Secret App Shuts Down, Exposing a Risk for Anonymous Users

The Secret app is shutting down, and given its rocky history, won’t be missed by many despite having amassed over 15 million users at one point. We have a question, as did at least on other person that we say online yesterday:

We’ve tested and used the Secret app and can attest to the fact that many of the posts on there are content so vile and inappropriate that there’s no way the people making the posts would do so if their real name was attached to them. Secret is not much different from other anonymous apps and networks in one regard – people are emboldened by their anonymity, and post with wild abandon. It leads us to believe that many think there is no chance their identity will ever be revealed. To date, that has been true except in cases where users ran afoul of the law.

What if that anonymity is not guaranteed? One of the founders, David Byttow, wrote a post on Medium yesterday announcing the shutdown and the reasons behind it. In the post, he included the following:

“…we’re taking steps to permanently delete all content and data imminently.”

secret-logoIf that is true, then Secret is doing the right thing respecting the privacy of their users. What if they didn’t? From Secret’s Terms of Service:

“We change these Terms of Service every so often. If we make changes, we will notify you by revising the date at the top of the policy and, in some cases, provide you with additional notice (like on our homepage or over email).”

They have cautioned users from day one that their Terms of Service could change at any time. In terms Secret’s use of the data, from their Privacy Policy:

“The types of information we may collect include your email address, your mobile phone number and any other information you choose to provide. When you request that the App find your Friends, we also collect certain information from your contacts on your mobile device or from Facebook…

We may also share information (which may at times includes personal information) about you as follows…with vendors, consultants and other service providers”

It does not state that Secret will or ever had the right to share your data with advertisers or other partners, as is the case with other social platforms.

What if, instead of shutting down, Secret had decided to change its Terms of Service in a way that enabled it to sell your data to third parties? From Facebook’s Terms of Service:

“You give us permission to use your name, profile picture, content, and information in connection with commercial, sponsored, or related content (such as a brand you like) served or enhanced by us.”

While it doesn’t look like that is happening here, all users of anonymous apps should be very wary of what might happen in a worst case scenario. A subpoena or warrant from law enforcement is one such scenario, although most anonymous posts do not depict illegal acts. Could a platform that is failing and desperate for cash be another such scenario? It could be.

Caution is warranted, even when you’re posting anonymously. The truth can be very inconvenient in the light of day.

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

 

Talk To Your Teens About Online Privacy

With all that has happened in the last few years regarding online privacy, or lack thereof, you’d think that Americans would be hyper vigilant about protecting themselves online. Consider the following:

  • Programs were put in place by the National Security Agency (NSA) to conduct surveillance on private communications
  • Dozens of celebrities’ cloud accounts and/or phones and social media accounts were hacked and nude photos were leaked
  • We see weekly reports of Revenge Porn incidents
  • Frequent incidents of hacking and identity theft

You might assume that the current trend would be for people to be extremely diligent about keeping their digital lives as secure as possible. It turns out that’s not the case. Pew Research has released a new study that shows that only 34% of survey respondents have taken steps to make their online identity more secure.

Kids Share Profile PasswordsOf those who had taken steps to safeguard their privacy:

  • 17% changed social media privacy settings
  • 15% use social media less often
  • 14% use their cell phone less often
  • 13% have uninstalled apps
  • 13% have self-censored their online communication

The survey specifically focused on privacy attitudes in light of the NSA surveillance programs, but overall, it seems that Americans are unwilling or unable to improve the privacy of their online profiles and communication. For some, the issue at hand is difficulty. 54% of respondent said that improving their online privacy would be somewhat or very difficult.

There is no reason for your teen to be part of that 54%. Most teens today are digital natives, and with a little effort firming up online protections should not be a problem. You can work with your teen to ensure the following steps are taken:

  • Passwords are secure, unique and not shared with friends
  • Understanding and using the privacy protections afforded by social media sites, apps and your phone
  • Assume that all social media posts and digital communications are permanent and could be seen by people other than the intended recipient
  • Keep personally identifying information offline
  • Be very wary of incoming emails and text messages from unknown parties

With a little effort, teens can do their thing online and on their phones without having to fear most privacy risks.

 

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

 

New Jersey Moves to Ban Stalker Apps

A proposed new law in New Jersey has the potential to alter how some parents have chosen to tackle digital parenting, truly a monumental challenge these days.

talk-to-your-teenIn the first move of its kind that we know of, NJ Democratic Senator Nia Gill has proposed a law that would make all “stalking” apps and software illegal. Elsewhere, Minnesota Senator Al Franken has been pressuring federal lawmakers to investigate the creator of such apps for the past couple of years.

According to an article at NJ 101.5 discussing the proposed legislation, Senator Gill offered the following:

“A stalking app can be put into your cell phone without your knowledge. It then can pinpoint your location, follow you, read your emails, texts – anything you do on that phone the person would have access to. It is also used as a bugging device. They can actually listen in on your conversations.”

It appears that this law is targeted at spouses and significant others, as well as those who are up to no good. It looks, though, like a law of this type would not exclude parents who wish to track their children and penalties are steep, including the possibility of three to five years in prison and/or steep fines.

We are not fans of these types of apps. We believe that some things should remain private, and full digital tracking of a child should only be done as a last resort. As concerns over privacy heat up (finally?), these apps could become a thing of the past.

Communication will always be the best way to ensure that kids’ and teens’ internet activity is safe and responsible. That hasn’t changed since day one.

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

ThirdParent – Respecting Parents’ Time and Kids’ Privacy

The rationale behind the idea of parents being aware of what their teens and tweens are doing online is fairly straightforward – parents should be able to apply parenting wisdom and direction to kids’ online activities as they do in the real world.

teen-internetWe understand that parents who are looking for digital parenting help have the choice of some alternatives based on a couple of different models. Parents can either install software that block their kids from accessing certain types of websites and apps, or install software on their devices that monitor certain things, or every thing that a minor does online.

We spoke at a parent seminar last week and one parent asked something along the lines of, “I already have ABC software installed on my child’s devices. I can see everything that she does and every message that she sends online. How is your service different?”

We read the last part of that questions as, “Why is your service better?” It’s a good question, and one that we get a lot. It’s also something we debated heavily at the time that we decided to launch ThirdParent, and ever since. With the ThirdParent solution, there is no software to install on devices, we don’t ask for account names or passwords and nothing online is blocked. There are two key variables that led us to design ThirdParent as we did, and both may be important considerations for many parents: time and privacy.

Time – Let’s say you have elected to use software that blocks certain websites and apps. Are you sure that your child is not accessing that media from a friend’s house or phone? Are you willing to follow her around 24×7 to make sure? Are you sure that you have blocked everything that you deem inappropriate? It takes time and effort to be sure. Alternately, if you are using keylogger or other software to track her every move, do you have time to review everything? That could be thousands of messages or social media posts per month.

Privacy – The founders of ThirdParent are all parents ourselves, and care a lot about our kids’ privacy (and your kids’ privacy). We believe that as long as some things remain private, we shouldn’t be looking at them. Of course if there are signs of a serious problem, all bets are off, but we treasure the trust that we’ve established with our kids and want to maintain it if at all possible.

On top of that, teens are typically way ahead of their parents when it comes to tech savvy. Filters can be disabled or worked around. The ThirdParent solution looks at publicly available profiles, posts and messages only, and gives parents a quick and easy-to-use snapshot of what they may considerable unsafe, questionable or bad.

We save parents time – lots of it – and private conversations stay private. We think we have the best solutions available to keep kids safe and their actions responsible online.

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

NJ Judge Orders Teen Rape Victim to Turn Over Facebook Password

A Princeton New Jersey judge has done something this week that we haven’t seen before – ordering the victim in an alleged rape of a minor case to turn over the password of her Facebook account.

facebook logo thumbIn the case at hand, the alleged victim, a teen who was 16-years-old at the time of the incident, accused a 22-year-old of rape after being supplied with alcohol.

We have to assume that the girl’s Facebook account is set to private, or else the judge wouldn’t need her login credentials, unless he is focusing on her private Facebook messages, which are also by definition private.

Facebook privacy is a big deal, especially for minors.

Let’s not forget that the girl is the victim. In no way do we support her being forced to turn over passwords to private content and messages, even though there are indications that the teen has agreed. It sets a dangerous precedent.

According to Wendy Patrick, a prosecutor from California not involved in the case:

“Think how you would feel if someone went into your room and said, ‘I must read your diary to see if anything is relevant?'” Patrick said. “It’s just invasive.”

We understand that social media is becoming more important in the investigation of crimes. We’re okay with that, as long at the accused and not the victim is the one being investigated. Private needs to stay private.

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

Kids and the Internet – What Parents Worry About

A new survey commissioned by the Internet Service Providers Association of Ireland was released this week. The study polled 1,000 adults, and provides a deep dive into children’s online safety. The results were compared to a similar study done 13 years ago and some of the data, and trends versus the previous version may surprise you.

Highlights:

  • Most worried about: 32% of respondents listed “exposure to dangerous people” as their top concern
  • 2nd most worried about: 20% listed “access to adult pornography” as their top concern – was the top concern 13 years ago
  • Cyberbullying is number three concern, with 16% of respondents selecting this option – was not highly ranked in 2001

That predator risk and cyberbullying are rising concerns should not come as a surprise. For the original survey conducted in 2001, not many kids were using the internet, and social media practically didn’t exist (Myspace wasn’t created until 2003).
kara-zidarOther areas of concern, in descending order of importance:

  • Access to violent material
  • Neglecting other activities
  • Sharing inappropriate content
  • Spending too much time on social networks
  • Using location based services
  • Spending too much time playing online games
  • Exposure to advertising

It is ironic that here in the U.S. the principal piece of legislation designed to protect children online, COPPA, deals principally with kids’ exposure to advertising, a relatively minor concern among parents surveyed.

Other report findings:

  • 64% of parents agree with the statement “the positive aspects of Internet use outweigh the negatives” vs. 61% in 2001
  • 40% of parents do not use monitoring software for their children’s devices
  • 30% of parents do not monitor kids’ online activity at all
  • 74% of parents agree that parents are primarily responsible for keeping kids safe online

Clearly parents know that they should take steps to keep their kids safe online, but many are not doing any monitoring, electronic or otherwise. We understand that some parents aren’t willing to put monitoring software on their kids’ devices because of the trust issue. At ThirdParent, we recommend that parents take a hands-on approach, and our service is designed to facilitate just that. Our initial audit acts as a starting point, and guides parents as to what to be looking for and serious issues that require attention.

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.