Image: Macro Cat (via Freshbytes)
Cyber bullying, stranger danger, harassment… we’ve all heard about the bad thing that is The Internet. From various celebrity photo scandal (Miley Cyrus and Vanessa Hudgens, anyone?), to ruined professional reputation to being killed by online strangers, we are constantly bombarded with tales of horror from the depraved corners of the net.
But is it? Is it really always the internet’s fault? Isn’t that just like blaming the library for ignorance? Internet has become our scapegoat when there’s no one else to point our fingers to. Protecting yourself online is no different than protecting yourself or protecting your home – in the end, it really is up to you whether you leave your doors locked at night.
I got a chance to speak with Cheryl, the coordinator for IT and Communications Projects here at Student Life. Internet safety, she says, is really about personal privacy awareness – “The internet is a big, open place where anybody online can quickly access your information. Even though you may take something down, the internet has a memory, and it has a long one.”
Take Wayback Machine, for example, a site that acts as a time capsule for users to see archived versions of web pages across time (Actually, check out the U of T’s website – we’ve had a home page since 1997, and ours now looks amazing!). The pen has never been mightier, and the potential to harm reputation is huge.
There are things you can keep in mind though, and Cheryl shared with me some specific tips. I also found some case in points that you may find interesting.
When you’re online…
- Make sure that anything you do is something you would do in public, because what you do now will stay with you forever.
- “Accomplished Communicator” flamed CEO Peter Shankman for appearing on The O’Reilly Factor by sending him emails, calling him fat and telling him to eat more Special K.
- Be careful how much of yourself you leave out there. It may seem small, speaking about your trip here, talking about your life there, but a persistent stalker can follow your bread crumb trail around cyber space.
- Arpan Shaw stalked various girls online and used their information on Facebook to send them Sharpie markers and black notepads.
When you’re online at the university…
- If you’re instructed to do your assignment on your own for class, just don’t collaborate.
- Remember Chris Avenir from Ryerson? He faced charges for making a Facebook group to collaborate on homework assignments.
- Use university-based sites for running student groups, and if you want to use any U of T logo or insignia, get permission.
- Any work you do when you’re acting in official university capacity (as part of the university student council, for example) can be officially requested through FIPPA, which includes emails.
- I’ve phoned the FIPPA office, and rest assured, they are dedicated to protecting your privacy. They’re not just going to give your information away because somebody asked.
Picturetiquette? Photetiquette? Anyhow…
- You own the pictures you take, yes, but if the person you shot doesn’t want their photograph published, respect that and don’t.
- It’s not a matter of legal interest – it really just falls under the “please be a considerate fellow human being” category.
- If somebody is interested in your dirty laundry, and you leave it in a public place, well, people will find and use it against you.
As Cheryl said, how known or unknown you want to be online is totally up to you. You have absolute control over what you post online.
PS: Also, UBC has an absolutely rad site regarding your online identity. Check out Digital Tattoo.