Thoughts on Safety and Children in a World of Lifestreaming

A while back I read a post titled Does Lifestraming Connect Too Many Dots? in which author Jim Storer poses concerns about providing location info using services like Brightkite and Twitter and concerns of having your house robbed as criminals become aware of these services. Now while I think we should always take steps to be careful and protect our homes, I don’t think we’re going to see a large upswing in robberies based on thieves utilizing location awareness.

But beyond that, Jim’s post triggered some other good comments and discussion around Lifestreaming as well as references to other posts. So while I’m not that concerned about robbery, a nerve was struck when a commenter brought up how sharing detailed data about our children could provide information for predators. Now that is something much more of concern than having valuables stolen.

I love sharing  photos, videos, and other interesting details about my children throughout my Lifestream. This is now a pretty standard part of online life for many parents and families. The thought that this puts them at a higher risk of danger sounds scary but I don’t think warrants much in the way of additional precautions that go beyond all the methods I already have in place for them.

Most of the issues we’ve heard with regards to children becoming victims revolves around their personal activity on social networking sites and tools. I think taking the same precautions and using most methods that were in place prior to the advent of the web are still very important when it comes to protecting our children.

Anyways, I know this post went off on a bit of a tangent that may not be relevant or of interest to many readers but I do find this issue important.

Here is some good information and tips on protecting children from predators and here is a video that also provides some good tips.

What are your thoughts on this difficult subject?

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Generally, the concept of lifestreaming only applies to my online life. My personal life is typically shared through private channels.

  2. I have also thought about this issue. As these technologies become mainstream, then it become a viable way to discover new victims. Three features that combat this problem are 1) fuzziness of data in lifestreams, 2) private (or trusted network) Lifestreams, and 3) delayed posting

    Geo-location is being built into the next version of the web so that HTML can prompt you for your lat/long. The good implementations let you edit this location or generalize it before submitting. Example: I am within 2 miles of this street corner…

    Some lifestreams fuzz your timestamp – Posted around 4 hours ago… or leaving time off all together.

    I've thought about not posting my L.A. trip content until I return home, which would be useful if it were automated, but isn't practical to do manually (every tweet, flickr, etc that revels your out of town, gets queued up).

    In reality, for today, it's probably still cheaper to identify victims the old fashion way.

    For system designers, it's really hard to know which data or metadata is a risk, beyond the obvious cases. The nice thing about fuzziness is the humans can fill in the dots, but it's harder to data-mine. The downside is (legit) mash-ups and syncing become impossible or more buggy.

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