The parental paranoia caused by recent revelations as to the scale and nature of the use of Snapchat spyware promises to overwhelm the debate to which I referred in my recent blog on the likely interplay of privacy, surveillance, internet safety and civil liability when it comes to the bills in the Queen’s speach.
Of Friday I was told that Snapchat’s decision to record time and location (unless actively disabled every time the service is updated) and actively encourage this to be shared by default, may have overtaken “funding cuts” as a topic of conversation between teachers and parents.
The first security expert I asked about the issues told me that his nieces and nephews had all been subject to advances from online predators. Luckily they were interested enough in what he was doing to tell him as soon as they saw the signs. His point was that even the most basic ‘child friendly apps’ were being exploited.
Apparently when the update was first issued by Snapchat, one of his nieces told him that any group with a location tag in her proximity was automatically suggested to her to join. This included schools groups – which would immediately furnish online predators with the information necessary to, for example, track those on a school outing.
More worryingly, every time an update is done, it can reset all the settings to default and make your location available without your knowledge or consent.
That is not something you can imagine (m)any young people (or adults) are checking… Those who think they are following best practice in guarding their details thus become vulnerable.
At this point the concerns of the Open Rights Group about GCHQ and the NSA pale into insignificance. So too do those of Amber Rudd, Cressida Dick and Home Office, diverting police resources from child protection to tracking on-line Jihadist recruiters. But action against the latter is not incompatible with action against other on-line predators. Indeed, given the target age-profile for Daesh recruits, the grooming techniques over social media are much the same. There is, therefore, much to be said for a joined up approach where it comes to educating the most vulnerable and removing innocent carrier status from those facilitating their operations.
Meanwhile, what is the position under civil law when a parent sues Snapchat after they find their child is being tracked by a pederast after an update has reset the security settings or a friend has lost their phone and this enabled access to the group?
Looked at in wider context – this may be the zenith of social media business models funded by untrammelled access to the “big data” of the users.