On Thursday the 20th October 2011 I had a security and privacy conversation with Ike Paahla and SABC’s SAFM listeners at 19:30 on “How safe are we on social networks”. On reflecting on the discussion here are some of the few things to share, starting with this “Gotta Share! The Musical” video.
Firstly let me refer to recent two cases in South Africa which earned themselves titles like “MXit child porn ‘horrific’” and “ “Facebook rapist” Thabo Bester was sentenced to 50 years imprisonment on Friday for raping and robbing two women”. In this last unfortunate event, the dubbed “Facebook rapist” Bester, used social media to lure women to fictitious international modelling scouts and then met them in person, raping and robbing them at knife-point. A clear case of a dangerous criminal who abused a platform provided to share positively and also took advantage of the socio-economic conditions of joblessness and poverty. What could have being done in this instance for in case this was an authentic marketing and advertising agencies out there using the internet and the social platform? If there is anything positive to talk about this – the justice system acted swiftly and the message is clearly out there. We as users need also to be “streetwise” on how to use technologies to our advantage as we pursue our careers and positive lives. Platforms like Windows Live Essentials 2011 and Skype (which has being integrated with Facebook) provides family safety and free real-time online video chat facilities. At the least, you can verify through IM and video before you decide to make physical contact with a person. One of the first friends you must have is Facebook Safety and let’s all read with enthusiasm the posting from this dear friend. An advantage of using the cloud is that security implementation and updates of the application/platform your are using can be readily provisioned by the provider.
In August 2011, we also saw the justice system acting swiftly to apprehend the child pornography pictures distributed through a social network facility popular amongst kids in South Africa. The company worked closely with police to apprehend those who abused its platform and offered officers social media training. MXit also cooperated with the police’s cyber-crimes unit with the following security measures put in place to assist users (the list is not comprehensive):
» Chatrooms were moderated for up to 14 hours a day – especially in teen zones;
» A chatroom-blocking feature was available for parents with children of a sensitive age;
» In compliance with the Child Protection Act, MXit did not allow adults to engage with children or teens. All chatrooms were split into the age groups to ensure interaction was age appropriate; and
» The private chatroom feature was disabled to users aged between 13 and 17 years old.
This two cases highlight the fact that public sector, private sector and the citizens need to work closely supported by legislation and the implementation thereof, highly trained personnel within the overall justice system and very alerted, security and privacy aware civil society. We can see a clear case for facial recognition technologies when used in conjunction with justice systems around known offenders. This should be done in consideration of a good balance between security and privacy, as discussed in this article “Facial recognition security, privacy issues grab FTC attention”. Resources like Microsoft Safety and Security Centre will also help you with issues around computer security, digital privacy and security online. In addition there are two useful guides (Security in a Box and Protecting Your Security Online) with tips and recommendations useful for anyone working for a non-profit who needs to be mindful about privacy. Both guides are written for citizens in the Middle East and North Africa who want to use technology safely to communicate, organize, and share data.
I’ll leave with with a few questions around Identity and Privacy:
- Why are people using photos of other people rather than theirs, more in particular – photos of liberation struggle icons (as is the case in South Africa) on their Facebook, Twitter and other social networks accounts?
- If one considers that we had telephone directories before with our phone numbers and street address – technologies have added more features like photos, date of births, relatives, etc. in an integrated way. How many of us are willing to give out this as a package at a click of a mouse or keyboard key?