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April 2, 2004
Dear Subscribers:Here's our lineup for this first little bit of April:
- Family Tech: A parent & Net expert on limits to kid privacy
- Web News Briefs: Home is where kids' tech is; P2P doesn't hurt CD sales; P2P lawsuits go international; Google's gmail; Porn spim on the rise; Opt-in phone porn in UK; Spyware explained; Kid Web developers; Italian teens vs. Cisco; Prince's Web music store; Va. anti-porn law struck down; Finding a roommate online....
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Family Tech: A parent & Net expert on limits to kid privacy
In response to Detective Williams's comment 3/12 about teens and parental "privacy invasions," subscriber and parent Nancy Willard, who is also executive director of the Eugene, Ore.- based Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use, emailed us some advice for parents:
"Parents can be held legally liable for injuries caused to others by the actions of their children. And, of course, parents need to be attentive to safety issues.
"Therefore, I maintain that parents must have the full right of access to all kids' records and files on the computer. Any effort by a child to technically restrict such access should be considered unacceptable and result in computer restrictions.
"It has been my experience that children under 12 do not generally have strong feelings about privacy, and there are certainly good reasons for parents to be fully aware of all their online activities. Children under 12 should use the Internet in a walled garden where they can access only sites that have been approved by the parents or an online service the parent trusts. Parents can set up their child's browser to limit access to approved sites. Then, when a child wants to access a new site, the parent can use this as a teachable moment for considering 'family Internet values' - e.g., the types of Web sites that fit those values and safe searching techniques for getting to them. Email and any other forms of online communication should also be totally accessible to the parent. For example, parents can establish a family email account for all children under 12 which everyone in the family can access.
"For teens, there are emerging privacy interests that should be recognized and respected - up to a point. I like the approach that is legally required for schools when conducting search and seizures to address privacy issues of teens. I do not think parents should regularly, without reason, poke into their teen's files. But teens should know that they have only a limited expectation of privacy in their files and records of online activities.
"General supervision or review of the computer by a parent may reveal information that may be investigated further. If there is ever any evidence that raises a reasonable suspicion that a teen might be in danger or may be engaging in inappropriate activities, the parent will look further into the teen's records, with or without informing the teen.
"Evidence that could lead to a reasonable suspicion includes rapidly changing screens if a parent approaches, extensive late night use under circumstances that makes it appear the teen is trying to hide that s/he is using the Internet, teen appears to be upset or very sad after he or she has use the computer, reports from someone else, and the like. So, as long as a teen does not use the computer in a manner that raises concerns, their privacy should be fully protected. The choice is the teen's."
[In the news: The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children recently forwarded us news of an unusual run-away case: A 14-year-old girl left her home last Friday with the family PC's hard drive in tow. According to the Belleville News-Democrat, her father believed there was something on the computer she didn't want her parents to know about.]
Subscribers, we love getting your views, as well as stories of how your kids are faring in cyberspace. Send them anytime to email@example.com!
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Web News Briefs
- Home is where kids' tech is
Home - not school - is the access point for kids' use of technology, kids themselves say. This was one of the findings of NetDay's survey of 210,000 K-12 students presented to the US Congress last week. NetDay - a US non-profit organization that "promotes enhanced student achievement through the effective use of technology" - also reports that "students are not just using technology differently today, but are approaching their life and their daily activities differently because of the technology." Here's NetDay's index page for the report and some key numbers:
- 70% of all students in grades 7-12 have one to three instant-messaging screen names; 18% have 4+ IM screen names.
- 54% of students in grades 7-12 know more of their friends' IM screen names than home phone numbers.
- 67% of students in grades 7-12 turned first to technology when assigned to write a report.
- 29% of students in grades K-3 have email addresses.
- 97% of students in grades 7-12 recognize the importance of technology in their education, 95% in grades 4-6, and 82% in grades K-3.
- Students in all grades have access to a wide range of tech devices. The most frequently cited ones (in order of student response strength) are desktop computers, cell phones, and CD burners.
- 'File-sharing doesn't hurt CD sales'
A study by researchers at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina found that file-sharing has had "little part in the recent slide in CD sales," CNET reports, which does raise questions about all the recording industry's litigation against file- sharers. According to the Washington Post's coverage, even the researchers' "most pessimistic" statistical model showed that "illegal file sharing would have accounted for only 2 million fewer CD sales in 2002, whereas CD sales declined by 139 million units between 2000 and 2002," which means no effect "from a statistical point of view." Here's the Harvard/UNC study and The Register's own analysis of a possible relationship between P2P and CD sales, following the British Phonographic Industry's threat of anti-file-sharing litigation.
The US Congress should read that study! It "appears to be preparing assaults against peer-to-peer technology on multiple fronts," Wired News reports, including making it "much easier for the Justice Department to pursue criminal prosecutions against file sharers by lowering the burden of proof." Here's a copyright bill - the "Piracy Deterrence and Education Act" - approved this week, among other Net- related bills, by the US House Judiciary intellectual property subcommittee (thanks for the link to BNA Internet Law).
- P2P lawsuits go international
Meanwhile, file-sharers are now experiencing the biggest-ever crackdown outside the US. The London-based International Federation for the Phonographic Industry this week announced it would take legal action against 247 song-swappers in Germany, Italy, Denmark, and Canada, the BBC reports. And Reuters later reported that France's recording industry trade association is "poised to join" the IFPI's legal action. Here's the New York Times on this news.
- File-sharing legal in Canada
Canada, on the other hand, dealt the P2P litigation effort quite a blow this week, when a federal judge ruled that sharing copyrighted works on P2P networks is legal in Canada, CNET reports. "Canadian record labels had asked the court for authorization to identify 29 alleged file-swappers in that country, in preparation for suing them," but the judge denied the request. The Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) will appeal the decision. Here's the Christian Science Monitor on this development and the Washington Post's survey of the copious coverage.
- Google says, 'You've got gmail'
It's coming (only in beta at the moment), but Google's already marketing its own version of Web-based mail. Like Yahoo Mail or Hotmail, it'll be free. Unlike them it'll have virtually unlimited storage space, it'll be searchable (by Google), and messages will be grouped with replies (so you're storing "conversations," Google says). The downside for users, perhaps, is that Gmail will contain ads and links - that's how Google will make money with it - by expanding its search-relevant advertising into email. "For instance," Wired News explains, "an email message about your trouble with your DSL connection might have an ad from SBC Communications in it." Google's answer to anyone concerned about privacy because of this is that the matching of ads to content is all done by machines. Here's the BBC on Gmail, and here's Google itself.
- Porn spim (IM spam) on the rise
We all saw it coming but the rate of increase! Spim - unsolicited instant messages from unknown users - "is expected to triple from 400 million messages in 2003 to 1.2 billion messages this year," Wired News reports. Even more unsettling, parents, is the news that most spim is about porn. "About 90% of spim messages arrive in the form of one-line sentences followed by a URL: 'Hello, check out my website/cam at www.xxx.com'," Wired further reports. Spim is a little easier to control than spam because parents and kids can together configure their IM software (in Preferences - see our report on this 1/9/04) to block messages sent from people not on their buddy list. That doesn't eliminate spim from buddy-list friends whose lists get hijacked by spimmers, but it helps. To deal with the latter problem, filtering (like spam filters in email software) is needed - and is becoming available. "Products from IMlogic and Zone Labs scour incoming instant messages for the standard spammy keywords, and then block display of any suspicious messages," according to Wired News. (For our first coverage of spim, see 11/21/04 issue.)
- UK: Opt-in mobile phone porn
Good news for parents: UK mobile phone companies are adopting opt-in policies for accessing gambling and pornographic content on their phones, The Guardian reports. That means people who want those types of content have to sign up for it - it won't be automatically available on the phones. This policy, providing greater protection to kids, is a step beyond the first welcome news in January that the cell-phone companies had signed a code of conduct to protect young phone users. That agreement allowed for parents to request filtering on phones for children - more an opt-out policy (phones coming with all content, including porn and gambling, out of which customers had to "opt"). Among the companies adopting the new opt-in policy are Virgin Mobile, Vodaphone, and O2. Our thanks to QuickLinks for pointing this story out.
- Teen charged for child porn
A 15-year-old girl in Pennsylvania has been charged with possession and distribution of child pornography for sending pictures of herself to people she "met" in online chat, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. She reportedly photographed herself in various sexual poses and stages of undress, and police "found dozens of [these] pictures of her on her computer." The Post-Gazette adds that the police report didn't say how police learned about the girl. We wonder if parents are as aware as teens are of the "camgirls" phenomenon (see this Sydney Morning Herald piece from a member of the Queensland University faculty), much less this extreme version (which makes it clear that, in most countries, it is illegal to traffic in child porn even if the photos are taken by the under-age subject). Here's what we guess is a more typical camgirl site: StephtheGeek.com. (Our thanks to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children for pointing the Pittsburgh item out.)
- Spyware: 'The new spam'
That's what the Christian Science Monitor called spyware in a recent refreshingly basic piece on this junk software that comes in through your browser. It explains the types - browser hijackers (change browser settings), keyloggers (capture passwords, credit card numbers), malware (viruses, etc.), spybots (gather data, send to 3rd parties) - and what you can do and help your kids do to protect the family PC from them.
- Kid Web developers
Some teenagers have made Web site construction an after-school business. Most, though, just create their own personal "me-me-me" sites, as the Washington Post put it in a very readable piece full of teen anecdotes. It cites Grunwald Assoc. research showing that there are about 2 million sites created by kids 6-17, and by next year there could be 6 million. Grunwald also estimates that 9% of kids 9-12 have their own sites. The article describes services - Terra Lycos's Angelfire and Tripod and AOL's Hometown - that kids seem to flock to, but we suspect a lot of those numbers represent kids creating blogs at the likes of Blurty.com, Xanga.com, LiveJournal.com, DeadJournal.com, and Diaryland.com (for more, see "Teens' blog life," 1/16/04).
- Italian teens vs. Cisco
It turns out that a security warning Cisco sent out to its customers last weekend was sparked by a group of self-described "Italian teenager boys" called the BlackAngels, ZDNet UK reports. They'd sent some software code out on the Net which "exploits nine vulnerabilities [most of them previously addressed by Cisco] they found in Cisco's Internetwork Operating System." The OS runs on most of Cisco's products, making its switches and routers vulnerable to denial-of-service attacks on their owners' Web sites. "These attacks occur when hackers take control of servers and flood the network with millions of packets, which eventually cripple devices like switches and routers that try to process all the packets," ZDNet UK explains. Here's CNET's coverage.
- Prince's own Web music store
Napster, iTunes, and Rhapsody aren't good enough for Prince (and probably a lot of other musicians!). We bet Prince's new online music store is the way many musicians are headed (some already have them but with different business plans), and the giant online music stores that aggregate the work of thousands of musicians is only the start. Prince's site "will sell music for which he owns the master recordings," the New York Times reports. "It opens with seven albums of studio and live material, some of which were previously available only to members of the NPG Music Club [whose membership the site is intended to grow]. Full albums will sell for $9.99 and individual songs for 99 cents; club members will 77 cents per song. A lifetime membership to the club is $25 and offers exclusive songs, early access to concert tickets, and other benefits." The Times quotes an industry analyst as saying that most artists receive a portion of the 65-70 their labels receive from a 99-cent download at iTunes or Napster. So "Prince could sell half as many songs through his store and still make more money" than at, say, iTunes. He's smart to own some copyrights of his own music, and future recording deals will probably be negotiated differently in future. "Bands like Phish, Pearl Jam, and Metallica have also established download stores, although those Web sites primarily offer live music."
- Va. anti-porn law struck down
Laws against pornography on the Net continue to have tough time in US courts. A federal court struck down a Virginia law aimed at protecting children from online porn, the Washington Post reports. In a 2-to-1 decision, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's ruling that the law violated First Amendment freedoms. "Although the state has a 'compelling' interest in protecting minors from potentially harmful online material, the court said, it is impossible to do so in the unfettered, global realm of the Internet without keeping the same material from adults."
- Finding a roommate via the Web
A handful of universities around the US are now offering roommate matchmaking services, the Christian Science Monitor reports. Incoming students can log on, read student profiles, and choose roommates who share their tastes and traits. "When someone finds an appealing prospect, the two can communicate with each other via phone or e-mail," according to the Monitor.
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That does it for this week. Have a great weekend!
Anne Collier, Editor
Net Family News
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