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How To Protect Yourself Online

This week Your Legal Corner discusses "Privacy, the Internet and You."

Let's face it. Each of us increasingly utilizes the Internet. In many ways, it's our new town center. We do our banking, talk to our friends and go shopping. However, just as we need to safeguard our wallet and lock our car to protect our valuables, we must also protect ourselves when we are online.

While most of us would never walk naked down the middle of the street, recent incidents underscore how precarious our privacy can be online.

Erin Andrews, a sports newscaster, was awarded $55 million when she was secretly filmed in her hotel room, which was then posted online. Similarly, Hulk Hogan, a former pro wrestler, was awarded $115 million after he was secretly filmed having a tryst with his best friend's wife which was posted online.

These incidents received much attention because they involved public figures, but the dangers are just as real for everyone else.

Invasion of Privacy

Anytime someone takes a photograph or video of a person with their intimate parts exposed without their consent, he or she commits a crime of the third degree that carries up to a five-year jail term. Further, if the photo or video is published without your consent, it is a separate third degree offense and also carries a fine of up to $30,000.

Recently, 20 teenagers in a Cape May county high school and middle school were charged after they passed around naked photos of female students via text and social media.

Identity Theft

The Internet was established to be a clearinghouse of ideas. People are free to express their ideas, communicate with others and advocate their opinions. However, there are limits to our First Amendment rights when someone impersonates someone else.

It is a criminal offense to impersonate another, assume a false identity or obtain personally identifying information pertaining to another person and using that information to obtain a benefit, services or avoid a debt. Depending on the amount involved, the offense ranges from a disorderly person's offense to a second-degree crime.

Importantly, beware of scams, keep updated anti-virus software as well as firewall software to discourage individuals from stealing your personal information. If your identity is stolen, please make sure you contact your local police department and file a report.

Privacy versus Convenience

According to a study by Pew Internet and American Life Project, as of May 2013, over 91% of adults own a cellphone. As technology advances, cellphones become more sophisticated. They carry our contacts, calendar, messages and personal information. New applications for our cellphones continue to make our lives more convenient. However, there is a tradeoff.  

Technology advances make it increasingly easy to rely upon our cellphones. However, more and more personal information is being stored on our devices. This trend jeopardizes our privacy and places our personal information at risk.

As we did before there were computers, we must safeguard our information as much as possible as criminals will follow us to steal our identities.

Till next time, God bless, keep smiling, when Your Legal Corner will discuss

"Summer and child custody modifications." Victoria M. Dalton is a dedicated Family/Elder Law Attorney with the Law Offices of Hoffman DiMuzio. Email correspondence to vdalton@hoffmandimuzio.com or call 856-845-8243.

Please note that Your Legal Corner was created to provide educational material about the law and is not legal advice.

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