#CyberFLASH: Only you can prevent your personal info from spreading online, say experts

40690232f3b4efcbe7b9bacebecfb3ebIt was enough to make the milk in their cappuccinos curdle.

Customers at a coffee shop in the U.K. learned they could get a free drink if they liked its Facebook page. They reacted with bemusement when baristas handed them drinks with data like their names, ages, jobs and living addresses written on the cups.

That information was gleaned by not-for-profit Cifas, which filmed their reactions with hidden cameras.

Granted, not every coffee shop’s Facebook page has a small army of data experts combing the internet while a barista steams some milk.

But the message is clear: many people’s personal information — probably more than they realize — is online and searchable by anyone from nosy neighbours to co-workers to identity fraudsters.

Apps aren’t really free

Anita M. McGraham, a professor at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, says the video is a good reminder of how much personal information we give out in order to use social media and other modern apps.

“In exchange for all these quote-unquote free services, such as the ability to stay in contact with our friends on Facebook, that freedom isn’t really free,” she told CBC News. “What you’re paying with is information about your identity.”

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