Thursday, 31 March 2011

The internet: security, safety and privacy

I do worry about all this blogging, tweeting, Facebook-ing and the like. Don't you? I mean, only yesterday I was reading about someone who'd had their photo nicked on Facebook by someone who'd then used it to open a fraudulent account. I do worry about privacy, chiefly that of my family. My daughter's now old enough to use Facebook; several of her friends have been on it for years. I try to make sure she keeps one step ahead of the frequently-changing privacy settings to ensure they're always set at maximum. As for me, I have a strange love-hate relationship with the entire internet, especially social media. Obviously, I'm here; I'm blogging. That tells you something. I've been  doing it for almost three years now. But if I was to start again today, knowing what I now know, would I do it in the same way? Would I call my blog the same thing? Or would I hide behind a mask of anonymity?

Hypocritically (in view of what I'm about to say) I probably would. I've even seriously considered starting again, as-it-were, with a blog called 'Bringing up Bob' or something. There are some nasty people out there, and I don't like the thought of what they might be doing with my data. But. And it's a big but. What I don't like even more than what a few unscrupulous surfers might be doing, is the thought that I should have to do things differently because of them. Why should decent, honest, law-abiding (ahem, generally-speaking) interwebby users and bloggers, social media monkeys and twitter titterers have to hide away because of what a few twisted perverts might want to do or see? I still worry, and I always will. But part of me also thinks, 'why should we change what we do because of them?' It's a bit like the move to reclaim the streets. Why should decent people stay indoors because those that loiter in the darkness might not be too friendly? We need to get out there, folks, and get out there in numbers. Show them who's in charge. Because we are. There are more of us than them. Far more. But then, that doesn't help when you're afraid. And it certainly doesn't mean you shouldn't still take care.

And talking of taking care, here's some great advice from ParentChannel TV. All sensible stuff, and I'll be taking note myself. Taking note. But not giving in.


  1. I am fairly open about myself in the blogging world. People know my real name, the names of my husband and son, I post photographs of all of us. I don't want to hide behind an alias although I fully understand those who do.

    My son is careful on Facebook and his privacy settings are high though I see many of his friends have their walls open for everyone to see their conversations and that bothers me.

    The enjoyment I have in being open on my blog and sharing photos with friends on FB at the moment outweighs the worry of something sinister happening. (famous last words....!)

  2. I have had these same thoughts Dott. But its too late now and Im too lazy to go back and Edit the boys names. People could find out without the internet, take random pictures etc. What can you do? I refuse to live in fear.

  3. Well said, Trish - the pleasures certainly far outweigh the risks... at least, so far!

    So do I, Polly. It seems to me that - if people are determined and unscrupulous - they'll find out anyway. But I know plenty of parents who throw up their hands in horror at what I do.

  4. The public schools here devote a week to internet safety. It's alot like the "Just Say No to Drugs" campaign that Nancy Reagan started back in the eighties. You had to wear a red ribbon and sign a pledge to be drug-free.
    Nowadays, internet safety seems to be the biggest looming issue. As a parent, I have always tried to be on top of what my kids are doing online, but when it comes down to it, I can only pray that they make good choices.

  5. I agree. Love/hate and bitter/sweet describe my relationship with social networking completely. But the good side outways the bad. I think with all things we just all need to be a little more security conscious and hope we can stay one step ahead of the cyber crims.

  6. You'd think that ordinary photos would be okay, but I read an article by Janice Turner of The Times on 'boy love' which changed my mind.

    here are some excerpts:
    Only when you see what is legal do you fully comprehend the complexity of the police’s task. The sites are adorned with images of boys, the sort you see in every family album: skinny lads in Boden trunks, smiling, big-eyed six-year-olds with blond fringes. No nudity, no come-hither looks. The Olympic diver Tom Daley was clearly a favourite, in his younger days. There is a YouTube link to a performance by a boys’ choir. All “innocent” until you wonder if their parents know that they are published here or what website customers use them for.

    Members also, creepily, turn angelic photos into their chatroom avatars. I registered with several boards to try to read discussions. Was I, the site inquired, a “teen boy lover” or a “little boy lover”?

    All the same, I got a flavour of the “boy love” world. It is astounding what lengths warped male sexuality will go to to justify its urges and abuses. “Boy love” is different, members insist, to sex with little girls: it is desired, a timeless initiation of a younger male by an older man. Ancient Greeks, the Romans, Leonardo da Vinci, medieval masters with apprentices are all invoked. There is an online magazine with perkily entitled articles such as “Boy Scouts of America — weapons for liberty”, “Why do 10-year-old boys go shirtless?” and “boylover fathers”. The tone is light and conspiratorial with a top-note of defiance at an uncomprehending outside world.

    It's enough to make you vomit. Anyway, I don't post images of my boys on my blog or indeed on publicly available photo sites.

    But I don't hide behind a pseudonym either. (this can get one into trouble...)

  7. And let's hope those prayers get answered, Nessa Roo!

    It's hard sometimes, when reading the latest scare story, to remember that - but you're right, Steve. The good tends to outweigh the bad. Let's hope it always does.

  8. That's worrying, Sarah, very worrying... I may have to reconsider.

  9. I don't put my kids' photos on the blogs but that's more because they'd hit the roof. I do share on FB but that's a private thing for family and a few friends. I'm sure people can get to them though.
    There was a terrible story here recently of a little tot whose photo had been put on an illegal adoption site because his parents had his photo on a social network page.
    Not that anyone could have adopted him but it was pretty creepy anyway.

  10. I think about these things, too, but the good outweighs the bad, at least for me. I've met a lot of fellow poets through FB and even found my endorsers there. I'm only too glad my kids are adults, though.

  11. It is a really tricky one. My blog is an honest account of my journey into motherhood and I've found the blogosphere a really enriching place. I don't want to give that up and agree with you and others here: we can't live in fear and effectively let the bad guys win! I do think it is important to think through what we share online, however, as once it's out here it's here to stay.

  12. Actually, this is something I've wanted to write about for a while too. It concerns me when people put really personal info on FB, Twitter etc. Like they announce where they are RIGHT NOW. How do they know no one is watching? It's highly unlikely, I know, but there are many opportunists out there and you never know. I never 'check-in' to places or tell people which restaurant I'm dining at until *after* the fact.

    I don't put the kids names or pics on my blog or FB. Or my husband's. I don't think it's the end of the world if you do, but I just choose not to.

    Another blogger over here in Aus spoke at our blogger's conf recently about something that happened to her and her child after she posted an innocent photo of him on her blog. It's made her really rethink what she posts.

    I'll give you the link, because it makes really good reading:

    But essentially, I'm with you. You can't spend all your time worrying about this stuff, but it does pay to be vigilant, I think.

  13. Totally agree with what you write. I had my card cloned twice, but I haven't stopped using it just because of that. I have just to be more careful. The same is for blogging etc. Facebook is more risky I think, but if you keep the security high (especially for kids), I think it's ok. Hiding behind anonimity makes sense, in my opinion, only if you think that what you write can be used against you for some reason or can jeopardise your job or else. Personally I'm not that important or secretive to have to hide behind a false name/image. Have a nice weekend. Ciao. A.

  14. I think that the chance of something bad happening is the same on the internet as in real life. You have to be sensible, but not held to ransom and unable to live your life.

    I'm more worried about my pupils finding my blog, or it being linked to my school as that could make my job difficult or, in extreme circumstances, result in losing my job (although I don't think I've ever written anything to bring my school into disprepute, but you never know how others will view my blog). It's taken years for the government to even think about some guidlines for teachers using the internet socially so I've been blogging away without any guidance in the hope that I'm being sensible. Let's hope so!

  15. Well, I can't view the video from Canada, but I hear what you are saying and I agree. It is just like what the Mayor of New York said after the terrorist attacks there: "Get out there and carry on living your life. That sends a strong message and is our best defense." But yes, I have kids on facebook, too and we are always trying to keep up with the security settings.
    I'm sure you are having the same doubts about having Charlie in the spotlight as many other parents of famous kids, and he's getting older now, so it would be tricky. You will do what is right for you all, I'm sure.

  16. All very sensible advice and thoughtful comments folks. Thanks for commenting (and sorry I didn't get around to responding individually). Wonder why the video doesn't work in Canada, Rebecca?

  17. I know exactly what you mean - one of the reasons I'm slightly obsessed with not putting up identifiable pictures of the girls is not because I think that someone will do something with them but in case they do. Also because I don't want to put stuff up that they have no control over that may influence their life in the future - I do worry about the impact of a digital footprint on children today when they become adults

  18. That phrase, MA - digital footprint. That really brings it home, doesn't it. We've all got one, and it's growing.


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