Editorials

Healthy dose of skepticism good strategy for browsers

We have the world, quite literally, at our fingertips.

The World Wide Web has spawned innovative tools and accessibility to information that we could never have imagined.

Anything could be just a click away from a smartphone, iPad or computer.

And, as with most things that are particularly great, some big pitfalls are included.

We seem to be continually reminded that bad people are quick to adopt technology and use it against us.

Sex offenders, drug dealers, credit card thieves and fugitives have become savvy users of the internet and one of its offspring, social media.

Folks planning terrible things find a gateway to their supplies with online shopping. Look no further than the recent mass killing in Colorado for proof of that.

Technology can also do amazing things to help solve crimes. Videos help identify suspects on a daily basis. Google is even offering to pitch in its massive technological resources to take on an unstoppable force of evil, Mexican drug cartels.

The drug dealers have outmatched law enforcement officials in that country when it comes to technology, thwarting intelligence-gathering efforts.

Another use of astounding technology rife for potential abuse, facial recognition software, was recently taken to task by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., in a congressional hearing.

Facebook has the technology in place to enable the system to potentially recognize the identities of friends in photos posted to the site.

Though the feature is currently disabled, the fear is once it's in place, innocent people could easily be stalked or targeted for crime.

The photo leads to the identity which leads to a wealth of details for those not savvy enough to protect their personal information.

Having the world at your fingertips -- and navigating it safely and successfully -- requires some diligence.

Not everything on the internet is true. If you're using it for fact-gathering, make sure to check the source of information.

Blogs, while there are some great and useful ones, require no verification of the information provided. They are opinion pieces and should be treated as much as entertainment as anything else.

While it may sound self-serving, there is still no better source for information than an entity practicing good old-fashioned journalism. That means reporters who pick up the phone or hold in-person interviews, who go through reams of documents and double-check the supporting data with legitimate sources.

You can find that kind of great information online, but make sure to check the source you are browsing before buying into it.

A good dose of skepticism is a quality of great journalists, as it should be of everyone using the internet as a resource. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If someone contacts you with an unsolicited offer, beware. Don't be afraid to ask questions or question data.

We live in an amazing time. We can access an unimaginable breadth of information with the click of a mouse that might have only been found covered in cobwebs in the basement of some university a few years ago.

But not everything floating in cyberspace is factual or true. And much of it is not intended to be -- there's a lot of entertaining stuff out there.

And the bad guys are quick to find ways to steal your information or use technology for their own twisted ways. Just know that if you want facts, tread carefully online and choose your sources wisely.

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