, you may need to contact the originating source of the information to correct or remove the information in question.

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