#MSFTCOSO POV: Microsoft data reveals social risks can be costly at any age

The following post is from Jacqueline Beauchere, Chief Online Safety Officer at Microsoft. Once a month on The Fire Hose, Beauchere gives her point of view on topics related to the global consumer online safety, privacy and security landscape. Follow the conversation on Twitter at #MSFTCOSO.

Earlier this month, Microsoft released the results of its third annual Computing Safety Index, measuring consumer online safety attitudes and behaviors among people in 20 countries.

The data reveal that the biggest risks people experienced in the prior 12 months were a result of more socially centered behaviors. According to the more than 10,000 respondents that participated in the survey, one-third said they limit what strangers see on social networks, and roughly the same percentage (36 percent) said they curb the amount of personal information that appears about them online generally. That means in both instances, some two-thirds are not taking adequate steps to safeguard their online reputations. The impact: repairing damage to peoples’ online reputations proved the most costly of any other online risk covered in the survey.

Indeed, an estimated nearly $6 billion was spent in 2013 to help mitigate risks associated with financial and time loss due to personal or professional reputational damage. This equates to an estimated average loss of $632 per episode. In Canada, average U.S. dollar equivalent costs to repair one’s professional reputation totaled $484 per incident; in Japan, $500 per instance. In Belgium, that total balloons nearly four-fold to $1,979 per issue and, in the U.S., the average total was a whopping $2,600 per professional-reputation incident.

Children, too, can be at financial risk, although the damage to their credit scores, for instance, is unlikely to surface until they apply for their first credit card in their late teen years. Of more immediate concern are their online and game-play interactions. These actually set the tone–often at a fairly young age—for online and offline social and interpersonal skills. A recent Microsoft poll showed 40 percent of parents, on average, allow kids unsupervised access to game consoles and PCs as young as eight years old. Setting up today’s youth for success early on is important. That’s why setting “house rules” for what’s appropriate and acceptable online matters; it’s equally important to state plainly the kind of behavior that isn’t okay.

No matter one’s age, it’s never too late–or too early–to begin integrating safer online habits into your daily digital routine. Talk to your kids about being safer, smarter and more considerate online. Kids may be savvier when it comes to how the devices work, but parents can be instrumental in helping to shape how kids think about, engage with and generally behave both online and off.

Microsoft has a few easy tips to help you put your best “digital foot” forward:

Think before clicking When you receive unexpected or odd messages, even from friends, refrain from opening photos, music files or other attachments, and don’t click links in those messages. Instead, first check their importance with the sender other than by hitting “Reply.”

Pause before you app Only download apps that are well-reviewed and from reputable stores. Review privacy policies to find out what the app will do with your location and other sensitive data.

Practice safer social circles – Make social network pages private. Consider what it really means to be a “friend,” and perhaps add only those individuals whom you or others close to you have met in person. Promote an accurate, appropriate image online, and be respectful with comments.

For more information about our work in Internet safety and protecting young people online, visit our Safety & Security Center; “like” us on Facebook; follow us on Twitter, and look for my “point of view” following the #MSFTCOSO hashtag.