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Entry 160, on 2005-04-15 at 13:19:45 (Rating 1, Computers)
How safe is the Internet? I listened to an interview this morning with a technology expert about the dangers of using the Internet. He suggested many people assume that buying over the Internet, and using Internet banking are dangerous, and that porn sites exist around every (virtual) corner. Of course, the reality isn't like that at all, but the 'net certainly has gained that reputation, probably due to these issues being more common in its early years.
The fact is that using a credit card in any situation has some risk. In my opinion its far less secure using one by giving a number over the phone, or allowing someone in a shop to take it away for any reason. At least with the 'net you can confirm the site you are at has a proper secure connection and you know you're dealing with an automated system instead of a person who might want to steal your credit details.
I know there are sites which don't have these arrangements, and those are the ones which you should avoid, just like you should avoid using a credit card at a shop which doesn't show the usual signs of being run honestly.
The idea that the Internet is full of porn is also grossly exaggerated. According to recent research, less than 2% of sites are of an "adult nature" and even less contain hard core porn. If you use the 'net a lot its hard not to stumble on the occasional site which you might not necessarily find particularly tasteful, but people just need to learn to cope with this and close the browser. Surely a brief glimpse isn't going to scar them for life!
There have been attempts to censor the Internet. Around 1996, the US congress passed a law which made it illegal to put material of an offensive nature on the 'net, and ISPs could be prosecuted for allowing people to view it. It was passed but not enacted because it was just a stupid law. Technology always runs ahead of the law, and controlling a global phenomenon like the Internet is virtually impossible.
I almost live on the Internet. Its my main source of information, and I probably buy more there than I do in "real life". I've never had any problems with security. Of course, one major advantage I have over the majority of users is that I use a Mac, so at least my computer is close to 100% secure. Spyware and other security issues on PCs make things far less certain for those unfortunate users of the lesser platform!
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