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This is What Cybersecurity Pros Are Saying

Forty-four percent of cybersecurity pros say they are reducing the amount of time they spend on Facebook after the company's recent security controversies, a Black Hat survey has found. Seven percent of respondents say they are going to delete their accounts because of the incidents. Something else interesting to note: only one quarter think that “in the future it will be possible for individuals to protect their online identity and privacy,” while more than 50% explicitly disagree with that supposition.

The Evolution of Social Media

Almost 79% of consumers are somewhat or very worried about information privacy on social media, and over 82% censor themselves, finds a survey by The Atlantic online. Facebook was the least-trusted social platform, despite also being the most widely used. Older people were more likely than younger people to report self-censoring because of privacy concerns, though the likelihood was 75 percent or above for all age groups. “Self-censorship” for this survey was defined as stopping yourself from posting something you might otherwise want to share, because of concerns about privacy.

Privacy NOW! A Clickable Guide

Looked at your privacy setting for Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple lately? Have you read in detail those updated privacy polices from each of these sites that seems to appear daily in your inbox? No? Well, you are not alone - 95 percent of people are too busy, or too confused, to change a darn thing. But what if you had a clickable list of where to go and instructions of what to look for on each of these sites that might give you at least a fighting chance to preserve your privacy as much as possible? An article in the Washington Post by Geoffrey Fowler entitled Hands off my data! 15 default privacy settings you should change right now tells you how to look at your settings, find out what the defaults are, and change them to fit your needs. With this list you can move from site to site quickly and efficiently and make a substantial difference in your privacy exposure in just half an hour.

Examining and Deleting Your Google Data

Perhaps you have already looked at the summary of data that Facebook has stored on you, but what about Google? The tool for downloading your data from Google is called Takeout, and has been around since 2008. Go to and select the information you want to download. You can choose everything, or hone in on certain things such as your location history from Google Maps or your viewing history on YouTube. If you want some hints on what to look out for and what to delete in your Google history, take a look at Google’s File on Me Was Huge. Here’s Why It Wasn’t as Creepy as My Facebook Data.  

Financial Industry Takes Military Approach To Tackling Cybercrime

Financial institutions are increasingly adopting military tactics and employing ex-military personnel as they ramp up practices for preventing cybercrime. Mastercard has set up a cybersecurity command center run by a former Delta Force officer, at least a dozen banks have opened similar hubs for gathering intelligence, and "combat drills" that test responses to simulated cyberattacks are rapidly growing in popularity.


Citizenship in the Digital Age

Parents are often urged to talk to their kids about how to be a good digital citizen. But how does that relate to citizenship in general and how do the characteristics of a good citizen parallel — and differ from — those of a good digital citizen? This infographic can help start a discussion with your kids.

Digital Footprint? Try Digital Tattoo, Experts Say

In the past, when introducing the concept of digital citizenship, teachers and parents have talked about the idea of a digital footprint—the “tracks” kids leave behind as they interact on social media and publicize information about themselves online. Experts are now saying the more accurate term to use is  “digital tattoo,” to emphasize the idea that any information they put online is permanent and cannot be undone.

Dumb Phone Versus Smart Phone

There is a resurgence of interest in "dumb" phones as many are believing that smartphones are causing both kids and adults to miss out on aspects of family life. From pared-down flip phones that offer a limited array of apps and services to truly basic (but stylish) new devices that allow only calling, texting and a few other basic functions, consumers have options if they want to take a break from smartphones. One such phone is the Light Phone, a stripped down cell phone that offers calling, texting, an alarm clock and driving directions. Look for other phones on the horizon. Also asking your kids what they think about a pared down phone can start a conversation about phubbing and being addicted to a smartphone.

Some Children’s Apps My Not Be As Safe As You Think

The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, known as COPPA, is a federal law designed in part to protect children under 13 years old on websites designed for kids, but a recent study found that just because a children’s app is certified complaint, it may not be any better than apps that are non-certified. The study, published in the journal Proceedings on Privacy Enhancing Technologies, states that because  app certification may not guarantee security, parents should research apps their children are using and make sure they understand if and/or where personal data is stored or whether the information is being traded. It is also important to research what information the app can access from the device on which it is downloaded. For more information, check out the Federal Trade Commission site on Kids and Mobile Apps.

Facebook’s Clear History Feature is Coming

Facebook recently announced it is working on a new feature called Clear History, leaving many critics to ask why something like this hasn’t been available all along. The feature will allow you to see which websites and apps send information to Facebook when you use them, let you delete that information from your account, and turn off Facebook’s ability to store that information. While the feature will not be available for a few months, Facebook continues to try to add privacy features to belay user’s heightened concerns about online exposure of their personal data.

Teens Worry About Privacy Too

There is a misconception that young people don’t care about privacy, but research is showing that just isn’t the case. The latest take on the subject is shown in a small, but in-depth study by Claire Fontaine of the Data & Society Institute. The study finds that young adults (16-20)  are very aware of online privacy, spend “significant time managing how they present themselves on social media”, and worry about what digital footprints they leave behind.

Perhaps most eye opening about this study is Fontaine’s take on schools and the message they are sending out on privacy. She contends that schools frame online privacy for students as primarily a matter of personal responsibility, which these days really isn’t true. That’s because Silicon Valley's current business practices and a lax regulatory environment can make anyone who participates in life online vulnerable no matter how safety conscious they are. She also feels schools are falling behind in their adoption of new technology and therefore failing to keep up with their students. That failure to keep up makes it harder for teachers and administrators to guide students who have concerns, leaving them alone to wrestle with huge questions about privacy, data collection and distribution that—if recent headlines are any indication—even the adults and institutions in society are ill-positioned to handle.

This interview with the author of the study further explains the findings of the study. As Fontaine puts it, we are seeing the “adultification of teenage-hood. “ We tell kids that online privacy is a matter of personal responsibility, but the truth is that it is likely that no amount of personal responsibility can completely secure your privacy and security online. That means a much better discussion to have with kids is about the tradeoffs associated with the technologies we use. That’s not an easy task, obviously, but undeniably more realistic.”

Twitter Joins Study to Reduce Abuse on the App

Twitter is participating in an experiment proposed by to determine whether displaying rules of behavior to its users can cut down on abusive content. Results of the study, which also aims at improved privacy protection, will be evaluated independently. Other similar research has shown that the clear display of rules by institutions makes people more likely to follow them. The news of this experiment could be an interesting discussion starter with kids on online abuse and etiquette. Do they think displaying the rules could change people’s behavior online?

YouTube Accused of Targeting Children with Ads Violating Privacy Laws

Facebook isn’t the only tech giant being challenged over its collection and use of consumer’s information. More than 20 consumer advocacy groups have recently filed complaints with the Federal Trade Commission against YouTube, alleging they have been gathering the personal data of children who use their platform and then using this data to target advertisements, in violation of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

COPPA requires commercial websites and apps to get informed parental consent before collecting any personal information on children under 13. YouTube, which is owned by Google, allows any visitor – regardless of their age - on its platform to search for content on the site and watch videos without signing in or verifying age. Although YouTube has a “kids version”, a 2017 survey by Common Sense Media found that more children watch YouTube on the main platform than on the kids' app. Of parents of kids ages zero to eight, 71 percent said their children watch videos on the main website or app, while 24 percent said their kids watch on the kids' app. 

Zuckerberg and Facebook Take Up Kid’s Privacy Issues

The privacy of students' data was discussed during Mark Zuckerberg's recent testimony before a congressional committee. Facebook's founder and CEO was asked about the privacy of a Messenger application for minors and about youth technology addiction. Zuckerberg remained composed during two days of hours long questioning by members of the Senate Commerce and Judiciary committees, conceding and taking responsibility for mistakes concerning data privacy, possible election tampering, hate speech and fake news, and pledging changes to address the issues. He reiterated that the platform's goal is to bring communities together and repeatedly mentioned that the company is willing to work with lawmakers on the "right" kind of regulation.


One thing your children may have noticed during the questioning of Zuckerberg is the lack of experience with Facebook and knowledge about the platform that many of the Senators seemed to have. It brings to light a generation gap and is a good reminder to parents that it is important to make an effort to stay somewhat current with technology – and to never be afraid to ask your children questions about what they are doing with technology. Being open to learning new things, especially from your children, is important.

YouTube to Offer Handpicked Selection of Kid’s Videos

YouTube will soon launch a new choice for parents seeking programming for their children with a version of its Kids app that offers only videos handpicked by YouTube staff  - aka the “whitelisted” version. The algorithmically suggested version will still be available, but this new version should, in theory, cut down on the number of videos that sneak through the automated selection process that could include language and jokes inappropriate for kids.

Truth Measure Implemented in Facebook Advertising

Facebook has announced that it's implementing a new authorization process for advertisers that want to place ads on its platform related to political issues and for those that manage accounts with large follower numbers, requiring them to disclose their locations and identities. Election advertising on the platform will include a "Political Ad" label, as well as disclosures about who paid for the advertising. Be sure to point this out to your kids in your discussion of digital misinformation and the importance of vetting sources.

So What Does Facebook Have on File on You?

Digging through your Facebook files is an exercise you may want to undertake if you care about how your personal information is stored and used. To get started, Facebook has a tool for downloading your data that allows you to see and take out SOME OF the information you’ve put up on Facebook. So what kinds of things can’t be deleted?

Most basic information, like your birthday, can’t be deleted. More important, the pieces of data, like the record of people you have unfriended, can’t be removed from Facebook, either. And what happens to what you can delete? Beth Gautier, a Facebook spokeswoman, recently put it this way: “When you delete something, we remove it so it’s not visible or accessible on Facebook.” She added: “You can also delete your account whenever you want. It may take up to 90 days to delete all backups of data on our servers.”

Want to know more about how to delete information on your Facebook account without deleting your account? See these tips on the Tech Crunch page.

Common Sense Reports on Virtual Reality and Children

If you have already tried using a virtual reality (VR) headset you will probably agree that the effect is pretty mind blowing, whether you are riding a virtual roller coaster or strolling down a Parisian street. While VR is becoming more popular, not much is known about the effects it may have on kids. Recently Common Sense Media released a report on the subject entitled Virtual Reality 101: What You Need to Know About Kids and VR, co-authored by the founding director of Stanford University's Virtual Human Interaction Lab. The key finding from the report is this: Everything in VR is more intense, and while VR has great potential to show kids new worlds and may help in education, the jury is still out on both the  health risks and concerns remain that what kids experience may be too “real.”


So what can you as a parent do when your kids want to explore VR technology? Here are some suggestions:

  • Pay attention to age ratings and choose games wisely with your own children in mind. Don't let your kids play VR games that mimic experiences you wouldn't want them to have in real life, such as using violent weapons. On the other hand, take advantage of VR that exposes kids to things they wouldn't normally get to see, feel, and learn, such as visiting a foreign country. 
  • Keep it safe. Don't let kids use VR alone, help them get oriented when they first turn it on, stay seated if possible, and if kids feel nauseous, dizzy, drained, or sad, angry, or anxious -- give it a rest for a while.
  • Keep privacy in mind. Devices that can track your movements -- including eye movements -- could store that data for purposes that haven't yet been explored.
  • Keep talking. As with all experiences with technology, make sure you test out what your kids are seeing and doing with VR and talk to them about their impressions of the games.

Facebook Rewrites Terms of Service

Facebook is spelling out in plain English how it collects and uses your data in rewritten versions of their Terms of Service and Data Use Policy. The policies are being rewritten in an effort to be more transparent with users, not to ask for new rights for collecting and using data. The movement for this change came about after Facebook revealed that they think 87 million users (or more) accounts were scrapped for data in what was known as the Cambridge Analytica scandal. You can expect to see other updates and changes in these agreements as the company moves forward.

Things to Think About When Answering Password Recovery Questions

With so much personal information available online, it's important to pick answers to security questions that hackers can't easily guess. To combat the more simplistic nature of security questions, you might consider protecting yourself by providing random answers that cannot be researched or guessed. For example, instead of providing your mother's ­actual maiden name, you might provide the made-up name Aphrodite1234!, which resembles a password more so than a name. While this approach may defeat the purpose of simpler security questions, it allows for greater privacy and more security.