Bob Luttrell featured in Journal Record article about online privacy

published in The Journal Record | January 31, 2008

In the age of the Internet, protecting your privacy is more challenging than ever and you must be more vigilant than ever to protect your personal information, according to an article published by The Journal Record that asked legal experts about online privacy. The publication interviewed McAfee & Taft attorney Bob Luttrell for the article, in which he noted that people release more information about themselves on a daily basis than they realize.

“I think our sense about privacy now is that other people have a responsibility to protect information that I give them about me,” Luttrell said, “but in a lot of my daily life, I release that information to the world, just as a matter of how I live my life.”

In the world of the Internet, that publication to the world is almost literal.

“And it lives forever,” Luttrell said.

Search engines index even Web pages that do not exist anymore, he added.

“If it’s ever been out, even if it’s deleted from the site, it remains in their search engine, I guess, forever,” Luttrell said.

Luttrell offered several recommendations on ways people can protect themselves, including not using your social security number when it’s not necessary, ensuring unsolicited credit card offers are destroyed and block their accounts with credit bureaus. As an illustration of how vigilant consumers need to be, he noted some interesting research on the subject.

Luttrell mentioned a study that determined that more personal information is disclosed in response to spam e-mails and personal contacts than is obtained by hacking into computer systems.

“At one point that was the case, that people just give it away,” he said.

Luttrell also said that people’s online presence exposes their personal information in ways they may not be aware.

Luttrell raised an issue that is somewhat generational when it comes to privacy, with many younger people revealing much of their personal lives on social networking sites.

“We’ve got all this concern about privacy, but people want to be more and more public,” he said. “For some reason, people don’t think about what kind of information can be obtained from their MySpace page.”

Jane Wheeler, director of the Consumer Protection Unit in the Oklahoma Attorney General’s office, was also interviewed for the article. She discussed ways that scammers are getting increasingly sophisticated in trying to get consumers to unwittingly reveal their personal information. One of the most common tactics is to copy banks and credit card companies to use in legitimate-looking emails that try to get recipients to reveal their account numbers and passwords.

Wheeler also emphasized the importance of protecting passwords, which many people aren’t vigilant about, and creating “uncommon passwords that are long and contain both numbers and letters.”