In the beginning, I included all my information in online communities. Little did I know the complications that could arise from doing so. I realize now that I put in my details for the fear of not being accepted when I opened the accounts on those websites. But as the days went by, my details became public property. When I first opened up those accounts there were only few people that were aware of these sites and people like me didn't even know about them. I was introduced to a chat room by opening up an account with by my sister first. I was so anxious to meet people online, chat with people around the world and get to find some good friends to communicate. I would just log on to the internet and wait for people to say "hi".
As time went on, I met with many people--some good, some okay and some downright dirty. Most were young people looking for company. During the nights while I was in bed, before falling asleep I would get into my email accounts and find a bunch of junk mail from different sources including credit card companies, schools, universities, small businesses, loan sharks, single men, single women, hookers, call girls, clubs, bars and so on and so forth. My mail was filled with filth. Among them only one or two messages per day were from my friends and family.
My information was known to every advertising company there was. I did not know what to do and how to stop it. At first I thought it was normal since this whole thing was new to everyone. But as time went by and I came to know a lot about the internet, I learned that this was not normal and my information was taken from different sources from right under my nose. Sometimes I got threatening notices in emails that I owed people money and if I didn't pay online to so-and-so's account I would be penalized and sent to jail. I got emails from men who I don't know, asking me to get in bed with them so they can show me good times. I started getting credit cards that I haven't applied for. When I got into the chat rooms, I was invited for dirty sex, people inviting me on web cameras, and giving me their life stories. The first question I got as soon as someone tried to reach me was, "asl please". I didn't know what in the world that meant. Pretty soon I found out through a friend at work it means, "age, sex, location".
I approached a computer savvy friend and explained to him my fears of being exploited and my loss of privacy. So he helped me close down all the accounts and showed me the right way to reopen them with new names and information. I found out that I do not have to include all my details just so that I could be accepted. I don't have to include my date of birth, my real name, my location or my profession and where I work. I learned that I must have clicked on some other sites that were advertisements for different services and they get paid by the number of hits they get online. It is kind of like watching your favorite movie and watching the commercials that come in between. These were also dangerous to my computer too. Pretty soon my computer was attacked by viruses from one of these sources; I did not know to click on the cross at the corner in order to block it. I lost my very first computer in the learning process. This was back in the mid-nineties. I was stupid and a novice to the computer technology.
For so many days after that I watched stories on television about people being stalked and killed by people who hacked into their system, girls being raped and murdered, and banks being robbed, and I literally froze in place whenever I saw that. I did not buy another computer for the longest time for the fear of my youngest child using it and getting into trouble. As the time went by the major websites became more cautious about their members' safety and security. They started introducing things like "spam" to protect people from being exposed to harmful people. Many chat rooms were closed because of privacy reasons and sex exploitation. People like me became smarter to use the computers and online information with caution. Young people like my son became too smart for knowing everything there is to know about what is good and what is bad.
As the technology grew, our use of computers became a must. Nobody could afford to be computer illiterate. We must know how to type on keyboards, hold meetings online, chat or hold conferences, email, prepare power point presentations, communicate with people on the other side of the world, fax, scan, print, and use different operating systems. It is like if we have one day without the computer we are down to nothing. If feels like when we first started using the cordless phones, we forgot the wired phones; when we started using the cell phones we forgot to use the landlines; when we started using the blue tooth, we don't look at the cell phones. We've gone from main frames to mini frames to desktops to personal computers to laptops and now it's netbooks and iPads.
But the fact remains, whatever mode of technology is in use, the final control should be ours. And that includes holding our own information, privacy and security in our own hands. Information technology not only made us achieve great heights in lifestyles but also made us vulnerable to others. We use our intellect in place of our naivete because, OUR LIFE MATTERS.