FCC To Vote On New Broadband Privacy Rules

There may be good news coming this month for privacy conscious broadband internet customers. Actually, it’s not as good as a previously proposed version of the proposal, but it’s still good news that the Federal Communications Commission is getting more serious about privacy. And it’s about time.

computer privacyCurrently, broadband companies can use your personal information without getting your permission ahead of time. There’s probably something that you signed when you originally chose your provider that states what they might do with your data, but customers largely ignore that type of thing until something bad happens. The FCC wants to change that.

The version of the plan penned in March would have require broadband companies like Verizon and Comcast to get customer consent before sharing any information about users with their advertising partners. That seems like a good idea to us but would have put cable and phone companies at a disadvantage versus internet companies like Google, who are governed by the Federal trade Commission.

The updated version, which will be voted on by the FCC on October 27, allows broadband providers to share some of your personal information with advertisers, such as your name and address, which the FCC now deems to be “non-sensitive”. What has changed is that if the measure passes, broadband companies will have to get approval to use more sensitive information such as your phone’s physical location, websites browsed and apps used, and what’s in your emails.

Also, since advertisers aren’t the only problem, the FCC also wants to require the companies to inform you within 30 days if your data has been hacked.

That last thing seems pretty obvious, and the 30-day window should be shorter.

This whole thing is a move in the right direction, but stops short of being a “good” rule. I don’t think that my name and home address are “non sensitive” information, and neither should you. It’s an outrage that until now, your internet provider could scan and use the contents of your emails.

On the bright side, if this measure does create more protections for consumers, and perhaps shines a bright light on privacy issues that exist in the current internet landscape, it feels like progress. We need to keep working on it.

 

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Texas Tech Football Coach Admits to Catfishing Players

Well, sort of. In any case, we’re not fans of this story.

Let us start by saying that if you’re the leader of an organization, and expect those below you to trust in your leadership, you shouldn’t do anything to make them believe you aren’t worthy of that trust.

Texas Tech LogoTexas Tech football coach Kliff Kingsbury admitted in an interview last week that he and his staff use fake social media accounts to spy on monitor players. Not cool.

According to Kingsbury, he and his staff set up fake accounts on Twitter and Facebook and make them look like they are owned by attractive girls, complete with cute profile pictures. The fake account then sends friend requests to his players, who are generally quick to accept the request, because, you know, cute girls… For all we know, they are doing it on Snapchat and Instagram as well.

The coaches are then privy to what players are posting, even in the event that their accounts are private. According to Kingsbury, “Those [accounts] are heavily monitored, for sure,”

We understand why coaches would do this, but don’t think they should. It is spying, and is using a totally dishonest tactics to get it done. We can’t imagine that they’ve disclosed to players that they are, or might be, doing this. When asked to defend the actions, Kingsbury offered,“[Social media is] complete and utter madness.”

That’s no excuse for deceiving your players – players who are expected to trust and respect you. I wouldn’t want one of my kids to be playing for a program that does this. It’s one thing to monitor public social media (one of the things we do here at ThirdParent, by the way), and something that we understand most major athletic programs are doing. It is another thing entirely to deceive people to gain access to their private posts.

Texas Tech ought to know better. Stay tuned for the backlash.

 

 

 

If you are worried that your teens or tweens are at risk, or are acting inappropriately online, we can help. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!

 

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Facebook Introduces Lifestage Just For Teens

Facebook’s history of introducing successful standalone apps is not a good one, and in the case of its new Lifestage app, we hope that streak continues.

Lifestage is aimed squarely and solely at the high school crowd, and is yet another attempt to put a dent in Snapchat’s momentum. Lifestage is available only on iOS for now, and is a video resume for your friends and social life. Users create a profile, tell the app which high school they attend then create, according to a review at Mashable “videos to show off what they like and dislike and who their friends, pets, boyfriends and girlfriends are.”

If your teen is thinking about downloading Lifestage, for now this is all you need to know:

Lifestream

In case you can’t read that, the text is as follows:

“Everything you post in Lifestage is always public and viewable by everyone, inside and outside your school.

There is no way to limit the audience of your videos.

We can’t confirm that people who clam to go to a certain school actually go to that school.

All videos you upload to your profile and record are fully public content.”

If you’re at all worried about your teen having the option to keep some content private, this isn’t the app for her. If you’re worried about some creeper infiltrating the crowd at your local high school, ditto.

As for the risk of creepers, however, we tried to sign up but that part of the app worked as intended. When you sign up, you enter your age and phone number and if Lifestage believes you’re a high school student, they send you a confirmation text. In my case, Facebook knows my phone number (possibly via Instagram – I’ve avoided giving it to Facebook), so they denied my sign up, even though I lied about my age. I’ll try it this week with one of my teen’s phones and update this at that time.

The Terms of Service and Privacy Policy are not specific to Lifestage – they use Facebook’s – and as you probably know Facebook gives itself license to do just about anything with your data and content.

We’ll be watching this closely, but we’d advise teens to avoid this app for now.

 

If you are worried that your teen or tween is at risk, we can help. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!

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

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Future Proofing Your Kids’ Social Media

As parents, we all have high hopes for our kids. We have the luxury of believing that they can be anything they want to be, provided that they put in the necessary effort.

As technology evolves, the definition of “necessary effort” is morphing into something that we could never have imagined a few short years ago. Part of the process for selecting Hillary Clinton’s Vice President choice is a stark example of such a shift. According to an article at Politico, which we’ll assume, is factual:

the future“How tough was the vetting [of VP candidates]? Finalists had to turn over every password for every social media account for every member of their families.”

That specific thing – someone demanding your social media login credentials – is already illegal in a lot of jurisdictions, and should be. It is very unlikely that your kids will be forced to give up the keys to their Snapchat accounts any time soon unless the police and courts are involved.

That being said, however, this is an example of how something that can be private could come under increased scrutiny. Actually, it looks like that is exactly the direction in which we’re heading.

Our privacy is being eroded. Your kids’ privacy will be a different animal entirely.

Video cameras are everywhere. Facial recognition databases are compiling millions of photos. Emails are being hacked with alarming frequency. More and more information, personal and otherwise, is being posted online. “Friends” can share your private social media posts and open up your secrets for the world to see. What is private today may not always be.

We understand that you’ll probably never be considered for the VP slot and your kids won’t either. Your kids will, however, be considered for something in the future, in a climate where the privacy that you have come to trust may well be a relic of the past.

The solution here – and the only solution – is to teach your kids to never do anything, or put anything online, that could be interpreted harshly by someone else.

That sounds like a tall order. So is being the Vice President.

 

 

If you are worried that your teen or tween is at risk, we can help. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!

 

 

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.

 

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On Facebook, Your Crush May No Longer Be A Secret

When it comes to privacy, Facebook is having a rough week.

Facebook logoWe wrote yesterday about how Facebook appears to be making friend recommendations based on user location. If they are, and we think they are, that will put a number of users in an awkward position. It also is a betrayal of the trust that users put in Facebook to not overstep the privacy framework that each of us has in mind. That’s a tough line to draw though because we all have different ideas about what we “allow” Facebook to do with our data.

Facebook came out yesterday and denied that they are using location data to make friend recommendations, but it doesn’t look like anyone believes them.

Early this morning someone posted in the Facebook sub on Reddit that it appeared he was getting friend recommendations for people whose profiles he had viewed. Part of the comment has since been removed, but one commenter confirmed the claim based on his experience.

“Yes, it does. I clicked through to a Twitch streamer’s Facebook profile one time, and now it occasionally lists her as “People you may know.” We have no mutual friends, don’t live in the same country, and I haven’t even “Like’d” Twitch or any computer games.”

We obviously can’t confirm any of that but at least two people believe that viewing someone’s profile could be enough reason for Facebook to suggest that you friend that person. We wonder if it works the other way around.

If it does work the other way around, i.e. if you view someone’s Facebook profile, then that person might get a suggestion to add you as a friend, it is going to throw a monkey wrench into a ritual that probably happens hundreds of thousands of times per day. You see a cute boy or girl in class or at work and you don’t know much about him/her but you do know the name. You hop on Facebook to see the pictures or learn more about the person. It happens, a lot.

It is probably no coincidence that these two issues surfaced in the same week. It could be that Facebook is selectively testing ways to increase engagement, or possibly they are moving forward with wholesale changes to how they use our data.

We should be skeptical. From a related article at Forbes:

“All of this, as per the Facebook rulebook, is fine. It can change its privacy policy any time it likes. It can carry out tests as and when its teams of marketers and scientists want to play, without getting permission. It’s akin to living in a whole new country where you’re subject to the laws and mores drafted by invisible overlords who quietly govern the way you live, with the pretense that this is what you want and they know best.”

I’m prompted to add my phone number each time I log into Facebook “for my security”. They can’t have it. Skeptical.

 

If you are worried that your teen or tween is at risk, we can help. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!

 

 

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.

 

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NCAA Changes Recruiting Rules for Texting, Social Media

Life is about to get a lot more hectic for top high school athletes who are looking for a great scholarship opportunity and a chance to play at a top college. Colleges now have much more leeway in reaching out via text message or social media in some sports, most notably football. Twitter will play a large role.

ncaaIn 2007, the NCAA banned football coaches from electronically contacting recruits. The focus of the ban at that time was text messages but it extended to social media messaging.

Under a rule change enacted this week, schools still cannot contact recruits before Sept. 1st of their junior year, but after that can contact targeted athletes electronically, as often as they want.

Not all coaches are in favor of the change. Urban Mayer, football coach at Ohio State (who incidentally has no problem recruiting top talent), had the following words to share, implying that the NCAA is making the change because existing rules are too hard to enforce:

“The texting thing is the most ignorant thing I’ve ever heard in my life. Do you really want text messages from 100 universities on your phone when you come out of school? The ones I know don’t. ‘What? I don’t want to hear from these schools.’ Some intern is going to be punching text messages on your phone, and maybe you can block numbers and all that, but that’s just too hard, right? Maybe it’s easier for the enforcement because people are doing it, but it just doesn’t make sense.”

247Sports national scouting director Barton Simmons was quoted in USA Today saying that the change makes social media a much more important recruiting tool:
Twitter logo

“In a lot of ways Twitter is better than texting because if you don’t have a kid’s phone number, you have to find it somewhere. With Twitter, you can find him, follow him and he follows you back and you’re on the way.”

As indicated above, when it comes to Twitter, some observers note that recruits will have to follow coaches back in order to be able to receive direct messages (DMs) from them. That’s not entirely true, as Twitter users can set their accounts to enable DMs from anyone. A quick look at the 247Sports top football recruits for the class of 2017, at least one player in the top 10 has a Twitter account that is open to receiving DMs from anyone.

A couple of thoughts for parents of high school football players:

Your teen might need more help managing his time. School and other activities are an important part of life, and you don’t want him on his phone 24/7 fielding incoming messages from coaches.

His social media profiles are likely to get more scrutiny. Some schools are already doing a good job of vetting recruits by checking out their digital footprints; others are not. If schools are eager to find your kid via social media, they will likely spend more time looking at what he posts online.

If you need help ensuring that your child’s social media profiles are not a deterrent to being recruited, we can help. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). You can cancel at any time. Sign up today!

 

 

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.

 

More Problems with the After School App

after-school-appWe wrote last week about the anonymous After School app that caters to high school students. We have a number of issues with the app, not the least of which is that anonymous communications tend to be very popular with cyberbullies.

In the article last week we focused on, among other things, the fact that I was able to sign up to the page of a local high school despite the fact that the app is supposed to be for students only.

In any anonymous community, one might assume there is a risk that other members of the community aren’t who they claim to be. In the worst-case scenario, some users might be cyberbullies or worse, predators looking to do real harm. That risk has been downplayed by the reviews of the After School that we’ve seen. For example, in their review of the app, Common Sense media writes:

“The age controls are tight, too, which not only means that non-teen predators will have difficulty getting in, but it also means parents can’t monitor teens’ postings themselves.”

That seems to be consensus – that it is nearly impossible for non high school students to join a school network. That was not the case in our experience. After I selected the local high school from a list, the app asked to connect with Facebook to verify student status. I didn’t lie about my status, just clicked “OK” and was quickly connected.after-school-facebook

That brings up a second issue with the app. While After School did make the following claim, “This does not let the app post to Facebook”, it said nothing else about what else it might do with my Facebook information. I returned to the app the following day and noticed that After School has posted for me, and included my first name and my Facebook profile photo. I didn’t sign up for that, and didn’t know it was a possibility.

Our third issue with the app is a more minor one. Users who want to access the “mature” content on the app are supposed to scan their student ID card to verify that they are an upperclassman. I have a son who is 17-year old high school student at a large school. I asked him to try it and the scan was not compatible with the code on his student I.D. Also, if he was able to scan it, there is no way to verify that it was his I.D. he was scanning.

Since that app’s introduction last year, they have made some positive changes. Some of them are described well in an article this week at ChicagoNow.

We have a number of questions:

  • In theory, how is the Facebook link supposed to confirm high school student status?
  • Why didn’t it work in my case?
  • Shouldn’t After School clearly disclose if they are going to use my Facebook info and post for me?

For now, we strongly caution parents to keep their teens off After School. We’d like to see some answers.

 

 

 

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

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Maryland High School Doesn’t Understand Public Social Media

A Maryland high school became embroiled in a Twitter dispute last week that should never have been an issue in the first place, and the reaction by the adults in the room was about as wrong as it could be. Let us explain.

Donna Redmond Jones is a first year principal at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. Jones is a Twitter Donna Redmond Jonesuser – that’s a good thing. She recently began following students from her school on Twitter who had first followed her. That’s also a good thing – as principal she is charged with keeping up with what is going on in her community. Twitter is a great place to do that.

The reaction from the student community, as laid out in the student newspaper The Tattler, and what ensued, was far from predictable. It seems that student leaders at The Tattler view her Twitter presence as an invasion of their privacy, and in the editorial the writer quoted an unspoken rule, that “students can follow teachers, but teachers shouldn’t reciprocate the follow”. That’s not a rule, and it’s not right in our opinion. The editorial went on:

“…the new principal has begun following students, and in the process has caused discomfort among many who feel that this is an invasion of privacy. Many students responded by blocking her from seeing their tweets. This presents an ethical dilemma: is it appropriate for a teacher or school employee to follow a student’s personal Twitter account?”

The students who blocked her are well within their rights, although blocking someone from your public Twitter account in no way prevents them from seeing your tweets.

Are students on solid ground suggesting that Principal Jones should not be following them? There is a new social media policy on place at the school that states “Do not use personal email accounts, social media networking sites, or other electronic communications to communicate or become ‘friends’ with students” but in our view that is not what is going on here.

Jones’ Twitter account is not strictly a personal account – her Twitter handle is @BCCprin. Following a public account is not “communicating or becoming friends” unless she was sending private messages to students, and there is no indication that was happening here.

Principal Jones chose to respond in The Tattler, and to our surprise agreed to stop the practice of following students.

“What was meant to applaud students’ efforts and forge stronger relationships with them has instead rattled a few. Any distress caused was unintended… Reciprocal following has been reversed and will be limited to student leadership and organizations.”

Did the students win here? We don’t think so, and this whole episode sends the wrong message.

If students want privacy on Twitter, they can elect to set their accounts to private and hope for the best. Just because the principal, or a college admissions officer or future employer doesn’t follow you, that in no way ensures that your tweets won’t be seen, and judgment will be passed on the content and intent of those tweets. Just having a public Twitter account, or possibly even a private one, means that your tweets could be seen by thousands. You have given up the right to say, “Don’t look at this; it’s private”.

Principal Jones missed out on a good opportunity here to advance digital citizenship in her school.

 

 

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

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Iggy Azalea, Papa John’s, Privacy and Twitter

We suspect that whoever runs the Twitter account at pizza chain Papa John’s is in a long meeting today.

 

iggy-azalea-papa-johns-twitter-2Over the weekend, rapper Iggy Azalea very publicly tweeted to her 4.2 million followers a complaint – that she was no longer inclined to order from Papa John’s because their delivery drivers had, on at least one occasion, given out her personal number to family members. This is a serious accusation and while we have no way to verify that it is true, it’s hard to believe that she would lie about something like this. Certainly Papa John’s could not afford to ignore it, or assume that it wasn’t true.

Three hours later, (3 hours!) Papa John’s tweeted back, somewhat jokingly, that the employee should have known better etc. No apology.

Ms. Azalea’s response was perfect:

“I don’t think data breach is funny. I expect you to contact me to explain how you are going to rectify your breach.”

That was followed by:

azalea-papa-johns-twitter

azalea-twitter-privacy

Anything that is said on social media by famous artists will be seen by a lot of people. Major brands need to understand that protecting their image online is a 24×7 undertaking, and a flippant reply can be as costly as an initial gaffe.

Teens – anybody for that matter – posting publicly on social media are subject to the same risks. Whatever you put out there can come back to haunt you.

 

 

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

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Instagram Account Settings Explained

I saw the other day that someone posted a simple question on Twitter. The question was “How do I delete my Instagram search history”. It caught my attention because it really is a simple question, as is the answer. You’d think that someone who is active on Twitter (this poster is) would know his way around social media app settings, but I guess that’s not always the case.

For parents, especially those whose social networking is limited to Facebook and LinkedIn, it might not seem so simple at all. If you’re a parent who wants to make sure your teen’s Instagram settings are age-appropriate, and that she understands how her account is set up, it’s fairly easy.

First off, while there is computer access for an Instagram account, many of the settings and options are not available there. You’re going to need to do this on a phone – any phone that is logged in to the account in question. Open the app and from any screen click on the person icon in the bottom right to be taken to the screen below:

instagram-how-to-3

<- Click in this gear icon to be taken to the settings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IG-how-to-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

<- Users can click “Report a Problem” if there have been incidents of cyberbullying or inappropriate posts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IG-how-to-2

 

 

 

 

 

<- The “Share Setting” allow you to simultaneously post to there networks, such as Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

<- Voila. You can clear your search history here.

 

 

 

 

As you can see, it’s all fairly simple. You can read the Privacy Policy, manage your settings and overall Instagram experience and even delete your search history with a couple of taps of your finger.

 

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

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