I've just read an excellent post on 1st Facebook Scout Group. For those unfamiliar with 1st Facebook it's a UK dominated (although with a few from other countries) open facebook group for scouts and scouters. It's often full of some terrible and repetitive posts but every now and then something excellent gets posted. This is one of them. A cautionary tale about internet safety that I will be making sure my scouts and young leaders get to see. For those not on Facebook it goes like this (to be clear, I didn't write it) and it's chilling.....
Internet safety... please don't scroll past or start ranting this is not one of those posts.
People seem to get excited over the Internet safety "see how far this gets shared" posts and I have to agree that I am not keen on many of them either but for a slightly different reason and here is why.
Some time ago there was a post by some UK Explorers doing internet safety. It was the standard post like/share/name/location. Instead of liking on sharing I decided to do some investigation. Now before we go any further I am an ESL with all the necessary training, certificates etc, I am also a geek having been online since the 1980s in the days of 300 baud acoustic couples and 1200/75bpm dial up modems. I am not a criminal or a risk to children. I did some cyberstalking; obviously I am not going to use real names or anything identifiable and I have changed details in case the young lady reads this and becomes distressed.
So we have a bunch of explorers in a picture but I have their unit details, 1st Anytown, and it appears that it was posted by one of the explorers herself. I chose one at random, a very cheery smiley young lady. Let's call her A
1 Go to FB page of the poster( call her B). Not A but her page was not private so I looked through pictures and found A tagged so I have her name.
2 Go to FB page of A. This is fairly locked down with few public details but I do now know her school. This is the same town as her unit so it is safe to assume she lives in Anytown.
3 Back to B and check out other friends and find a few with public profiles. One of them is clearly good friends with A and has 'checked in' at her house on a number of occasions, it was a few years ago back maybe before she became more careful online but it is still there. I now know A's house (or 'Casa A' as it is called in some of the tags) to within GPS tolerances, 30 metres or so. I have a street name.
4 Online phone book. Surname. Street name. I now have phone number, house number and thanks to Google, a picture of her front and back doors and a view from above. Nice Garden. Couple of out buildings. Nice lawn. High fences for good cover both sides and the doors don't look that secure....
5 Just for fun I google the address and get basic information about the over 18s in the house from a site selling information, mostly electoral roll and selling prices for houses. I choose the free option and there are 3 over 18s living there all with the same surname. I now know her parent's names and ages and her older sister. Try googling your own name and address and see.
6 Off to unit page. I now know where she is every Monday night between 7 and 9pm. thanks to the programme posted on the website I now know where she is likely to be Mondays, a couple of Fridays and 2 weekends for the next few weeks. I also find out that A is a helper or young leader with cubs. Cannot find out the pack number but a google shows that there are 6 groups with cub pack, some with 2 pack. I dig a bit but don't find enough to isolate her pack.
7 Flash of inspiration. I compare the pack necker/scarf/ neckie in the picture with those on pack website photos and isolate the pack to a single location. I now know where she goes 6:30 to 8:30 on Thursday evenings.
That took about 7 or 8 minutes. It actually too less time to do than to write this post.
If I spent a few hours I could get a lot more but I already know where she lives, who she lives with, her age, her school, her friends, when she may be alone walking to or from cubs or explorers. I know when her unit is going to laserquest and that they are doing an Easter camp at a local campsite (goggled that one too).
Creating her perfect boyfriend should be straightforward as I know she is a bit nerdy and likes superhero movies, sci fi TV shows (seems to have a thing for the actor who plays the Arrow) and Zelda games as well as having dogs and cats, did gymnastics....
I am 80% sure I have her twitter handle.
Internet security is not about mindlessly copying a like/share post it is about always thinking "who will see this?" "who is this person?" "Would I tell this to a total stranger on a bus?"
Having 20,000 FB friends is not a life goal unless you are an international celebrity. If you do not personally know each and every one of your FB friends then delete them. I could easily make a honey trap FB account targeted to this young lady.
If you feel uncomfortable when an middle aged guy looks at you in the swimming pool then don't post a picture to all and sundry of you in similar attire.
Don't constantly check in everywhere, most teenagers will resist telling their parents where they are going but will happily tell the whole planet.
Set your FB to private.
Now this is a little creepy and I want it to be creepy, it should be scary, using the internet should not be regarded as a walk down main street Disneyland. The internet is a city with museums and crack houses, shopping streets and brothels. You need to be constantly aware which bit you are in.
Remember that it does not matter if a photo reaches the opposite side of the world, it only needs to reach the perv who lives within travelling distance and that could be the same town.