Bill of Rights for Social Networkers [Infographic]

May 23, 2012

A new infographic by BackgroundCheck does an excellent job of highlighting the issues surrounding requests for access to personal social networking sites by employers, would-be employers, government agencies, law enforcement, colleges and other groups.   Check it out:

Social Networking Bill of Rights

Linda


Welcome Outcome from Forum on the Privacy Concerns of New Internet Users

August 14, 2011

Consumers need greater education, choices and protection in order to address their privacy concerns, particularly those who are more recent adopters such as African Americans and other people of color, seniors, and low-income populations was the consensus opinion at the The New Digital Profile: Managing Privacy in an Evolving, Mobile Internet forum hosted by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

“This forum comes at a moment in time when people of color are increasing their use of broadband applications and services, but also when privacy concerns appear to be of utmost concern to those who have moved online only recently,” said Ralph B. Everett, President and CEO of the Joint Center. “With broadband having such enormous potential to boost opportunity in communities of color, it becomes even more important to include new adopters of technology in the conversation on privacy and how to address these concerns.”

How we achieve this goal however is less clear. Panel members underscored the critical need for greater education to raise awareness and transparency about data collection, but consumers are facing a double threat to this education:

  1. School funding has been slashed as a result of the economic morass the country finds itself in, while at the same time districts are being measured more tightly against test scores.
    1. Unfortunately, technology isn’t a test subject so funding shortfalls have cut heavily on tech teachers and computer labs.

Learn more about the state of technology in schools in my recent posts U.S. Far behind in Integrating Technology in Schools and Educators Lack Training; Don’t Teach Online Safety.

To understand the dire straits schools are in, check out the text boxes in this article. These are requests for funds shown on the DonorsChoose website. (DonorsChoose is an online charity connecting potential donors and classrooms in need and I highly recommend their work).

Exactly how are schools that are priced out of technology supposed to step up to the panel’s recommendation of greater education?

  1. Corporate funding to nonprofits has also been slashed due to economic struggles. This means that not only are schools unable to train teachers, and maintain robust computer access, nonprofits cannot step in to fill the void.

Right to transparency and privacy

The other key outcome from the conference was addressing consumers’ concerns and right to privacy.

Citing a 2010 Federal Communications Commission (FCC) study, forum panelists agreed that online privacy policies should be more accessible to consumers, even on mobile devices, and companies should be more transparent in the data being collected.

The referenced FCC study found nearly 100 million Americans do not use broadband (1/3rd of the population), and the reason nearly half of these non-broadband adopters remain offline in part because they fear “all the bad things that can happen on the Internet”.  (To learn more about the FCC’s study, see my article Broadband Adoption Jumps to 75 Percent of US Consumers).

“Concerns about privacy can potentially prohibit broadband adoption among people living in the communities that can benefit most from what broadband can do to advance learning, opportunity, and quality of life,” said Dr. Nicol Turner-Lee, Vice President and Director of the Joint Center. “How we address these concerns needs to align technology innovation, consumer trust and education, especially to assure new Internet users and non-adopters that the web is a safe space.”

Danny Sepulveda, Senior Advisor to U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-MA) added to these comments saying, “Regardless of how and what you access, you should have the right to know what is being collected, and for what purpose. At the end of the day, we need a comprehensive code of conduct.”

Again, how to achieve these goals was less clear. While many legislators see legislation as the solution, industry leaders are less enamored with a code of conduct preferring to use ‘industry norms and ground rules”.

As a longtime online safety, security, privacy and technology advocate, I just happen to have a couple of solutions :-0.

Education

There is no getting around the need for computers, laptops, handhelds, and other technology tools in schools, and I can only encourage the federal government, states, school districts and the public to make technology adoption a priority. Once those technologies are in place, the second hurdle, as outlined in Educators Lack Training; Don’t Teach Online Safety, is getting quality teaching about technology into schools.

To drive this forward we created the LOOKBOTHWAYS Foundation whose sole mission is to deliver an expert driven, top quality, interactive curriculum called NetSkills4Life that is free of charge to every school, organization, family and individual. There are three lessons per grade, and no hoops to jump through to use the curriculum; and because it is immersive, parents, teachers, students all have the same experience.

While it is nice if teachers have the skills to expand on the lessons (and we provide additional resources and suggestions for them to do so) we built the lessons knowing that most teachers and parents lack the skills needed so the lessons are created to independently deliver the learning needed.

The caveat to this is that we are building out the lessons as quickly as funding makes possible. The first lessons are created using earmarked funds targeting the 6-8th grades, so to check out the lessons, look in the 5th and 6th and the 7th -9th  grade sections. We will have the first 6 lessons complete in October. If you wish to help fund additional lessons, by all means, contact us!

Consumer rights

For longtime followers, you know I have been championing a ‘bill of rights’ for consumers online for many years. Over time these have morphed slightly to meet new technology needs, and to be more palatable to industry members.

The latest version (below) was crafted in 2010 while I was president of the Safe Internet Alliance. We undertook at that time to bring the industry players to a common understanding of best practices for safeguarding consumers and their privacy. That initiative did not bear fruit, but I remain convinced that consumers will not have the safety and transparency they need to make informed choices until these are adopted, or mandated. Frankly I’d rather see them adopted without mandates/regulations coming into play:

Consumer Internet Safety and Privacy Rights – A Standard for Respectful Companies

ALL Internet users have the expectation of a safe Internet experience, and respectful companies strive to provide quality safety and privacy options that are easily discovered and used by consumers.  Your safety and privacy, as well as the safety and privacy of your family on the Internet should be core elements of online product and service design.

In a nutshell, online consumers should demand these rights:

  1. Establishing safety and privacy settings should be an element in the registration, or activation of a specific feature’s, process.  This includes informing you in easily understood language about the potential consequences of your choices. This allows, and requires, you to make your own choices, rather than being pushed into hidden, default settings.
  2. During the registration or activation process, articles of the terms and conditions, and privacy policy, that might affect your privacy or safety, or that of a minor in your care, should be presented to you in easy to understand language, not in a long, complicated legal document in small font.
  3. You should expect complete, easily understood information and age appropriate recommendations about every safety and privacy feature in a product or service.
  4. You should expect to easily report abuse of the products or abuse through the products of you or someone in your care.
  5. You should expect a notice or alert if a significant safety or privacy risk is discovered in an online product or service you or someone in your care is using.
  6. The provider needs to publish on a regular basis statistics demonstrating how well the company enforces its policies.  Such statistics should include; the number and types of abuse reports, number of investigations conducted, and number and type of corrective actions taken by the provider.
  7. When services or products are upgraded, you have the right to be informed of new features or changes to existing features and their impact on your – or your child’s – safety or privacy in advance of the rollout.
  8. When the terms of use or privacy policy of any provider are about to change, you have the right to be informed in advance of the changes and their impact on your – or your child’s – safety and privacy.
  9. When a provider informs you of changes to their features, privacy policy, or terms and conditions, they should provide you with a clearly discoverable, way to either opt out, or block the change, or to terminate your account.
  10. When terminating an account, your provider should enable you to remove permanently and completely all of your personal information, posts, photos, and any other personal content you may have provided or uploaded, or that has been collected by the provider about you.

Linda


We Need An Online Bill of Rights

April 29, 2010

We all need to be more assertive in protecting our online privacy; the FCC can help

The Internet’s openness is critical to continued innovation, economic expansion, and healthy evolution in the ways we educate, interact and entertain.

But first, we need to define “open.” Right now the word connotes “open season” on consumer exploitation by criminals and by the many companies who blatantly disregard consumer privacy and safety. The internet isn’t open if people don’t dare venture out.

The FCC has just released an ambitious blueprint for extending broadband access to all Americans. Access is a laudable goal. But the FCC must recognize that for the internet to truly be open to consumers – not just available – it requires enhancing online safety.

According to a recent FCC survey, nearly half of those Americans who remain offline do so in part because they fear “all the bad things that can happen on the Internet,” while 57% strongly agree that it is too easy to have their personal information stolen online  – as do 39% of broadband users. 24% of broadband users strongly agree that the Internet is too dangerous for children,  and 56% believe there is too much pornography and offensive material on the Internet.

To truly be open to consumers, we must establish technical and policy norms that ensure the privacy and safety of the general online public.

If we’re reasonably informed, we know the measures to take to protect ourselves: don’t provide personal or financial information in response to unsolicited email; delve into profile preferences on social networking sites and block default settings that share our information with strangers and advertisers.  A well-informed user can avoid much of the risk associated with identity theft, commercial exploitation, or physical predation.

But the prevailing assumption remains buyer beware. If you don’t read long, eye-glazing privacy policies you risk being exploited.  If you don’t check out  features that seem uncannily responsive to your online activity, your actions and info will be telegraphed in new ways. If you don’t know how to evaluate services for built in safety and privacy features you risk falling through the gaps. Awareness of these realities inhibits current users and deters many of those who remain offline.

The responsibility to protect yourself and any children in your family can never be abdicated.  Paradoxically, however, being smart consumers and making the right demands of the companies whose services we use and of our government officials can make our task a lot easier.  The FCC can help by fostering user education that encourages not only proper self-defense but the kind of awareness that makes consumers demand better performance on the safety and privacy fronts. It can also strongly encourage the industry to build safer products and services.

One way to frame what we should demand as consumers is a Bill of Rights. Ideally these rights will be adopted by  industry voluntarily, rather than forced via legislation. As consumers it is our collective responsibility to demand and therefore earn these rights. But considering them as a body is clarifying.

The Safe Internet Alliance has drafted such a Bill of Rights, and work is underway to collect industry and consumer input into a final version. Here is a sampling.

You have the right to an informed online experience.

  • You should be informed in advance about any potential safety or privacy risks in products, web programs and services such as an instant messaging,  social networking, location technology, or wired devices such as cell phones and game consoles.
  • When services are upgraded, you have the right to be informed of new features and their impact on your safety in advance of rollout. You should  have a clear way to opt out of or block any features you’re uncomfortable with.
  • You have the right to receive advance notice of any intended changes in the terms and conditions that will affect your safety, privacy, or alter the terms in any  other substantial way, rather than being hostage to a site’s claim that their terms are ‘subject to change at any time.’

You have the right to set your own terms for your online experience and to manage the online experience of minors in your care. That includes the right

  • to block content you do not wish to see.
  • to block individual users, groups, or types of users from contacting you, no matter what your age.
  • to know whether and how you are being monitored online—such as which of your activities are being tracked and to whom they are being reported. Children have this right, too.

You have the right to expect online products and services to guard your safety and privacy, e.g.,

  • to know the privacy and safety policies of online products and services. These should be easy to find and easy to understand.
  • to know the terms of any third party applications a service uses or passes users through to. These terms should be explicitly displayed as part of the transition process.
  • to control your personally identifiable information (PII), or indirectly identifiable information (III) is yours. With your permission, sites can be stewards of that information, but your information is not any company’s or entity’s asset unless you have expressly given this permission and been offered a realistic option of using the service without giving this permission.

As the FCC moves forward to expand access, it should place a premium on increasing the protections afforded consumers — and deploying quality online consumer education that will help consumers protect themselves and make the right demands of service providers.

Linda


Your Internet Safety and Privacy Rights – Standards for Respectful Companies

March 18, 2010

In 2005 I wrote an article titled Your Internet Safety Bill of Rights, and I placed this article as one of my first blogs when I created the website ilookbothways.com as a service for you in the fall of 2006. Five years later, I have updated this Bill of Rights to expressly address some of the newest methods companies and services are using to assault your rights.

Unfortunately, industry standards and best practices have not matured enough to compel the industry to adhere to the safeguards you deserve. As a result, and in spite of the fact that I am no fan of overregulation, without significant industry changes to improve their respect of your rights, it may be time for legislation and oversight to step in to encourage the industry, and codify and enforce your rights.

Here then, is the 2010 update:

Your Internet Safety and Privacy Rights – Standards for Respectful Companies

April 2010

ALL Internet users have the right to a safe Internet experience. Your safety and the safety of your family on the Internet should not be left to features a company adds at the last minute (“add-ons”) or those you have to pay extra for. You can’t buy a new car without safety belts or air bags; you shouldn’t have to settle for Internet products or services that fail to offer safety in the same basic way.

In a nutshell, every online consumer should have these rights:

ALL Internet users have the right to a safe Internet experience, and respectful companies strive to provide quality safety and privacy options that are easily discovered and used by consumers.  Your safety and privacy, as well as the safety and privacy of your family on the Internet should be core elements of online product and service design, not left to features a company adds at the last minute (“add-ons”) or those you have to pay extra for. You can’t buy a new car without safety belts, air bags or rigorous safety testing; you shouldn’t have to settle for Internet products or services that fail to offer safety in the same basic way.

In a nutshell, every online consumer should have these rights:


1. You have the right to an informed online experience.

  • You should be informed in advance about any potential safety or privacy risks in products, web programs and services such as an instant messaging program, a social networking site, a location technology, or with an Internet enabled device like cell phones, game consoles etc. so you can make safety and privacy choices that are appropriate to your circumstances.
  • You have the right to expect complete, easily understood, information about every safety and privacy feature in a product or service, and age appropriate recommendations by feature should be easy to discover.
    • At the bare minimum, you should be able to find site and feature specific safety information and tools through the website’s Help section.
    • Ideally services should provide just-in-time safety and privacy advice and tools at key points, such as when adding information, or when posting  photos.  This is particularly critical during signup and registration when, as part of that process you should be taken through the progression of establishing privacy and safety settings.
  • When services are upgraded, you have the right to be informed of new features or changes to existing features and their impact on your – or your child’s – safety or privacy in advance of the rollout. Additionally, you should have a clear way to opt out of, or block, any features you’re uncomfortable with.
  • You have the right to know the privacy and safety policies of online products and services.
    • These should be easy to find and written in terms that are easy to understand.
    • The terms of any third party applications a service uses, or passes users through to should be explicitly displayed as part of the transition process between services so you always understand the terms and conditions under which you’re protected – or exposed.  If there are privacy and safety choices offered by the third party application, customizing your settings should also be a part of the transition.
  • You have the right to receive advance notice of any intended changes in the terms and conditions that will affect your safety, privacy, or alter the terms in any  other substantial way, rather than being hostage to a site’s claim that their terms are ‘subject to change at any time’ where the onus is on you to discover any changes.  This notice may come in the form of an email, text, or during your next login experience.

2. You have the right to set your own terms for your online experience (within the constraints of the law).

  • Your personally identifiable information (PII), or indirectly identifiable information (III) is yours. With your permission, sites can be stewards of that information to manage and enhance your experience on the services they offer, but your identifiable, or indirectly identifiable information is not any company’s or entity’s asset – unless you have expressly given this permission and been offered a realistic option of using the service without giving this permission.
    • Case-by-case permission should be required from you prior to your information being used in any way that you have not explicitly agreed to.
  • You have the right to demand the removal of any content you have posted either on your own pages, or comments on other pages, and you have the right to demand removal of information the site has collected about you at any time.
  • You have the right to set boundaries so that you are only exposed to the level of potential risk or exposure you’re comfortable with, whether you’re more willing to take risks or more risk averse, or more or less privacy conscious. This extends to managing  the online experience of minors in your care.  This includes the ability to:
    • Select content that matches your values and blocks content you do not wish to see, no matter  your age.
    • Block individual users, groups of users, unknown users, or types of users from contacting you, no matter your age.
    • Know if you are being monitored online and how you are being monitored—such as which of your activities are being tracked and to whom they are is being reported or displayed. Children have this right, too.

3. You have the right to expect online products and services to guard your safety and privacy.

  • You have the right to feel confident that products and services will not be released to the public without undergoing rigorous safety, privacy, and legal reviews and testing.
  • You have the right to easily report abuse of the products or abuse through the products of you or someone in your care.
    • You have the right to expect a response to your issue, and to expect immediate corrective action from the company when appropriate.
    • You should be able to see statistics demonstrating how well the company enforces its policies.
  • You have the right to expect a “product recall notice” or alert if a significant safety or privacy risk is discovered in an online product or service you or someone in your care is using.

Your safety rights won’t be established in Internet services overnight, but if you let companies and other online entities know what you demand, they will surely be delivered faster.

As consumers you can—and should—vote with your feet if the experience you’re having on a service doesn’t meet your expectations. You can and should be able to report companies that fail to protect your safety and privacy to appropriate authorities.

Make a difference.

Linda



History Repeated – Is Google the new Microsoft?

November 10, 2009

Was it only in 2004 that the pundits posed the question as to whether Microsoft was the new IBM? How time flies. Last week, freelance journalist Erik Sherman raised the question “Is Google the new Microsoft?” as he reviewed Google’s latest behaviors and market dominance. For evidence, Sherman listed several similarities:

  • Google asks users to trust them with an explanation essentially of “because we say so” and because we care
  • Dominates search almost to the extent that Microsoft dominated the desktop and laptop
  • Acts first, asks later – after the lawsuits start hitting the fan, as with the book scanning
  • Ignores antitrust concerns, drawing government attention in the U.S. and Europe

What do Google’s dominance and actions mean to your privacy and safety?

Google’s services have the ability to collect, data mine and resell information – whether it be your content, your location, or elements of your identity – to a far greater extent than an operating system or productivity tools ever could.

This means that transparency, consumer choice, and the ability to opt out of features, services, or to have your information erased entirely are more critical than ever. In the face of these risks, the points noted above are more than a little concerning.

  • Trust must be earned, on a user-by-user basis; and trust-but-verify applies even when trust has been earned. Every user should be able to see the information collected, stored, or shared about them at any time – and be able to have it removed.
  • Monopolies become dictatorships – benevolent or otherwise. At the end of the day, companies and corporations are responsible to their bottom line. The actions taken by Google that have drawn governments’ attention should concern every internet user. Their seeming disregard for antitrust concerns only heightens the unease.
  • Ask first, act later must guide decision-making.

Do you know Your Internet Safety Bill of Rights?

If not, it’s time to consider what you should be demanding from every online service. I wrote your Internet safety bill of rights in 2005, and they are more relevant today than ever.

Linda


Your Internet Safety Bill of Rights

October 23, 2006

ALL Internet users have the right to a safe Internet experience. Your safety and the safety of your family on the Internet should not be left to features a company adds at the last minute (“add-ons”) or those you have to pay extra for. You can’t buy a new car without safety belts or air bags; you shouldn’t have to settle for Internet products or services that fail to offer safety in the same basic way. In a nutshell, I believe every online consumer has these rights:

  • You have the right to an informed online experience.
    • You should know in advance about any potential risks in such Web programs and services as an Internet dating service or an instant messaging program, so you can make safe choices.
    • You have the right to complete information about every safety feature in a product or service, and safety recommendations by feature should be easy to discover. At the bare minimum, you should be able to find safety information in the Help section. Ideally, however, the program would give safety advice at key points, such as when you type in information or before you post a picture.
    • When services are upgraded, you have the right to be informed of new features or changes to existing features and their impact on your safety. Not only that, you should have a clear way to opt out of any features you’re uncomfortable with. For example, if changes are made to a subscription you’ve paid for and you want to cancel, you should be able to get a refund for remaining time.
  • You have the right to set your own terms for your online experience (within the constraints of the law).
    • You have the right to get content that matches your values and blocks content you do not wish to see, no matter what your age.
    • You have the right to set boundaries so that you are only exposed to the level of potential risk you’re comfortable with, whether you’re more willing to take risks or more risk averse. This includes being able to manage the online experience of minors in your care.
    • You have the right to know if you are being monitored online and how you are being monitored—such as which of your activities are being tracked and to whom they are is being reported. Your children have this right, too.
  • You have the right to expect online products and services to guard your safety.
    • You have the right to feel confident that products and services will not be released to the public without undergoing rigorous safety, privacy, and legal reviews and testing.
    • You have the right to know the privacy and safety policies of online products and services. These should be easy to find and written in terms that are easy to understand.
    • You have the right to easily report abuse of the products or abuse through the products of you or a loved one. You also have the right to know how well the company enforces its policies and to expect immediate action from the company.
    • You have the right to expect a “product recall notice” or alert if a significant safety risk is discovered in an online product or service.

As consumers you can—and should—vote with your feet if the experience you’re having on a service doesn’t meet your expectations. You can make a difference. Your safety rights won’t be established in Internet programs and services overnight. But if you let companies know what you think, they will surely be delivered faster. Linda