Social networking websites are currently seeing extensive popularity, some of them connecting more than 500 million people across the world. Dallas-based immigration attorney Stewart Rabinowitz of the firm Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz advises social network users to only connect to people they already know.
People use social networking websites for numerous reasons – to keep in touch with family across long distances, to search for romantic partners and sometimes even to find completely new friends based on similar interests. Many users choose to connect with people they do not know in the outside world to enhance the amount of virtual “friends” they have to appear more popular. On most social networks, this means that the new “friend” can see all of the user’s private information, as well as any correspondence the user has with close friends or family.
“Connecting to people you don’t actually know is a terrible idea,” said Dallas-based immigration attorney Stewart Rabinowitz of the firm Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz. “There is nothing wrong with creating a private profile to stay in contact with close friends and family, but allowing total strangers to view personal information is a mistake.”
When a user posts information on a social networking site, it creates a public record and timeline of his or her activities. Users can set privacy settings to strict levels on most sites, allowing only friends to view this information. However, privacy settings are worthless when a user connects to strangers.
“People who post personal information on social networking websites and become friends with mass amounts of people they do not know could potentially be opening themselves up to easy surveillance,” Rabinowitz said. “The government knows these sites exist. There are documented cases where law enforcement officials and immigration officers tracked social networking users and used the information they posted against them in court.”
The process of creating a social networking profile is simple on most sites. The user often needs only to submit an e-mail address and a password to create an individual page. The user can then post whatever personal information and photographs he or she wants, even if the information is untrue or the photographs are of someone else.
That someone else could be a spammer, a data thief or even an agent from the Fraud Detection and National Security office, which recently issued a memo that said, “Social Networking gives FDNS an opportunity to reveal fraud by browsing these sites to see if petitioners and beneficiaries are in a valid relationship or are attempting to deceive [the U.S. Bureau of Citizen and Immigration Services] about their relationship.”
“The attractive girl from California who sent you that friend request because she saw you both like the beach might actually be someone who wants to track what you post. Use your discretion. Set privacy levels to the strictest settings, post as little personal information as possible and only connect to people you actually know. You never know who could be trying to access your information,” Rabinowitz said.
To learn more about Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz, P.C., call 1.972.233.6200 or visit http://www.rabinowitzrabinowitz.com.