Most of us have been guilty of it! A proud parent posting a photo of their childs' first day at primary or high school on social media for relatives and family to see. I believe such an exciting moment should be captured and shared but so often we are forgetting how far our images can go online and exactly how easy it is to identify kids through such images. Social networking is designed to spread information and the networks almost discourage us from taking efforts to minimise that exposure. They want us to post as many photo's as possible, with as much information as we can. They want to use, distribute and market that information for advertising.
A simple photo of a child in school uniform at school, can tell users so much; name, age, gender, location, suburb, school, year group, siblings or parents (also in pic), relatives (liking, sharing), peers (tagging), house, car, street (background). The list goes on and on. All that information being lapped up by the network so they can target you for specific advertising. But why can't we take pics of our kids? Well we can! It's just that we need to take some steps to minimise that exposure but I can say this quite clearly, it is getting harder and harder for us to remain truly 'Private' online!
I am presenting to over 400 schools across the country. At many of my high schools I will select a specific year group to which I am going to present and will see how many of them I can find online. On a first visit, by doing simple searches on the top three social networking sites (Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat), it is rare I will find any less than 60% of those students who are in my audience. When I show students how I do it and more importantly whom I found, the message is clear. We need to take a step back and assess what we are posting!
1. Try to avoid posting an image of a child in school uniform where the school crest is visible : Even if you do not mention the school, most of the networks will identify the crest using software. Simple searches of that school on that network could identify that child or the account holder who has displayed the image. Blur the crest or edit the image to remove it.
2. Make sure our accounts are 'Private' : On Facebook this can be difficult to lock down. On Instagram and Snapchat it is much easier. Get into the settings and get to know what we are sharing and how we can minimise our spread and visibility. On average, only 25% of teens 12 to 17 will have a truly private account but do not get caught up in that word 'private'. In reality, on social networking there is no such thing.
3. Minimise 'Sharing', 'Liking' or 'Tagging' : This is where it starts to get difficult, especially with our kids online peers. If you post the pic, turn off sharing, liking and tagging, as this massively increases the spread of the image and can greatly increase the chances of identification. If the photo is 'liked' by 70 kids and 50 of those kids go to a certain high school, it is pretty easy to assume that's where your kid will go.
4. Do not allow ANY social networking App to share the location of your device : You can edit a photo and remove the crest, but this will be to no avail if you are taking the photo at the school and sharing your devices location with the network. Searching on the network can and will reveal location. Many apps have viewable 'maps' that will display the location of users. Snapchat = SnapMap. Musical.ly = MyCity. Connect = Connect Map.
5. Avoid using real full names on social networking : Now I am not talking about using fake names. What I am discussing here is a way to minimise footprint. If I have been able to identify Sarah Phillips goes to Jubilee High School because I have read her name in a newsletter. Then we need to make it harder to find her online. 'Sara Pipps' will be harder to find. Her online peers and those who know her in the real world will know who she is under that pseudonym, strangers will find it harder to identify the link.
I am pushing for the networks to take more responsibility in regard to the ease of searching across their networks. It is way to easy to find users and to identify their locations, peers and movements in even the most basic of searches. As usual they push the onus of privacy back onto us, the users. I am okay with that, to a degree, but c'mon, it would be nice to be given more of a hand in building more secure privacy online by those who are creating these environments.
Interaction, sharing, visiting, liking, tagging, commenting and viewing is what social networking is all about. It is how they make their money and why some of them are netting in excess of 26 billion dollars a year (that's $720 a second) in advertising revenue. Therefore the onus has pushed to us to look after ourselves. Taking the time to minimise our own exposure will go a long way in lowering footprint and connectability. Locking down to as minimal a peer group as possible will assist in helping dragging back how far our stuff can go online.