28 Feb 2012

People need to watch out for 'digital tattoos' online

With the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, a new set of guidelines for internet security, the Obama administration is looking to give people more control over the way personal information is gathered online. If adopted, the guidelines would also enable individuals to access and change data that is gathered about them.

"I like to think of everything we do online as digital tattoos," Jeffrey Hancock, assistant professor at Cornell University, who heads up the school's Information Science Department, told CBS News. "Everything we do, say, on Facebook is going to stay there. It's actually very, very difficult to delete things. They're on a number of servers, Facebook servers. If some of my friends have downloaded that, there's a copy everywhere. If you think of any politician who'd been in a (recent) scandal, it's because of a digital tattoo, typically."

Hancock said people should be very careful with what they're doing online, thinking about it that people shouldn't write something online that they wouldn't tell a stranger. He said this Bill of Rights is about making people feel more comfortable online.

According to President Barack Obama, American consumers can't wait any longer for clear rules about how personal information is and should be handled online. The White House therefore proposed the new privacy rules, and will move forward by working with stakeholders such as internet companies and content providers to establish enforceable protocols.