Monthly Archives: November 2008

Is it too easy to find kids personal information on Facebook?

The first thing we should mention is that Facebook does have a stated policy that children under 13 should not use Facebook and those children ages 13-18 should seek parental permission.  More on that policy may be found here.  A brief subset of the policy states:

Facebook does not knowingly collect or solicit personal information from anyone under the age of 13 or knowingly allow such persons to register. If you are under 13, please do not attempt to register for Facebook or send any information about yourself to us, including your name, address, telephone number, or email address. No one under age 13 may provide any personal information to or on Facebook

A local NBC affilliate in South Carolina did an excellent story on how easy it is to discover information on young adults that place information.  You can view the story in streaming video from here.  We watched this video intently since we had this same concern recently with our own kids of this age.

Here is what we found in a quick run through of our own kid’s schools.  We did a Facebook search by school, just for kids that listed themselves graduating in 2008.  Immediately I had 461 results to start viewing.  Clicking on a young lady on the first page, I found where she was going to college and then a huge number of her friends.  Taking her name over to some other person search engines (we will cover that ina the next few days) we uncovered articles she had appeared in through the school newspaper (that gets published to yet another site on the Internet) and finally her parents names.  This in turn gives us her home address and more.  All this from the first randomly selected person.

Why the 4 minutes of time spent?  Kids are beginning to share huge amounts of personal information with no long term regard for personal privacy. safety and as odd as it sounds, school and job futures.  There are numerous privacy controls built into Facbook that can be configured, but none of these can overcome the lack of teaching how to limit what you share.  To whom you share is simply a natural progression of the learning.

There are many school admission programs beginning to search the social networks for information on the applicants to guage how they are perceived and looking for images, stories and other matter that could sway their acceptance into the school programs.

The video above shows how news anchors did this same type of quick work to actually show up at kids houses based on what information they provided in social networks.  I thank Wayne Sutton for sending the links over.

Can kids recognize Social Stalking?

I ran across and interesting, but short, posting recently on “Recognize and Report Cyberspace Stalking” at the following page.  While the article brought up a decent point, such as saving all communications from the stalker, there was much left out.

In general, kids and even adults new to social networking, walk into these networks without any previous understanding of how the information is shared and who can see it from both authenticated (users with accounts) and public eyes. Let’s begin at the basics.

Once a user creates and account and fills out their information, other users on the same social network are generally able to access a fair amount of the information.  Without notification to you they are looking at it.  Some of the networks offer a more granular control mechanism, yet the defaults go against it.  The idea of being in the social network is to share information.  So why would they hide everything?  In other networks the basic information is displayed and the rest is only available after the person becomes your “friend” on the network. The lesson here is to learn how the network controls information once you register and what is shared automatically.  Some social networks are very clear in this ares while others have no indication.

The other side of this is the publicly shared profile information.  Many of the networks let you search and find people based on numerous attributes.  You can then access the information after you create an account, but by then you have found the person.  The user is caught between oversharing and not being properly informed.  So how does this relate to the article?

The article treats this as a simple ability to contact an ISP or network to blacklist the person.  Social networking goes far beyond this with the inherent ability to recreate account after account, even as you continually ignore the friend requests.  They also lightly glaze over the fact that the line between an on-line social network, location services and in person stalking are beginning to blur.

The goal is training kids and newcomers to social networks how to properly fill out profiles, using vague information if a field is required and being very cautious when accepting any friend requests.  Even those that could be perpurtrating as someone you know.  We will cover that in an upcoming article.