Category Archives: sexual predators

Internet Safety Technical Task Force Kicks Off

We had the kick-off meeting for the Internet Safety Technical Task Force this week.  As I expected, there are a lot of differing opinions of the committee members.  It should be an interesting year to watch how things progress. 

I believe the key to progress is being able to listen and keeping an open mind.  Which is just what I intend to do.


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Filed under Age Verification, Internet Safety, MySpace, protecting kids online, Richard Blumenthal, sexual predators, social networking

MySpace Sees the Identity and Age Verification Light…

Today’s press release out of North Carolina Attorney General’s Office Roy Cooper is a big deal. Here’s the first paragraph:

In a victory for social networking safety, Attorney General Roy Cooper and 49 other attorneys general today announced that MySpace has agreed to significant steps to better protect children on its web site, including creating a task force to explore and develop age and identity verification technology.

It’s been a long 2 years in this education process and the fruits of our labors are finally coming to fruition. Given MySpace’s leadership position and popularity, gaining recognition and cooperation from them will only serve to help advance identity and age verification technologies growth in the market. Here are some words that are music to my ears:

MySpace acknowledged in the agreement the important role of age and identity verification technology in social networking safety and agreed to find and develop on-line identity authentication tools.

Obviously there is still a lot of work to do but I’m glad to see that we are all going to roll up our sleeves together and do what is best for our kids – find a way to help keep them safe online.

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Filed under Age Verification, child safety, Identity verification, Internet Safety, MySpace, protecting kids online, Richard Blumenthal, sexual predators, social networking

MySpace Irony

I’m sure by now you’ve seen the news that the co-founder of MySpace has been caught faking his age on his MySpace profile. Quite ironic given the age verification issues social networks are facing these days. But now seems as good a time as any to say that age and identity verification doesn’t mean you can’t have an online persona that is or isn’t based on your true age.

While I would recommend not giving away any personally identifying information on your profile for the sake of safety (including your birthday), the point of having an age and identity verification solution within a social network is to function behind the scenes to verify someone is an adult and help us monitor what is appropriate for our kids.

Last week IDology representatives attended a forum on Internet Safety with Georgia’s Governor Sonny Perdue. This was part of the Governor’s Child Safety Internet initiative (a.k.a. CSI Georgia) and was well attended by teachers, law enforcement, child advocates, parents, and business leaders. Clearly as a community we are all concerned with keeping kids safe on the Internet.

There are two components to CSI Georgia which are prevention and enforcement. Prevention includes strong education and awareness initiatives towards caregivers, teachers and kids about the dangers of the Internet as well as how to stay safe. What I think is often overlooked in these discussions but definitely a strong component of any prevention initiative is the efforts ecommerce companies need to take to protect kids online. On the forum panel was Michael McKeehan, the Executive Director of Internet & Technology Policy from Verizon, which incidentally was the major sponsor of the event and is very committed to CSI Georgia as evident in their $25K grant announced during the event. This effort (and participation) by Verizon shows that the telecommunications industry is one of the leaders in taking proactive steps to protect kids not only in their education efforts but also their business practices as recommended through the CTIA guidelines regarding content access by minors. Boy, how I’m ready for the major social networks to follow the telecommunications industry example and adopt guidelines themselves.

In my personal efforts to further protect kids online through both promoting age verification and providing education, here are some programs you need to check out:

  • Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) – this organization offers a “The Internet and Your Child” free safety class for parents and anyone else who supervises children’s online activities. Topics include Windows basics, parental controls, popular Web sites for social networking, hacking, and protecting your privacy from identity thieves. Also instructors go online and pose as children to show participants the types of dangers children may be exposed to online.
  • Project Safe Childhood – the US Department of Justice launched Project Safe Childhood which includes a new outreach program called “eSafe Georgia.” eSafe Georgia is a pilot program which involves training high school students to be experts in internet safety, technology and public speaking who will then film presentations about these topics to be presented in middle school assemblies, classes and school newscasts this year. Additionally eSafe Georgia teams will travel to middle school classes to provide instructions about playing “Missing” an interactive internet safety game produced by WebWise Kids.
  • The Family Online Safety Institute – an international, non-profit organization that facilitates the meeting of thought leaders in technology and policy in order to find innovative solutions for family online safety. Here you can get access to The ParentalControl Bar which is a free public service that helps concerned parents prevent their children from accessing adult-oriented Web sites as well as some great materials to help you start discussing these issues with kids.

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Filed under Age Verification, Internet Safety, Internet Security, MySpace, protecting kids online, sexual predators, social networking

Blumenthal Shows a Different Facebook

Another social networking site is starting to take some heat from law enforcement in its ability to keep sexual predators off its site. The New York Times reports that Facebook, which has positioned itself as the safe social-networking alternative because it takes greater lengths than other social networks to keep adults and under-age users apart, is now under scrutiny from Connecticut’s Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. Blumenthal’s interest comes from a few recent cases involving convicted sex offenders joining the site and from investigators finding inappropriate images and content. He also has a personal interest because his children use Facebook.

The article says Chris Kelly, the chief privacy officer at Facebook is:

“not familar with the Connecticut investigation but that the company has received ‘a number’ of such reports and usually takes down such profiles within 72 hours.”

Some of you might remember Kelly who appeared on a panel discussion at the RSA security conference last February titled Pandora’s Box – Youth and Internet Security in the Information Age. I highly recommend watching this panel discussion if you haven’t already.

 

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Filed under Age Verification, Chris Kelly, Facebook, Internet Safety, MySpace, protecting kids online, Richard Blumenthal, sexual predators, social networking

Thank-you Chris Hansen

Atlanta’s Star94 held an interview with NBC Dateline’s Chris Hansen yesterday morning which was really interesting. Last night another episode in his series To Catch a Predator aired where the focus was on predators in New Jersey.

During the interview Hansen gave some statistics from the show. Since the series began 3 years ago, 286 predators have surfaced, 256 have been arrested and 117 have been convicted or pled guilty.

His efforts have resulted in a 117 predators that have been caught and punished. There was even one guy who showed up twice! The first time the predator appeared in Riverside County, CA and then 8 months later he was caught again in Longbeach.

Because of his experience from the show, Hansen authored a book titled To Catch a Predator: Protecting Your Kids from Online Enemies Already in Your Home. While talking about the book he was asked about MySpace and the recent news that the social network found and deleted 29,000 predator profiles (more than 4 times the initial 7000 MySpace claimed in May). His response in summary was: good people meet good people on MySpace everyday. And MySpace does monitor and kick people off its site all the time for inappropriate behavior. But with millions and millions of profiles to monitor and watch it is impossible to really know who you are dealing with and who is up to what.

I think Hansen’s approach to the subject of online predators has really helped raise awareness to the dangers of the Internet for kids and shed a lot of light on predator behavior. And if you didn’t already know, Hansen recently tackled another pressing issue for all of us – identity theft. If you missed his series To Catch an ID Thief a few months ago, you can watch the segments here on YouTube. It’s a cool series because he ends up flying all over the world tracking down an international fraud ring.

And speaking of fraud rings… did you see the news about the 17 people indicted last week in a local fraud ring in Kansas City? They stole the personal information of 300 people and filed fraudulent tax returns for $13 million in refunds. If you live in Kansas City, check out the offer from ID Watchdog. They are going to help Kansas City citizens find out if they were a victim for free. Now are you starting to see how identity theft can show up in places outside of your credit report?

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Filed under Chris Hansen, fraud, ID Watchdog, identity theft, Internet Safety, MySpace, protecting kids online, sexual predators, social networking, stolen identity, To Catch a Predator, To Catch an ID Thief