Timely Topic: Protecting Your Privacy in a Virtual World


UT Dallas Computer Science Professor Advises Caution

A person works on a laptop at their home
Americans are getting used to attending class, work and even social meetings online. But as we participate in an increasingly virtual world, how much are we thinking about our online privacy?
University of Texas at Dallas cybersecurity expert Dr. Murat Kantarcioglu says we can’t be too careful when it comes to our online presence.
Our physical background, for example, can reveal details that could be used to glean information about our families and personal interests, said Kantarcioglu, a professor of computer science in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science. The screen name that accompanies our image potentially could help someone find out more information, including our school, workplace or where we live. In the case of a student, for example, someone could potentially use this information to contact them on social media, masquerading as a friend.
Sharing images of online meetings or classes on social media multiplies the risks, he said.
“We are in a new world where we are all online all the time,” Kantarcioglu said. “The first instinct should be, let’s not share it unless we see a benefit and we understand the risks.”
To protect his privacy, Kantarcioglu aims his camera at a blank wall, with no opportunity for anyone to see photos or objects that could divulge personal details. He sits with his back close to the wall so participants cannot see any other people or activity in his home. When this is not possible, he uses a background image to hide his surroundings during the meeting.
Kantarcioglu also suggests:

  • Change the settings to use only your first name in online meetings.
  • Do not share the online meeting information publicly; only share it with meeting participants.
  • Do not use your camera unless it’s necessary.
  • Make sure your camera is off and physically covered when you are not using it.
  • Always click on the prompt to end meetings to make sure you are logged out.
  • Do not sign releases for school or other activities that allow your child’s images, which could include images from online classes, to be made public.

–Kim Horner

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