The ABC show 'The Checkout' has recently published a segment on loyalty programs and whether you should give away your information. Remember, if you are getting something for free then you are the product. To the right is a link to the video of that segment.
What is also concerning is the number of schemes where you sign your child up for free products, there are two major risks here.
The risks of creating database of information about children
There is an inherent risk anytime that anybody creates a database with information about children. The types of people who would hack this sort of database should, on the face of it, be concerning.
This is particularly the case if the database is inherently identifying some activity that your child enjoys, like their favourite sports team, computer game or television show. The combination of information specifically regarding your child, and a topic of conversation that someone could use to instigate a relationship with your child, is potentially dangerous.
The risks of an old or unused database
Most of these databases are created for the purpose of some sort of marketing scheme or sales drive, and will in the not too distant future be unused because some new marketing scheme will take their place. The danger there is an unused database is easier to hack as no one is checking it, and possibly no one is updating the security software.
Ten years from now this database may still exist but with little or no protection around it. Will there be enough information on there for someone to apply for a credit card in your child's name, make a Centrelink claim or hack their bank accounts?
What should I do?
Your child doesn't have to miss out on these programs, but you need to think about the information that you are sharing.
For instance, do you really need to give your child's full name? Could you use a nickname, and/or could you use a different last name such as the maiden name of one of the parents? Does the database need your child's actual date of birth, or would giving the correct month but the first of that month suffice? Does the database really need your child's home address, or could you give the address of your work or a grandparent? Does the database really need to know what school your child attends?
Enough but not all of the information
While your child's school needs accurate information, you do not need to give accurate information for the online game that your child plays, the loyalty program at the local toy store, or the card swapping group or sports team that your child wants to be part of. You can give enough information that your child will still recognise that they are part of it (for instance because their nickname is used and their birthday greeting turns up near enough to their birthday) but not enough information that a hacker could locate your child, say at school or when you go to watch live sport.
Many of these databases also require you to sign away rights to your child's image (photograph) for advertising purposes, so it is possible that a hacker might have both their photograph and enough information about the child to approach them in a public place or on an online forum and start a conversation. Keep that in mind when you think about what information to share.
What if someone is stalking my child?
If someone is already making inappropriate contact with your child, we also have an article about how to stop unwanted contact. Click on the blue button or link to the left to read that article.
Need further help?
If you need further help regarding a situation involving your child and unwanted contact then you should make an appointment to speak with Bruce Coode regarding your situation. Your first half hour consultation is free, and if he cannot assist you he will be able to tell you what your next step is, or who you should contact next. He has over forty years experience dealing with criminal matters and interpersonal disputes and will explain the situation to you in plain English.