Protect yourself from online dangers

Isn’t it time we recognize the dangers of the Internet? The obnoxious Freddie Gray Halloween costume is a perfect example of how a private moment can be widely projected (“Racially charged photos of Baltimore private school students in Halloween costumes create stir online,” Oct. 30). While I find it sickening anyone would wear a costume of the late Freddie Gray, nevertheless, it’s a good example of how a thoughtless posting can create a nationwide cause célèbre leading to rallies and endless conjecture.

Now, thanks to Brad Shear’s commentary (“Protect your digital life from Harvard,” Nov. 7), I’ve learned how much our private thoughts, photographs, Internet search history and Facebook trivia can come back to bite us — even to the point of denying a qualified student college admission.

As a lover of history with a diverse, perhaps controversial search record, I hate to think how snoopers are profiling me. However, I’m not applying for college admission, a place on some hockey team or even a job. But who might be “following” what I do online?

I’m ignorant of algorithms, but they are remarkable tools created to gather information and details regarding our search habits, Instagram postings, tweets and Facebook “likes.” This has become fertile ground for advertisers and marketers. Now this mathematical protocol can reach much, much further.

Fortunately, I’ve read about Edward Snowden’s revelations, along with information on NSA’s capabilities and Google’s mighty search tools. Anyone who isn’t paying attention to the minefield the Internet has become might end up a victim. We all need to understand that some silly picture, video or statement could “go viral” and do us lifelong damage.

R. E. Heid, Baltimore

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