Nov 18, 2010

Please, Just Tell Me What To Do!

The once colorful leaves have fallen off the trees; many have even blown away in the wind.  The Family Online Safety Institute’s annual conference that drew more than 450 participants from over 15 countries is a now a series of photographs and video clips lining our memories’ walls.

During the conference, I had the honor of sitting on a panel with leaders of Internet safety task forces from the past 15 years.  We all sat on the front stage holding our task force reports that together contained thousands of pages of information.  As I sat there, I once again realized the sheer volume of insight and knowledge that was in them and I thought of the circle we live in.  Everywhere we experts go, our knowledge goes there with us, gets passed around amongst us, and then we go home better informed, more educated, and more capable than ever before.

I also realized the sheer lack of information that was in the minds of many in our society who are struggling to embrace online safety, security, and privacy, and who are daily giving all of us online safety experts a simple call to action:

“Please, just tell me what to do!”

Now is the time to answer this cry for help that is getting louder with every news story, every tragic event, and every government investigation.

So let’s make it our collective call to action to start telling folks out there what to do.  We can all start by creating a few actions items either from these task force reports or from what we already know.

Here are just a few to get us started:

1. Set aside 30 minutes with your teen to have them show you how to create a Facebook page and then walk through each of the privacy settings with them (yes, each and every one of the settings).  You will both learn what they are, how to use them, and why they matter.

2. Put a question on the top of your teen’s computer screen that gently reminds them of the long term, far reaching, and considerable impact that hitting the ‘send’ or ‘enter’ button on their computer can have: “Would you want to be treated this way?”

3. Put a question at the bottom of your teen’s computer screen that gently reminds them of the permanent nature of information shared online: “Would you want to see this on the front page of the New York Times?”  Once information you choose to post is out there, anyone including college admissions officers and future employers can see it.

4. When your friends come over for dinner, ask them what they are doing about online safety, security, and privacy.  So many of us learn from our friends in every aspect of our lives.  This is no different.

Online safety is full of simple tasks we can all do.  Let’s join together to tell people what they are.

Nov 1, 2010

This Is Our Call to Action

Every year around this time as the last leaves of the autumn season begin to fall off the nearly barren trees and as my children devour their last pieces of Halloween candy, my attention in my professional life naturally shifts to focus on the Family Online Safety Institute’s (FOSI) annual conference. FOSI’s annual conference is traditionally held in Washington, D.C. toward the end of the year to bring together leaders from industry, non-profit, policy, research, and government organizations to discuss the collective challenges we face in trying to keep children and teens safe online.

This year as I was getting ready to speak at this event that is being held November 9th and 10th as the chill is setting upon the historic monuments of our nation’s capital, I noticed that the theme of the conference is one that has been a part of my professional platform throughout my career: “Internet Freedom, Safety & Citizenship. A Global Call to Action.” It is also very close to what I discussed recently at the United Nation’s Cyber Hate Summit where I gave opening remarks on the topic of “Unlearning Intolerance in a Cyber Connected World”.

During my remarks, I focused on the fact that unlearning intolerance starts in the home and that parents must teach their kids tolerance in the online world in much the same way they do so in the physical world. I asked the group of Excellencies to take a step back for a moment and think of what we have done for many years before the word ‘cyber’ became an indelible part of our vocabulary and frankly before this word scared parents into paralysis when teaching their kids how to be free, safe and responsible online citizens. I explained how we have devoted a great deal of time and energy throughout history in teaching our children how to be tolerant and how not to learn intolerance. We have done it in our homes, in our schools, and in various other places in our societies across the globe. And, still we see headlines every week about bad things are happening to kids online as a result of intolerant actions online.

While parents remain paralyzed, for many of us, it is no mystery that to be good “cyber parents” we need tools to be able to protect our kids online and not be afraid to use them. In many ways the title of this year’s conference, “Internet Freedom, Safety & Citizenship. A Global Call to Action,” holds the answer to this paralysis. As the guiding lights in the home, parents can teach their kids that they have the freedom to make choices online just as they do in the physical world,everything from the right to say yes and the power to say no. Parents have the capability to access tools and resources to help them engage in a dialogue with their kids about safe online practices and the detrimental consequences of intolerant or risky online behavior. And, lastly parents have the right and ability to enforce an online code of conduct tailored to the values that are present in their homes to help their kids become respectful online citizens.

Next week as many of us gather in a city that has been the guardian of our country in the physical world and talk about our global call to action, we should think of how we can give parents the power to let the call to action start in their homes across the world.

This is our call to action.

May 5, 2010

Launching SSP Blue

I’ve spent the past four years implementing safety, security, and privacy features and programs at MySpace – 150 of them total – many of which other social media sites have started to adopt. I also had the challenge, and pleasure, of closing an agreement with 49 Attorneys General to set basic safety standards for all social networking sites.

More and more, leaders from other online companies and government institutions have called me up to ask my thoughts on handling particular challenges that threaten their users and citizens. The leadership at News Corp, MySpace, and Fox Interactive Media has given me the freedom to pursue these instances, taking the view that a strong, protected, online community is the best thing for all of us.

As MySpace and its sister companies at News Corp have gotten safer and more secure, and as inquiries from other companies have increased, it now makes sense for me to transition to a broader advisory role, while keeping a strong hand in what I’ve started and built at News Corp.

That’s why I’m excited to announce SSP Blue, a new company I’ve founded that will allow me to work with clients large and small and help them protect their online users. I’m particularly excited about this new role as it will give me the chance to flex different aspects of my experience as a Los Angeles County prosecutor, a federal prosecutor, vice president of worldwide Internet enforcement at the MPAA, director of child safe computing at Microsoft, and head of online safety, security, and privacy at News Corp and MySpace. And I’m thrilled to be working with some cutting edge companies out of the gate including GOGII, Tagged, SafetyWeb, and Weplay.

I’ll also continue to work with my colleagues at News Corp under the title Security Advisor. News Corp continues to live out a vision for being an online innovator, in terms of both user offerings and product safety, and has many exciting things on the horizon that I’m happy to continue supporting.

Another great aspect of my new role is that I’ll have the chance to blog more, right here, discussing the issues I’m seeing everyday and how best to approach them. I hope in a small way that sharing these insights with you can help protect more people, especially children and teens online.

I’ll also be publicly speaking more to media and to groups facing and tackling safety challenges, so check out my Speakers Bureau page to keep up with my travels.

It’s an exciting time to grow online protection standards and create new solutions as the capacity of the inter-connected space, and the services offered through it, continues to expand exponentially. SSP Blue is positioned to help companies embrace it with a Blueprint for the Safety, Security, and Privacy of their users.

-Hemu