A friend of mine shared this with me recently, so I read it and wanted to share it as well. You can download the PDF here, or read an exact copy below.
I spent a long time as an administrator of some social media sites and I’ve seen some things no one should see, learned some things about people that surprised, shocked and disgusted me, and been directly involved in terrible situations that could have been avoided had simple guidelines like these been followed. It has given me a perspective that many people can’t see. When the police tell you not to do something, it is because they’ve already been to hundreds of scenes where disaster could have been avoided. They know something we don’t know, and we should be willing to learn from others.
Some sites will allow you to restrict users who access posted content; others allow anyone and everyone to view your postings.
Lance’s comments: My kids never bother to look at technical details like this and I know that most people are not concerned, but this is definitely worth discovering. When you use a site/app, take a moment to look at the settings. If you can set your account/profile to private, do it.
Consider restricting access to your page to a select group of people, for example, your friends or friends from school, your club, your team, your community groups, or your family.
Lance’s comments: The Police are telling you to do something that cannot be done, but I do agree with their sentiments. The bottom line is there is literally nothing you can do to control what you put online. The nature of how the internet works makes it impossible to do this. More on this idea, below.
Don’t post your full name, address, phone number, or any kind of financial or personal information; SIN #, bank and credit card account numbers — and don’t post other people’s information either. Be cautious about posting information that could be used to identify you or locate you offline. This could include the name of your school, teachers, family members, sports team, clubs, and where you work or hang out.
Lance’s comments: Do you want to put yourself in danger really fast? This is how you do it. This has to be the number one bad idea that I’ve run into. Just like point #2 above, you can NOT control what you put online, so don’t put stuff like this online. It just sits there waiting for predators, and you’re not trying to protect yourself from one lone bad guy in your area. Internet predators are like wolf packs – they work together to collect and share their prey. If you put it online, they will find it.
Don’t use your name, your age, year of birth, or your hometown. Even if you think your screen name makes you anonymous, it takes very little effort to combine clues and figure out who you are and where you can be found.
Lance’s comments: Birth dates are so incredibly common. Don’t be common. Screen names that are random are actually ideal, even if you don’t have an easy way to remember it. The point is not to make it easy for YOU to remember – the point is to make it difficult for someone ELSE to connect it to you. Try digging up information about yourself – you will be surprised how easily one clue leads to another, and soon enough you’ve built a profile that just speaks volumes about you.
Anyone can see your page, including your employer, your parents, your teachers, the police, your school or the job you might want to apply for in five years.
Lance’s comments: This is absolutely true. In fact, there is a website called the Way Back Machine and its purpose is to archive the entire internet. Once you put something line, it stays there. By the way: online does not simply mean websites. iOS, Android, Backberry etc apps are all online as well. Your phone is transmitting your data all the time, whether you choose to send it or not (think Apple’s Photo Stream).
They can be altered and used in ways you may not be happy about. If you do post one, ask yourself whether it’s one your mom would display in the living room.
Lance’s comments: This is dead-serious and 100% true. I am very good with Photoshop and I’ve seen many pics that have been altered where I could not tell they were. Every still image you see in a magazine or poster etc has been put through Photoshop, edited, changed, enhanced, etc, and it is not difficult to do the same to your pics.
Aside from the photo-hacking, your personal photos also means nudes. If you’re shooting nudes on a phone, you’re in the wrong. There are so many ways for you to lose control over photos that are ON your phone. Apple’s photo streaming service sends all your pics (by default) directly to Apple’s servers, which have been hacked before (think of all the celebs who had their nudes hacked and released). Your phone also adds details to each photo that include where you were on the planet, down to a few meters/feet, what time it was, etc etc. Look at the map tab on your Instagram account and you’ll see that all your pics are geo-tagged. This, too, is a default setting. When your iPhone/iPad backs itself up to iCloud you are sending your entire phone to Apple’s servers again. When you back it up yourself on your computer, Apple wants to send it to the cloud again and you have to disable that as well.
That’s just Apple. What about all those apps you’re using? Are the makers of those apps more or less trustworthy than Apple? What are they doing with your data? And what about Android? Whenever I download an app to my Android it tells me directly what that app wants access to, and it is pretty amazing how deep they go.
If you have pics on your phone, they will make it online.
Because some people lie about who they really are and their intentions, you never really know who you’re dealing with.
Lance’s comments: Flirting is fun. There is a thrill in getting someone to like you, and being liked in return. Predators know this and use it. Keep that in mind when you’re talking to people whom you do not know in person. And consider the fact that you may be talking only to your friend’s phone, and not actually your friend. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told, “my friend took my phone and sent that.”
Before you decide to meet someone, do your research; ask whether any of your friends knows the person, and see what background you can dig up through online search engines. If you decide to meet them, be smart: Meet in a public place, during the day, with friends you trust. Tell someone where you’re going, and when you expect to be back.
Lance’s comments: This is a major concern with internet dating and dating apps, and NOT just for females. I do not agree with the advice from the Police here because I think it is too soft. The very first time you meet someone from the internet/dating app, you’re a fool if you do it alone. Always do it in a busy public place, and always have friends nearby watching.
It is important to note that predators often use a tactic called grooming. This is where they build trust with their target over time, so keep that in mind and don’t be one of those people who says, “they seemed so nice, I can’t believe they’d do something like that.” Good relationships take time to build, so put that time in before you let them get close enough to hurt you.
Even if you delete the information from your page, it’s still out there; on other people’s computers.
Lance’s comments: You may notice that this is a theme here. The nature of the internet is such that once data leaves your computer/phone/tablet (device) it is permanently out of your control.
When I was working for social media sites it was common for users of the sites, lawyers and police to contact us and ask that content be removed. This is actually the easy part because we’d say to them, “sure,” and then we’d remove it. But, it is more complex than that. If the site is large, then they’re likely to use something called a content delivery network (CDN) which means that numerous computers located at data centers around the planet have exact copies of the website. This is meant to speed up the page times, but it also means that when the data is removed from one computer it is not removed from all of them. That takes time.
Also, when someone views any content their device has already downloaded the data. It is literally on their phone or computer at this point. This is called the cache and people can store it permanently. They can also take screenshots.
It gets worse, because the website and its users are not the only place/people where your data is. When your device sent it to the internet the data went through your internet service provider’s network, which means they have a cached copy. Every step along the way (called a node) has a cached copy, right from you, to the site, to the user at the other end.
You literally can not take it back. When you hit upload, what you are actually doing is saying, “I want to permanently lose control over this.“
If you feel uncomfortable or threatened because of something directed at you online, tell an adult you trust and/or report it to the police, and the social networking site. You could be preventing yourself or someone else from becoming a victim.
Lance’s comments: Don’t feel defenseless or hopeless about losing control of your data. Even though you can’t stop it, you can slow it down. You must make contact with the site/service where your data is being exploited and demand it be taken down. At the same time you also need to contact the local Police. Do both. If a school is involved, include the administrators as well.
Predators know that people are afraid to get help and they will use that against you. If you’re embarrassed about a nude/vid of you because the predator is threatening you with it, imagine the damage when they spread it. It is much better to face the website, the police, the lawyer and the school admins than to let that get out of control. Let the predator believe you’re scared, and then bring the combined might of your defence team down upon them.
If you’re a minor and you’re concerned about your parents finding out, rest assured that they want your safety more than they want to crap on you for doing something stupid online. Yes, you will be given crap for doing stupid things, but you will be safe when it happens, if you open up. As a parent I know first hand that kids want to keep things out of their parents’ view, just between them and their friends, but that’s the exact opposite of what should be done. Think about it: have you ever had a friend turn on you? It can happen. Also, how can another kid know how to help you? Do other kids really have the knowledge, tools, and resources to make the predator stop? To take your data offline?
You don’t have to like (trusted) adults to recognize that they’re the ones most able to help you.
Finally, consider the fact that YOU are not the only person these predators are preying upon. When you take down one predator you are saving multiple people from them.
Lance’s comments: This is actually the one single piece of advice that you can carry with you that will help you in every single situation. Are you willing to do or say this thing in front of everyone? If not, then it’s not the right move.