Archive for the ‘Privacy’ Category

Help From Google: How Families Can Use Google More Safely

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

Google Consolidates Family Safety Tips and Tools In The New Family Safety Center

Today Google launched its new Family Safety Center — a one stop shop for great Google tips and tools for staying safe online. It’s featured at The Family Safety Center interface is typical of Google’s other products and services — it’s clean and easy-to-navigate. The Center presents family safety resources for using the Google ecosystem of products and services such as Safe Searching (including Mobile) and YouTube family safety. It also provides great advice on how you can help everyone’s safety online by reporting abuse.

If your family uses lots of Google services like search, YouTube and Picassa, you can find instructions and videos on how to use these products more safely. The safe search information shows you how to prevent sexually explicit search results — and make that setting permanent. You can also learn how to make YouTube searches safer for kids.

See More at Google’s Blog post

Take control of your data with iAds opt out

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

One of the biggest new features of Apple’s new operating system, iOS 4, is the iAds mobile advertising system. iAds will show you full-screen ads within apps on your iPhone or iPod touch. Like most other advertising these days, iAds are also targeted based on data collected about you from your phone usage – so, for example, if you’re searching for nearby pizza joints, you’ll probably see pizza-related ads. But what if you don’t want iAds to be collecting your personal information to tailor the ads you see?

Fortunately, Apple has provided a quick way to opt out of “interest-based” advertising if you’d prefer not to share your data with iAds. You will still see ads on your device, but they won’t be targeted based on personal information (although they still might be related to the content of the application you’re running). Just point your iOS4 device’s web browser to You should see a message telling you that the opt-out was successful.  If you have more than one device running iOS 4, you must opt-out individually for each device.

It’s worth noting that this opt out does not affect the collection of location-based data – though Apple assures us that location information is collected anonymously and safely.

Click here for more details from Apple.

Is Your Android Safe and Secure?

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Relative to the iPhone the Android app phone is spanking new. The 20,000 or so apps for Android developed so far for Android phones are dwarfed by the number of iPhone apps — 120,000 and counting. In addition to all the fun and clever apps written for the iPhone, there are many security and safety apps written for the platform as well. Whether you want to block porn for your 12 year old or whether you want to remotely wipe clean your data from a lost iPhone, well, there’s an iPhone app for that. Now that more and more Android devices are being sold more and more developers are writing for the platform. That means that you will start seeing similar security and safety apps for the Android. The New York Times’ Gadgetwise (no relation to GetNetWise) blogged today about a new security app for the Android in a piece titled “App of the Week: Lock Up Your Android.” Gadgetwise features an app from WaveSecure, “a free app for Android lets you use any computer to lock down your lost phone, erase the disc, locate it and restore much of the phone’s contents if it is recovered.”

No doubt with more time on the market we will see even more great safety and security apps written for Android. Now if I could just get a porn blocker for my Droid.

New Data on Sexting from Pew Internet

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Amanda Lenhart from Pew Internet & American Life Project just published a new report on teen sexting, which the report describes as sending “sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude images or videos of themselves to someone else via text messaging.” Ms. Lenhart is one of the nation’s leading researchers on youth online behavior. The report differs in some ways from last month’s MTV/Associate Press “Thin Line” study that included research on sexting. Certainly Pew’s research is more rigorous and nuanced. While the MTV study stated that 10 percent of teens had “shared a naked picture of themselves” Pew researches found that actually half that — only four percent — had shared nude photos of themselves.

Previous studies often get misquoted to give the impression that upwards of 25 percent to 30 percent of teens have sent naked pictures of themselves. The new Pew data very specifically states that the number is much, much lower. Of course the cascading effect — meaning the broader distribution of the naked image — can blossom to a much higher percentage.

Another interesting aspect of the Pew study is their acknowledgment that teens sometimes view sexting as a form of “relationship currency.” What is not commonly talked about outside of academic circles is the teen dynamics with relation to sexting are very complex. We as parents have a pretty black and white view of sexting (i.e. DON’T DO IT!). Yet the social pressures and coping mechanisms that result in sexting are not very well understood — certainly not by us as parents. We at GetNetWise applaud Ms. Lenhart for addressing this controversial aspect of the issue.

Of course, we encourage you to read our earlier blog post called “Practical Advice and Dialogue on Sexting” for help.

Remember we told you to set Facebook privacy settings?

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

Last year we urged parents to help their kids set their privacy settings in whatever social networking service they used (See the How-To Video Tutorials here). We urged kids to turn the privacy settings to “Friends Only.” Well, things change really quickly on the Internet and Facebook has changed how users can access their privacy settings and even the settings themselves. So, still take our advice about changing your kids’ settings to “friends only” but note that the path to making privacy changes has changed. To get to your Facebook privacy settings simply select in the top right hand corner next to your profile name “Settings” and pull down the menu and select “Privacy Settings.” In our dated How To Video Tutorial “Privacy” was right up at the top, now you just need to take that extra step and select “Settings.” See photo here.

But it really is worth noting that Facebook has expanded the category of what is known as “Personally Available Information.” This is information that users cannot restrict from others. It used to be that in order to find each other on a “social network” you could see each other’s name, networks and fan listings. Now Facebook has expanded that list to include things like a user’s city, gender, photograph, the profile pages you are a fan of, and friends list. So, be aware that you really can’t control whether others see that information about you or your children.

What to do? We recommend taking a different look at what info your teen is sharing by taking a step back. First, log out of Facebook and search for your teen’s name on Facebook through Facebook search and other Web search engines. Take a look and see what you find.  Then log in to Facebook as a non-friend of your teen and search for her name and see what information about her you can find. Make notes on what you can see and what you can’t. Third, and most important, talk with your teen about what you have found. Actually, we recommend performing the above search process together.

If changes are needed go into the “Privacy Settings” and make changes. If you and your teen don’t like how much information about her and her friends must be shared as “Personally Available Information,” write to Facebook.

GetNetWise Tips: If it sounds too good to be true…

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

As we go online this holiday season to check off those gift lists, it’s extra important to keep in mind these tips for avoiding spam scams and maintaining your privacy as you shop.

  • If it sounds too good to be true, – it probably is. Fraudsters, scammers, and crooks take advantage of people via unwanted e-mail. The Federal Trade Commission has lots of information about ways to reduce the amount of spam you receive and how to report fraud.
  • Check the privacy policy when you submit your address to a Web site – Always be familiar with a Web site’s privacy policy before submitting any information. Learn more about how to read a privacy policy.
  • Protect your privacy while shopping online – GetNetWise offers these helpful tips for:

Avoid Fraud by Playing Games

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

Are your online accounts and information safe? You should first ask yourself whether you know how to avoid getting “phished.” Phishing is when cyber crooks trick you into giving them your online username and passwords by masquerading as your online bank, email provider, social network etc.

Phishers send you an electronic communication, usually an email, that you would swear is from your bank, mortgage company or webmail provider. But it’s not. The message tells you that there is great urgency to log in to your account to avoid some problem such as your service being shut down or your bank account being closed. The email links you to a Web page that, again, you would swear belongs to your bank etc. But it doesn’t. It’s fake. When you type in your username and password you have actually just given it to the phishers who are using the fake site. You’ve been phished.

The best way to avoid being phished is to learn the signs of a phishing scam. There are a lot to look for and we recommend playing games to learn how. Both the Federal Trade Commission’s and our friends at Carnegie Mellon University have created games to help users learn how not to be phished. Take a moment and play the below games. Who knows, it may save your sensitive personal information.

For more GetNetWise resources on recognizing secure Web sites watch the following GNW How-To Video Tutorials:

Practical Advice and Dialogue on Sexting

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

As a parent or guardian of a teen or tween today, you’ve probably heard ad nauseum about “sexting” and the dangers associated with this risky behavior. What you don’t hear much is practical advice for preventing it and how to talk to your kids about it. Resident experts on youth online safety issues have come to your rescue at with these insightful points on both what sexting is and how to talk about it with your children.

A printable PDF version of the webpage is available along with some thoughtful dialogue on the issue from online safety experts, Anne Collier – “Sexting overblown? – yes and *no*” and Larry Magid – “Teen sexting – troubling but don’t overreact“.

Going green for Spring – time to clean out the home office.

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Consumer electronics retailer Best Buy announced last week that they are opening their free electronics recycling initiative to all of their nationwide stores. This was cause for joy in my household, where there are currently two out-of-date laptops, one dilapidated desktop and no fewer than four old cellphones lounging about taking up precious space. Did I mention this is a free service? There are a few notable exceptions to what they will accept (nothing with freon) and there is a $10 fee for monitors, TV’s and CRT’s. But they are offsetting that fee with $10 gift cards in exchange. Not too shabby!

Spring cleaning is almost upon us, so this is a great time to take an inventory of those old CE products you have that need to be recycled. Also, take a look into other options for recycling and additional resources for where you can drop off at This site also offers important advice on how to protect your privacy by deleting information off of your old hard drives and cellphones.

Here are a few other notable green campaigns to check out:

Verizon Wireless’ HopeLine Program (recycle cellphones and accessories for victims of domestic violence)

AT&T’s Cell Phones for Soldiers (turn your old cellphone into a prepaid phone for our troops overseas)

Apple & the Environment (iPod and cellphone recycling)

Firefox and Other Browsers’ Cookie Privacy Settings for 3rd Party Cookies

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

Cookies are small coded files that Web sites write onto your hard drive to keep track of the pages you’ve visited. They can only be read by the site that sent them to you, and they cannot search anything else on your computer. They also don’t give away your name or other personally identifiable information (PII). So, why are some people worried about cookies? Where you search and what you enter online can be very personal, sensitive information. If you’ve ever filled out a form or entered your name or password at the site, your personal information can be linked to your browsing habits there. So you’ll want to read the privacy policy of the Web site you’re visiting to see how cookies are handled.

At the same time, cookies can be useful tools. The “Google Privacy: A Look at Cookies” YouTube video provides some interesting information about how cookies can be useful. The Berkman Center at Harvard asked users to create their own YouTube videos to describe how cookies work and received some fairly decent descriptions. Many of the videos noted that much of the free content on the Internet is supported by cookie-enabled advertising.

It is important to note that not all cookies are the same. Some people have concerns about the different types of cookies that are out there. Let’s say that I’m browsing the homepage, and the allows the fictional Web site to place cookies on the browsers of visitors to This is type of cookie is a third party cookie. It is a cookie that does not originate from the webpage currently being browsed. Third party cookies are also used to facilitate the partnerships among websites. This can help websites to tailor content to the individual.

If you’d rather not have third parties tracking the Web pages you visit, you may want to consider blocking cookies from them. In a number of Web browsers, it is possible to change your privacy settings to block third-party cookies from being placed on your computer. The just-released Mozilla Firefox 3 browser now allows users to block third-party cookies (Note: Internet Explorer and Opera have allowed this for years) and there is a new video tutorial below. Check out the related video tutorials for blocking third-party cookies in IE and Opera if you use those browsers.

Control Third-Party Cookies in Firefox 3

If you would like to learn how to do this on other browsers, please visit the following the Browsing Privacy Section on

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