Newsletter - July 2010


Stop Child Predators
Advisory Board

Mark Lunsford
Chairman

Joanna Acocella
Vice President of Federal Relations at Apollo Group, Inc.

Meryl Chertoff
Legislative relations professional, attorney and community volunteer

Viet Dinh
Georgetown University Professor of Law and former Assistant Attorney General for Legal Policy at U.S. Department of Justice

Brian Jones
Senior Counsel at Dow Lohnes

Roderick R. Paige, Ed.D.
Former U.S. Secretary of Education
(2001-2005)

Executive Team

Cary Katz
Chairman

Stacie Rumenap
President

John Falb
Treasurer & Member of the Board

Amy Thienel
Communications Director

Table of Contents

President's Message
Greetings everyone from Sacramento, California! It's been a busy legislative session for Stop Child Predators out here. Recently, several child safety measures have been introduced. I'm here to support Chelsea's Law, which strengthens penalties for sex offenders, and a bill that requires sex offenders to disclose electronic identifiers (like email addresses) to law enforcement in an effort to block them from reaching out to kids online. I'm also here opposing Senate Bill 1361 which may seem odd as the bill aims to tackle the potential risks that arise when minors expose their home addresses and phone numbers on social networking sites. Unfortunately, the bill fails miserably at reaching its intended goal. Read on to learn about why a flawed bill is not a solution.
> Read More

SCP Attends Summer Meeting of National Association of Attorneys General, Offers "Do Not Track" Proposal to Privacy Working Group
On June 14 and 15, SCP President Stacie Rumenap participated in the National Association of Attorneys General summer meeting in Seattle, Washington. The conference highlighted efforts by state attorneys general to use technology to protect the public, with an emphasis on preventing the online sexual exploitation of children which has reached epic proportions.
> Read More

Chelsea's Law Continues to Gain Support from California Lawmakers
As reported in May's newsletter, Chelsea's Law, California Assembly Bill 1844, continues to make its way through the California legislature, having passed out of the state's Senate Public Safety Committee June 29. The measure, authored by Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher in partnership with the family of Chelsea King, is focused on ensuring the protection of children from violent sexual predators. The bill passed the Committee unanimously.
> Read More

California Senate Bill Misses Its Goal to Promote Internet Safety
Stop Child Predators President Stacie Rumenap testified before the California Assembly's Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism & Internet Media on June 28 in opposition to a bill on social networking privacy. As an advocate for online safety, it may seem odd for SCP to oppose a bill on the topic. But a flawed bill is not a solution, and Senate Bill 1361 fails in its attempt to tackle the potential risks that arise when minors expose their home addresses and phone numbers on social networking sites. Worse, if the bill had been enacted, it very well could have resulted in unintended consequence of placing teens at greater risk by pushing them away from many of the age-specific protections which currently exist on social networking websites, Rumenap testified. Fortunately, the bill was killed.
> Read More



PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE

Greetings everyone from Sacramento, California! It's been a busy legislative session for Stop Child Predators out here. Recently, several child safety measures have been introduced.

I'm here to support Chelsea's Law, which strengthens penalties for sex offenders, and a bill that requires sex offenders to disclose electronic identifiers (like email addresses) to law enforcement in an effort to block them from reaching out to kids online. I'm also here opposing Senate Bill 1361 which may seem odd as the bill aims to tackle the potential risks that arise when minors expose their home addresses and phone numbers on social networking sites.

Unfortunately, the bill fails miserably at reaching its intended goal. Read on to learn about why a flawed bill is not a solution. Also in this issue, we talk about a controversial "Do Not Track" list aimed at protecting consumers' online privacy and safety, and feature our monthly Parents Tech Corner among other articles of interest.

Be sure to check out Stop Child Predators on Facebook and Twitter to find the most up-to-date content, and to check out action alerts for what's going on in your state.

We hope you enjoy reading our newsletter as much as we enjoy sharing the content with you. If you have any questions or comments, do not hesitate to contact me at srumenap@stopchildpredators.org.

Together, we are confident that we will STOP CHILD PREDATORS.

Sincerely,


Stacie Rumenap

SCP Attends Summer Meeting of National Association of Attorneys General, Offers "Do Not Track" Proposal to Privacy Working Group

On June 14 and 15, SCP President Stacie Rumenap participated in the National Association of Attorneys General summer meeting in Seattle, Washington. The conference highlighted efforts by state attorneys general to use technology to protect the public, with an emphasis on preventing the online sexual exploitation of children which has reached epic proportions.

On June 16, Rumenap addressed members of the Privacy Working Group on the feasibility of whether a "Do Not Track" list, similar to the popular "Do Not Call" list, would sufficiently allow consumers to prevent companies from tracking which websites they visit.

The problem, she maintained, is that consumers increasingly rely on the Internet for everyday transactions and services, many of which involve their most sensitive affairs, including health, financial, and other personal matters, and they expect a certain level of privacy and safety to be built in to that experience.

It's not just older consumers who desire such privacy, she told listeners. Contrary to popular claim that young people "are less concerned with maintaining privacy than older people are," an April 2010 UC Berkley study found "that large percentages of young adults (those 18-24 years) are in harmony with older Americans regarding concerns about online privacy, norms, and policy suggestions.

While participation in social networks is high, the findings show that over half the young adults surveyed are more concerned about privacy now than they were five years ago. This finding mirrors the percentage of people their parent's age or older with that worry. The research found that a large majority of young adults:

  • Have refused to give information to a business in cases where they felt it was too personal or not necessary
  • Believe anyone who uploads a photo of them to the Internet should get their permission first, even if taken in public
  • Believe there should be a law that gives people the right to know all the information websites know about them
  • Believe there should be a law that requires websites to delete all stored information about an individual
  • Are just as likely as older users to read privacy policies and delete browser cookies, and are nearly as likely to abort a purchase because of privacy concerns with the e-commerce site.

The study also highlights three key reasons young adults are more inclined to over-share information online: 1) Young adults are uninformed about their lack of right-to-privacy 2) Youth are more inclined to take risks, bow to peer pressure, and ignore consequences, and 3) Social networks, by their very design, encourage increasing the amount of information shared over time.

Even though this study and others show that both younger and older Internet users expect their privacy to be protected, newspapers are filled with stories about online fraud, identity theft and abuse. Just last month Google announced that their online mapping application, Street View, had been collecting private information from open Wi-Fi networks as its cars drove across the globe snapping digital photos, resulting in an investigation over privacy breaches by the FTC, members of Congress and several state attorneys general.

Representative Rick Boucher (D-VA) has made public his legislative response to protecting online privacy. While Boucher's bill is being decried from online advertisers and privacy advocates alike, (online advertisers say it will make the online experience as we now know it impossible; privacy advocates complain the bill does not go far enough) he recognizes the need for safeguards to be put in place to keep consumer's online identities private.

This is why Rumenap offered proposing to the FTC the creation of a "Do Not Track" list that would allow consumers to better protect their privacy by preventing companies from tracking what websites they visit. A Do Not Track proposal was considered by the FTC and Congress in 2007 when Google announced its proposed purchase of DoubleClick, an online ad-serving and tracking company. Groups like the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Consumer Federation of America and the World Privacy Forum, among others, helped draft a proposal.

Rumenap's thought wasn't to prevent online advertising or targeted advertising entirely as many of the above groups suggest, but instead empower consumers to choose their own level of privacy protections and create their own digital footprint by allowing them to continue to receive online ads, should they wish to do so, but stopping companies from tracking what sites they visit, should a consumer desire that option. The list could also enable consumers to access and change behavioral data that ad companies collect about them.

While the FTC does not regulate ad networks' privacy policies, consumers who do not want their online behavior tracked already have a way to opt out through the group Network Advertising Initiative, www.networkadvertising.org. However, there are some problems with this arrangement, 1) Few people have heard of the program, 2) Only about 25 percent of advertising networks are members, 3) Few people set their browser to block cookies, the tracking tags that enable much of the targeting on the web today and 4) Web-tracking technology has advanced since NAI was created so its members have developed new ways of tracking behavior even if a user has downloaded the cookie.

Making Do Not Track technology work would involve technical challenges including a change to web browsers or an add-on to a browser to make it work. Most likely, companies such as Microsoft and Mozilla that offer Internet browsers are unlikely to cooperate because they rely on online advertising revenue, either directly or indirectly, although certainly efforts would be made to try and gain industry consensus around a specific proposal before introducing the concept to the FTC or others.

In order to make such an idea work, any advertiser that tracks user behavior would have to report what servers they use to serve up a cookie or other tracking device. Individuals would then update their browsers to include a plug-in that could download the list and block some or all of the tracking cookies. Like the Do Not Call list, government regulators would have the power to enforce the measure against companies that secretly track users or keep more information than they say they do.

The FTC would probably need legislative approval and increased appropriations before it could implement a Do Not Track list, just as it received approval and funding for the Do Not Call list.

As with any proposal, adoption of the list could result in some unintended consequences that consumers may also find off-putting. For one, a Do Not Track list could increase the volume of online ads.

The reason for the potential ad increase is related to a key difference between telemarketing and online advertising. When individual consumers add their names to the Do Not Call list, they stop receiving sales phone calls altogether. Web surfers who would join the Do Not Track list, however, would still see online ads, just not ads targeted specifically to them. Ad networks argue that, because targeting increases ad prices, each ad seen by those on the list would be cheaper than ads seen by people not on the list. Thus, a website probably would have to show more ads to compensate for the loss of revenue from targeted ads or charge consumers to view certain websites.

It's not entirely clear that consumers care about privacy so much that they would be willing to pay for a service or see even more ads. But Do Not Track would give consumers who are concerned about privacy ways to use the web without being tracked and would raise awareness of what advertisers are doing on the web.

Charging for websites is unlikely. Consumers have demonstrated that they are more willing to go to free, ad-supported websites than to pay for access to sites. Take news sites, for example. The Wall Street Journal Online, one of the most successful paid sites on the Web, has over a million subscribers. The number of registered users for New York Times' free site is more than 10 times the number of WSJ Online subscribers. The willingness of consumers to see more ads, rather than pay subscription fees, is the chief reason the majority of websites rely on advertising.

In the end, Rumenap encouraged Privacy Working Group members to bring forward their own solutions to protecting consumer privacy and promoting a safe and secure experience for all online users.



Chelsea's Law Continues to Gain Support from California Lawmakers

Committee Approval Advances Landmark Measure to Senate Appropriations

As reported in May's newsletter, Chelsea's Law, California Assembly Bill 1844, continues to make its way through the California legislature, having passed out of the state's Senate Public Safety Committee June 29. The measure, authored by Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher in partnership with the family of Chelsea King, is focused on ensuring the protection of children from violent sexual predators. The bill passed the Committee unanimously.

The law is named in memory of Chelsea King, the 17-year-old California girl who was raped and strangled by a repeat sex offender previously convicted of violently molesting a 13-year-old in 2000, for which he spent five years in prison. Her abductor, John Albert Gardner III, also admitted to raping and murdering 14-year-old Amber Dubois. Gardner received two life terms without possibility of parole for murdering King and Dubois, and a third life term with a 25-year minimum penalty for the attempted rape of a third woman who escaped by smashing him in the nose with an elbow.

Chelsea's Law includes four major changes to existing state sex offender laws by: 1) Establishing a one-strike system in which sexual predators who commit the most heinous crimes against children will receive life without parole; 2) Increasing penalties for forcible sex crimes against 14-to-17-year-olds in which there were no aggravating circumstances; 3) Lengthening the time released sex offenders remain on parole with GPS monitoring; and 4) Implementing the "containment model" for reducing repeat offenses by sex offenders by focusing on those who pose the greatest threat, as recommended by the Sex Offender Management Board.

SCP President Stacie Rumenap met with Assemblyman Fletcher's legislative staff last month to offer support for the bill.

Chelsea's Law enjoys the support of 55 legislative coauthors who span the political spectrum. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Attorney General Jerry Brown, United States Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, eight leading California district attorneys, and a number of California cities and counties have all declared their support for the legislation.

The bill will next advance to the California State Senate Appropriations Committee. A specific hearing date has not been set.

You can show your support for Chelsea's Law by signing a petition in support of the law through the Chelsea's Light Foundation.



California Senate Bill Misses Its Goal to Promote Internet Safety

Stop Child Predators President Stacie Rumenap testified before the California Assembly's Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism & Internet Media on June 28 in opposition to a bill on social networking privacy. As an advocate for online safety, it may seem odd for SCP to oppose a bill on the topic. But a flawed bill is not a solution, and Senate Bill 1361 fails in its attempt to tackle the potential risks that arise when minors expose their home addresses and phone numbers on social networking sites. Worse, if the bill had been enacted, it very well could have resulted in unintended consequence of placing teens at greater risk by pushing them away from many of the age-specific protections which currently exist on social networking websites, Rumenap testified. Fortunately, the bill was killed.

The California bill would have restricted teens from posting their address or phone number in fields specified to share such information, like on profile pages, but left intact, the ability for a teen to share such information in any other field on a site, essentially undercutting the objective of the legislation. Furthermore, the address and phone number fields are often privacy protected, while other fields may or may not be, thus putting teens in greater danger of sharing this information to unintended audiences. And while at first glance it may seem like a good idea to restrict teens from posting their home addresses, there isn't anything wrong with them sharing such information with known friends when done so appropriately, and when, of course, the service doesn't exploit or share their information with other parties.

Quite the opposite is true, in fact. There are many legitimate reasons for teens to share their address or phone number on a social networking site. For example, consider the online services that enable users to send out party invitations to friends. Such invitations require an address for the party's location and a phone number to RSVP. Some of these invitation services are standalone applications, like Evite. Others are simply a feature of larger services. For example, Facebook, MySpace and other social networking sites enable users to send invitations electronically. But in all cases, the invitation service falls squarely under the definition of a social network, and under SB 1361, that feature would no longer be available to teens. Same goes for the websites of schools, churches and youth groups, sports clubs, and organizations that include minors' addresses, and also allow socializing.

Not to mention, that on sites like Facebook, where most users provide their full name, city and state, would-be criminals don't need to find a user's phone number and address on their page. They can simply look up that information-and more-through public records like directory services and property records that are available to the public online.

And they do so primarily through their mobile devices, where they store information like names, addresses and phone numbers as a directory of friends' contact information. A February 2010 survey conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that more than 90% of American teens have a mobile device. Of those teens that have a mobile device and access social networking sites, more than a quarter of them access social networking sites daily, according to the same survey. Obviously, that number increases if you include teens who access social networking sites on a non-daily basis. The same survey also found that more than a fifth of all American teens only access the Internet from mobile devices.

The good news is even though more teens are communicating online through social networking sites their profiles aren't searchable by strangers or the general public. Included in existing safeguards are measures to keep minors from having searchable profiles-which is a key safety feature because it prevents adults from searching for children and promotes ongoing Internet safety education programs. For example, each time a minor receives a "Friend Request" on Facebook, they are reminded to consider whether they know the requester. While these types of features protect teens while they surf the pages of Facebook, the social networking experience appears no different from that of an adult. Teens can still communicate with peers, teachers, relatives, and other people that they want to be in touch with, resisting the temptation to move to adult areas of the site.

We all recognize that teens sometimes connect with those who want to cause harm, that they post information about themselves online so that others can see it and contact them. But studies show that sexual predation of minors most commonly involves a minor agreeing to meet an adult for the purposes of engaging in sexual activity. And when these teens share such personal information or agree to meet an adult for sexual purposes, they're doing so after having been groomed, in which a pedophile develops an ongoing relationship with a minor based of false trust developed over time. It certainly doesn't make it right. And the case can be made that those at-risk minors don't always understand what it means to be in a sexual relationship, or their thinking of what that means is different at 16 years old than at 35.

But at the end of the day, pedophiles don't track down the phone number or address of a teen, then simply arrive at their house and abduct them. Though certainly a horrifying scenario, that situation doesn't match up with the real threat of grooming. Tragically, this has been the cause of the overwhelming percentage of online abductions. Think for a moment of the Dateline NBC show "To Catch a Predator" in which a pedophile messages online whom they believe to be a minor with the intent of arranging an offline meeting.

As we know all too well, in the overwhelmingly majority of cases, teens don't meet their abusers over social networking sites. In most cases, victims know their abusers. And sadly, the abusers are often in a position of trust like parents, coaches, teachers or members of the clergy.

Which brings me back to California Senate Bill 1361. Educating minors of the real risks they face online is essential to keeping them safe, and parents shouldn't be encouraged to believe that restricting the display of certain information (especially in private, non-searchable sections of social networking sites) will make their children safer. Keeping teens on minor-oriented portions of social networking sites is an effective way to provide them with easy access to educational materials and is a far better approach to educating them about online risks than to incentivize them to switch to adult sites that do not offer such materials. And let's not forget that consistent vigilance, attention and participation by parents in their teen's digital world is a must.



People Search

I often think about the people I used to know in my life. I wonder how they are, what they're doing, and where they ended up in their lives thus far. And I know I have access to the easiest people-search resource in the world, the Internet. I know I could find these friends if I really wanted to. But at what expense to me?

I hear it every day, "The only reason I got on Facebook was to find old forgotten friends." Now the people who innocently created a Facebook or MySpace page are out there swimming in the sea with no protection, and the sharks are biting.

According to an identity protection company called Trusted ID, "An identity is stolen every 4 seconds in the US." And they say, "It takes, on average, a person 600 hours to recover their losses." One way this company suggests we protect ourselves is by not using those peer-to-peer sharing sites. When people sign onto a Facebook page they are allowing themselves to be exposed.

In our busy lives today the Web offers us a simple way to stay in touch with our friends and family. Kids at school no longer have to sit on the phone at night, rehashing the events of the day. They can simply get on their computers to stay in touch. Cell phone cameras allow another form of sharing the day's happenings. A photo can easily be downloaded onto your computer and then displayed on Facebook for all to see. How many times have you been "Tagged" in an Internet photo?

We can no longer sit by and idly hope no one will use information against us. We have to be smart. We live in the Internet world now. Whether you have good intentions when using sharing sites or not, just knowing how easy it is for people to access real information about you is vital.

Potential employers or college recruiters can easily research future candidates by viewing a Facebook page. What you display about yourself is public knowledge once it hits the Web. And this kind of people-researching happens all the time. This is reality. If you choose to place yourself onto a site where people can find you, be prepared to be found. And not everything will be something you choose to share.

Right now, I can access volumes of information about people. I can gain this information by starting with a telephone number, a mailing address, or simply a name. Zabasearch.com is one of the many "People Search Services" I discovered. According to Wikipedia, "This web site allows a person to query other search engines for satellite photos of people, physical addresses, and criminal backgrounds." They also say, "The information Zabasearch is offering can usually be piecemealed by the general public anyway."

Intelius, a search engine whose motto is, "Live in the know," overtook Yahoo people search and is one of the fee-based search engines mentioned by Wikipedia. For $39.95 I can pay to "Get the dirt." I can view any person's criminal record, past mailing addresses, bankruptcies, and liens. I can even learn who their neighbors are, family members and their ages, where these people live, and who their relatives are. The searches are endless.

Or I can go to Spokeo.com and get basic information about people for free. On this site you can discover how much someone's house is worth and learn exactly where the house is right down to a satellite image. Perfect for someone who wants to see how much you might be worth. Within seconds I discovered other sites such as Socialprofile.com, E-mailfinder.com, and peoplefinders.com, to name a few.

As parents of the next generation, we must inform our children about the dangers of overexposure. Our children's futures depend upon our vigilance to teach and remind them that what they say and do today could follow them into their future. We have to teach our children to be mindful of the dangers of posting photos of themselves and offering other personal information over the Internet. As s role models we need to practice the advice we are giving our children. Identity theft does not discriminate on age.

A site called Identity Theft Labs have posted statistics stating, "Incidences of crime have increased by 11% from 2008 to 2009." And they "do not see the crime rate decreasing," either. Identity Theft Labs says, "11 million Americans are affected by identity theft." According to them, the people most likely to be exposed are students who share computers within the library, and who share computers with other students they do not know well.

Suggestions for keeping safe online:

  1. Install and stay current with updates for your Anti-spam/Anti-virus software.
  2. Install a firewall. Stay current with updates of this software and ensure it remains on.
  3. Install the latest updates for your operating system. Often they include fixes for security concerns.
  4. Don't open e-mail attachments from strangers or from someone who doesn't typically send them. That person's account may have been compromised by a virus or person.
  5. Never open or install an executable program that is not verified. It could be a Trojan Horse virus and the first time you execute or run it, you will be infected.
  6. Install monitoring software such as McGruff SafeGuard on the family computer. It will allow you to know if personal data is being shared. Often, this happens innocently. Knowing that it has happened can help you protect yourself.
  7. Consider an anti-theft offering from folks like LifeLock or TrustedID. You should pair this type of solution with the above mentioned monitoring solution.

The selling of and profiting from public documents is a real business. Be aware of this before you enter your Social Security Number or even your bank account number on anything. And think twice about starting that Facebook page in order to "Find your friends." The responsibility for our lives lies in our own hands. No one can do a better job at protecting us and our identity than ourselves.

Ellen Ohlenbusch is an internet safety expert and president of McGruff SafeGuard, developers of an easy-to use parental control software that monitors, filters, and controls a child's activity on the Internet. Learn more about how to protect your child and family online at www.GoMcGruff.com




For more information concerning the initiatives in your state, or if you would like Stop Child Predators' assistance in drafting, testifying for, or supporting legislation in your state, please visit our website at http://www.stopchildpredators.org and/or call us at (202) 234-0090.