Director's Blog

Q: How to Avoid Online Criminals and Surf Safely?
A: Ask a librarian.

by Galina Chernykh | December 10, 2012 | Previous Entries

The holiday season is commonly associated with ideas of sharing and community, but in our increasingly technological lives, those concepts may not mean quite what they used to. How many of us will make an online purchase in the coming month – and how many will reflect on just how much personal information we are sharing, not just in terms of our credit cards, our location and banking or credit card details, but also our personal tastes, whether in books, music, clothing or cookware?

If you want a sense of how easy you become to track once you go online, there is no better or more cautionary book than Frank M Ahearn’s How to Disappear: Erase Your Digital Footprint, Leave False Trails, and Vanish without a Trace.

Ahearn was a “skip tracer,” the kind of guy who finds people who don’t want to be found, but in this book, he provides fascinating and invaluable information on protecting personal information and preventing identity theft, as well as hard-learned lessons in creating fake trails, destroying all the data known about you – and even traveling from A to B without leaving a trace.

This may be beyond the needs of the average holiday shopper, but it makes for entertaining reading, and will probably surprise you in terms of just how public your “private” persona is.

What could be more innocent than a holiday trip to a theme park? Well, if that theme park is Walt Disney World, you may find yourself being fingerprinted if you want to use a season pass. The Disney corporation uses your biometric finger scan – or as Disney now calls it, your “ticket tag” – to prevent abuse of season passes by family or friends of the individuals the passes were originally issued to, but you may feel a little uneasy about surrendering your fingerprint to a corporation simply to ride a rollercoaster.

And while Walt Disney was clearly an artistic genius on many levels, he was also a very complicated man, as revealed in Marc Eliot’s wholly unauthorized biography, Walt Disney: Hollywood’s Dark Prince.

Dave Egger’s new novel, A Hologram for the King, is a curious portrayal of our new world order of online communication, illusion, Saudi Arabia and loneliness.

For those who need reassurance that they can drop out of society and everything they know, David Elliot Cohen’s One Year Off is about a family who leaves behind their suburban existence for a round-the-world journey with their three young children.

Of course, there are no absolute guarantees that you can protect all of your information online – but by following tips in these books you can significantly reduce your risk of becoming a victim of cyber crime:

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