Do Social Networks Really Take Privacy & Security Seriously?

Whenever I see something that comes with a parental guidance warning attached I instantly become protective, as I suppose most parents would do.

In the days when it was just the occasional movie or a music CD or perhaps a videogame it was easy to have some parental control over what our children were being exposed to.

Do Social Networks Really Take Privacy & Security Seriously?

But, it seems, we need parental guidance almost everywhere these days, including the likes of Facebook, YouTube, Google and many more platforms on the Internet. But we already knew that didn’t we?

What lots of us don’t know (or didn’t know) is that most of these platforms themselves take security and privacy extremely seriously – or, at least, give the impression of doing so.

Quite ironic, really, that these platforms should have their own privacy and security advice centres when it is, in fact, these said platforms that enable publishing and sharing of most of the indecent and inappropriate content that we have to be cautious about and protect our children from.

I have read a few times about privacy and safety charity organisations that monitor the Internet for inappropriate activity and, as part of their mission statement, pledge to hold the social networks “accountable” for misuse and inappropriate use of their networks.

But, sadly, as we’ve all seen in the press and on the TV, there seems to be very little responsibility being accepted and even less action being taken to prevent malicious, indecent and inappropriate activities that take place daily on the most popular platforms.

Constantly we are hearing about the importance of learning “advanced security settings” and how to lock down our personal information with more and more complicated “privacy” settings. It seems, at least to me and to several people I have spoken to (all parents of course), that it is, in fact, ourselves that have to take preventative measures in order to keep ourselves and our children secure, private (as best we can) and less exposed to the content that the platforms themselves should be filtering out in the first place.

Something that I read recently on Facebook’s family safety centre that made me laugh a little was when Facebook referred to “staying safe online is a lot like staying safe offline” when, as most of us will know, the two are completely different.

Staying safe offline is much more straightforward.

We can lock the door.

We can protect our identity by simply shredding our old paperwork.

We know that there are no hidden cameras listening to our every word and watching our every move. We know that there is nothing in our car monitoring every turn we make, recording and sharing every place we go.

We know that when that piece of paper has been shredded, in all likelihood, it will never be pieced together and used against us.

Are Social Networks Simply Passing the buck?

As I read these family security centre websites, while I accept that it is always the parents responsibility to protect our children from inappropriate behaviour and content,  as much as I’d like to applaud their efforts, I do get the feeling that a well-written disclaimer and “terms of service” document is a bit of a “passing the buck” exercise.

If a newsagent displayed a sign in the shop telling parents to advise their children not to read inappropriate magazines and telling children not to do so, would that be enough to avoid prosecution if a minor was seen browsing through top shelf publications? Would a judge show leniency because the small business owner had “passed the buck” by displaying the “parental guidance” disclaimer?