A well intentioned friend of mine (who happens to work in the Internet Industry) recently sent me this video: Smartphones pictures poses privacy risks in an e-mail that read:
Hi everyone, something all BB users should be made aware of ...
You MUST see this, the consequences are scary.
If you have a Smartphone you need to watch this...
This is something that everyone needs to watch...........Think children or grand children
If you listen to the video from NBC Action News, it jumps at you at how stupid they think their public is. This is an all surface no depth story focusing on the lowest form of manipulation to make parents fear that someone will stalk their kids using the Internet.
Notice at how the policeman calls criminals "the bad guys". If you've seen a couple of recent war documentaries (No End in Sight, Restrepo), that's exactly how a lot of US soldiers call enemy troops: "the bad guys". This illustrates very well how chillingly simplistic is the reasoning process of some people we allow to carry guns and who are supposed to protect us.
I'm glad a few lucid people commented on this video on YouTube.
Before panicking, consider a few simple things:
1. Isn't this retarded news story giving ideas to the stalkers out there?
2. How easy is it to extract the geographic info from the pictures posted? I mean, if you spend your time stalking kids in parks, you don't have too much time to develop computer skills.
3. If someone has access to pictures of your kids online (via Facebook mainly), it normally is because YOU gave them access. Therefore, we can safely assume they are not stalkers. Otherwise you're pretty dumb and you already have bigger problems than anythings the news can teach you.
4. If someone wants to stalk your kids, do they really need an internet connection? Isn't it just as easy to hang around schools and parks? Remember, stalkers existed before the Internet.
5. How many kids fall victims to stalkers in the USA every year? Few (115 in 2007 - for a population of approximately 300 million), but since each is a real tragedy, the emotional impact is huge. However, statistically, it remains very improbable.
6. Why are they (news/TV networks/Big media conglomerates) trying to scare us? Remember in Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine when it mentions that: "...over a period when homicide rates were falling, media coverage of murder increased by 600%."
Do I think it is important, especially as parents, to be careful about the info we publish online. Absolutely.
Do I think that "bad guys" are lurking in the shadows and following my every move online. No.
There's a fine line between being prudent and being paranoid.
You want to protect your kids from life's sharp edges? Teach them to think.
A good start would be to turn off the TV and open a book.