We live in a time of unprecedented data gathering capabilities. The Internet has immensely bolstered the digital age by providing people all over the world with the means to disseminate information and inexpensively communicate with each other. With gargantuan Web sites like MySpace becoming Internet juggernauts because of their ability to attract a wide range of people from every age and ethnic demographic, our level of freedom seems almost utopian.
I say almost because we are not completely without threats, rather they have grown as much if not more so than everything else on the Internet. People used to be able to just shred the paper in their trash cans, but these days, we face complete identity theft if we do not take stringently cautious measures while using our computers.
You have probably gotten popups on your computer, and of course the adware, spyware, trojans, and data miners that inevitably follow.
Is there any reprieve? Most of us just contently download the latest system-jamming anti-virus and go about our lives hoping the invisible Dr. Norton will come through with the right diagnosis before being attacked by Spybot Search and Destroy.
Well, now hackers have found a new way to spammertise (no, it is not a real word), and they are using you to do it for them.
Do you ever wonder why your friends on MySpace are so excited about the new ring tones they downloaded for their phone? Or perhaps you noticed that good friend of yours from church who suddenly became a pornographic sex-fiend who posts links on the bulletin for a new webcam site every week.
If you do not know already, these messages are not the words of your friends, but rather unscrupulous online spammers who have hijacked their accounts. Typically what happens is the victim will be browsing innocently through different profiles and come across a false navigation bar or link. When he or she clicks on it a screen pops up prompting the user’s name and password to be reentered before proceeding.
It looks like the official MySpace log in page, but it is not. And once the account information is entered in it goes straight into the hackers’ hands, giving them full access to your webpage.
With that, they take the liberty of posting unauthorized bulletin advertisements in your name.
While I do thank Tom Anderson, or maybe Rupert Murdoch, for trying to crack down on these sites, there just is not enough being done to completely eradicate the problem.
I propose that we teach those skuzzy online lowlifes a lesson by filing a class-action lawsuit against each responsible party for the appropriated use of our faces and names to sell their products. It is a direct violation of our publicity rights and they deserve to pay damages.
The first appropriation-privacy bill was passed by New York’s legislature in 1903 in response to an incident two years prior that very closely resembled what we are seeing now on the internet.
A woman named Abigail Roberson of Albany, NY found her picture being used in advertisements for the Franklin Mills Flour Company and sued for damages.
Unfortunately, Roberson lost her case because there were no laws on the books to protect average citizens like herself from nonconsensual commercial exploitation.
This country has changed a lot over the 20th and 21st centuries, and many more legal protections have been granted to us in this regard.
Fortunately for me, I have never been personally affected by MySpace account hackers, but I am sure there are a few ticked-off students on campus who have been used to sell a ring tone or two.