Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What if somebody sends "illegal" pics with a stolen cell phone -- and it's yours?

Yesterday, there was a little incident that reminded me of just how precarious all these legal risks could be. Some time back, my cell phone clip broke, and yesterday I went out on some errands and just put the cell phone on the front seat of the car. I forgot to lock the car (it’s old). I came back, and yes, the cell phone was still on the seat, with a missed call. But I thought, what if someone had stolen it and not simply ran up charges, but also engaged in underage “sexting”. It could have been traceable to my phone. Could I have been prosecuted? I wonder.

A good reason never to leave a cell phone lying around these days.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Norton offers "Online Family" Internet safety package for parents

Parents now have another tool for monitoring their kids’ online activity, called “OnlineFamily.Norton”. ABC Good Morning America presented the product on Monday, April 27. The product allows parents to monitor what their kids do online, not only what websites they visited (maybe even this one), but also what ads were served to them (which could become an increasingly sensitive issue). It allows parents to check their Myspace or Facebook profiles and activity, IM’s, tweats, and similar activity. Most of all, it allows parents to set time limits on computer use for each child. Norton offers a video (in Cinemascope, no less) where a kid has to call his father when he hasn’t finished his math homework in the allowed ten hours per week. The time limit could apply to schoolwork as well as recreation.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Dr. Phil, Lisa Bloom urge moderation in dealing with sexting problem.

Lisa Bloom has an interesting column on "Betty Confidential", “Sexting: Should teens be prosecuted” here. Although she agrees that it is demeaning and should have consequences of an ordinary disciplinary effort in schools and with parents, it should not result in prosecution, which is “police powers” overreaction to say the least. Doing so will dilute scare police resources in going after real, adult abusers. And a long-term label is a punishment that goes way beyond the “crime” committed by a teen with a biologically immature brain in terms of ability to “see around corners” and calculate long term consequences of simple, impulsive actions enabled by technology. She also points out a dangerous trend: “power hungry” local prosecutors. Remember Nifong?

Dr. Phil covered the problem on his April 16 show, link here. He discussed the case of Brittany, who sent pictures of herself and nearly committed suicide later. He then covered the case of Brian, 14, whose activist father was able to protect him from prosecution for forwarding an image.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

ABC GMA holds towm hall on teen sexting issue

ABC News and Good Morning America have an article announcing a “town hall” about “The Truth About Teens Sexting: 'GMA' Holds a Town Hall Meeting to Discuss the Growing Teen Trend”, story by Cole Kasdin and Imayan Ibanga, link here. GMA has a video today about “Logan” who served only a few days in jail but was forced to register as a s.o. and could not go to college because he forwarded an image of a girl in “anger.”

The video seemed itself to come from a townhall style meeting, where parents say they are caught in the middle of something where technology has given kids the ability to do things that kids and parents can’t possibly anticipate the legal consequences of.

On April 16, ABC GMA followed up with an interview with Perry Aftab, who suggested that parents install Google Desktop on their kids' computers to monitor, and that they look up their kids' names and cell phone numbers in search engines.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Columnist pans prosecutions of teens for cell phone images

On April Fools Day, 2009, Ruth Marcus has a column on p A21 of the Washington Post, “Keeping kids from one byte too many,” link here. Marcus makes light of the prosecutions in a number of states for teenage cell phone “sexting” and now notes that a federal judge has blocked a teen “topless” cell phone incident in Pennsylvania that could have marked three girls, presumably for life. (I’m not sure which incident). However, she writes, a Florida state appeals court has upheld c.p. charges against a 16 year old girl and her 17 year old boyfriend, maintaining the state interest in “protecting minors.” I fail to see how this is protecting minors.

In fact, it seems that on a state level there are a lot of prosecutors who see political opportunism in going down paths that seem intellectually flaws. On my Internet safety blog, I’ve already covered the problem of prosecutions for c.p. placed on unprotected work computers by viruses, when the prosecutors failed to look at whether the employers (in one case, a school district) had even bothered to properly protect its work computers. That’s something to bear in mind especially today, as supposedly Conflicker activates.

Marcus also goes on to discuss the idea of friending one’s own kids on Facebook or Myspace. Does that “protect” them?

ABC Nightline has a video (2009/04/01) on the sexting issue here. A Pennsylvania DA agreed to drop charges if the kids would go to a five-week class on the dangers of sexting, but apparently the federal judge ruled that they could not be required to go.

The ACLU maintains that child pornography laws are designed to protect minors from other adults, but not to protect minors directly from their own actions. A girl's mother said that her daughter had done nothing wrong and should not have to go to the class, and a federal judge agreed.