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Archive for October, 2010

Get a Glympse of Where Your T(w)een Is

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

“Where are you?” That’s the way the vast majority of mobile calls and texts start — and it’s the question parents always ask of their t(w)eens. Parents have a frenetic need to always know “where” their children are. Unlike the era before the mobile phone parents now have a better sense of where their children are. Recent studies by Pew Internet & American Life Project show that the supermajority of teens have mobile phones.

Many parents simply call their children and ask them where they are. While teens use mobile phones, they seldom use them to speak. Asking a teen to “answer” or pick up a call may be a tall order. You will need to learn how to text “where R U?” if you want a more prompt response.

Some wireless carriers offer parents GPS location tracking services for their children’s phones. Now, smartphones contain a growing array of Apps that can be used by parents to quickly locate their children.

A really interesting and easy App that parents can use is called Glympse (available on iPhone, Android and Windows 7). Glympse is an App that allows t(w)eens to quickly send to their parents a glympse of where they are on a map. Unlike other location tracking tools, Glympse allows users to send a short duration peak at where they are. After the specified period of time is over the other person can no longer view the location of the user — it simply times out. We think this is a very effective privacy feature. Check out the “What is Glympse” page for a helpful video.

Of course there are some caveats. Keep in mind that parents should use tools like Glympse responsibly and realize that they are not foolproof. Parents should explain to their children why they want them to check in with their location (who knows, kids may rather send a Glympse than a text message or, heaven forbid, actually talk on the phone). Further, never ask your teen to initiate a Glympse or text while they are driving a car. And lastly, use this conversation as an opportunity to talk to your children about your concerns with their sharing their location information with people they don’t know or don’t trust. We are generally concerned with the amount of uninformed location sharing that is being done on social networking sites and mobile phones.

Good luck.

Are Teens Broadcasting Their Mobile Location on Facebook?

Friday, October 8th, 2010

Are Teens Broadcasting Their Mobile Location on Facebook? Well, yes. Should parents be overly concerned? Not that much more concerned than having their teens use Facebook at all. Let’s back up. Over a month ago Facebook launched “Places,” a service where people can use their GPS mobile phones to “check in” to locations such as restaurants, concert halls, and schools. Once checked in, Facebook notifies other Facebook users that John Doe just checked in to “Potbelly Sandwich.”

Obviously, those of us in the online safety community are deeply, deeply concerned about nefarious use of a child’s physical location. Frankly, the thought is terrifying. Thus parents and social networking companies need to take the distribution of kids’ mobile location very seriously.

Now, for teen users (those under 18 yeas old) Facebook only allows their “Friends” to see the places they have checked into. Even if the teen foolishly changes their privacy settings to allow “Everyone” to see their information, Facebook automatically prohibits anyone but the teen’s friend from seeing their mobile location in the physical world. This is a positive privacy and safety measure by Facebook. However, this auto feature does not exist for those over the age of 17 who set their profile to “Everyone”

Of course, the teen’s safety and privacy really hinges on whether they trust those in her “Friends” list. As a general rule, parents should talk to teens about limiting their Facebook “Friends” list to only those they know and trust. If they don’t, none of their information is safe — especially their physical location.

More about Places can be found on ConnectSafely.org and on Facebook itself.

Keeping Your Web-based Email Safe and Secure

Friday, October 1st, 2010

Many of us use Web-based email services like Hotmail, Gmail and Yahoo for personal communications. Many of my most personal and secret conversations are stored in my Web email account. It’s horrifying to think that my email life is a password away from anyone anywhere to access. Most importantly, use passwords that are hard to guess but easy to remember! That said, recently we have seem some pretty clever practices by Web mail companies to make those communications more private and more secure.

Now Hotmail allows users of their Web mail to provide a mobile phone number so that Hotmail can text a password reset code in case you forgot. This is probably more secure than having secret security questions that can be guessed by others. Hotmail also allows users to register “trusted” computers that are recognized by the email service. See this great CNet blog on the subject.

Recently Google’s Gmail has implement a similar mobile phone text reset mechanism. And it also provides a handy tool to find out whether anyone other than you has accessed your Gmail account.The “Last account activity” shows you what what type of device accessed your Gmail (e.g. Browser, Mobile), the IP addresses of the device and when it was accessed. For instance, if the “Last account activity” report says your Gmail was accessed by a mobile device yesterday and you don’t access Gmail on mobile, you may have a problem.  Gmail also alerts you to suspicious behavior on your account. Here is a more thorough blog post on the subject.

All I can say is, Way to go Hotmail and Gmail.

Comcast Battles Malware Bots

Friday, October 1st, 2010

Malware bots are the biggest computer cyber security threat to Internet users. To kick off Cyber Security Month Comcast has launched for its high speed broadband users Constant Guard to help clean up the bots. The New York Times blog has a good description of the service. Bots are becoming increasingly malicious and many traditional anti virus tools have trouble identifying them. Congratulations to Comcast for using its resources to help its customers stay free of infections.

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