How to protect yourself online

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.
    • Before using any proprietary information, make sure you have approval. Bet you didn’t know there was an entire department dedicated to Trademark Licensing.
  • 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.
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. So go on forth, fellow cyber adventurers! Exercise your rights and freedoms! - Cynthia PS: Also, UBC has an absolutely rad site regarding your online identity. Check out Digital Tattoo.

4 comments on “How to protect yourself online

  1. Great Post, Cynthia!

    You know, I was thinking about that incident with Chris Avenir from Ryerson … its actually quite interesting, and I’m not sure if I agree that he did something wrong. In my opinion, Facebook is really the same as a study group, tutorial, or library session. Of course, the details of the whole incident are quite fuzzy – whether it means that ‘questions to be done independantly’ means students can’t discuss them at all, or just not write solutions out for each other, whether there actually was a breach of the rules as no one did a post answer to the questions on Facebook, whether it made any difference because everyone received slightly different questions, etc.

    When it comes down to it, I think when a students become afraid to discuss answers, it creates an alienation effect. University is already very difficult … and unlike University of Toronto, the fact that kids at Ryerson are willing to work together, to use the online resources to great a ‘meeting place of great minds’, as I like to call it, shows significant development in the student experience. With U of T, my parents will tell me stories about how people used to rip pages out of library books so no one else could have the answers … we don’t really have the same attempt at community. I’m sure a lot of kids would like to start, but when look what happened to Chris. So intend, whatever students actually want to share ideas, have to do it discretely, talking in the hallways etc. rather than having a safe environment to openly share ideas.

    But, I’m blabbing on!
    A great post as usual Cynthia! You excellent use of pictures is putting our Fall/Winter term writers to shame 🙂

  2. Hey Fariya, thanks so much, for both your comment and compliment!

    I do enjoy babbling very much, and glad you did so.

    While I don’t think Chris did anything wrong in this case necessarily, his group invitation is misleading:

    “If you request to join, please use the forms to discuss/post solutions to the chemistry assignments. Please input your solutions if they are not already posted.”

    Even, as the article said, if nobody actually posted full solutions (and as you said, they were different questions anyways), the way that he chose to phrase his invitation is unfortunate, and I can see why it was construed as cheating.

    I’m glad he wasn’t expelled, but can’t seem to find any follow-up articles regarding the result of the court hearings.

    I’ve heard of those stories too (and from different university students too), with people ripping out relevant pages because they’re worried about the bell curve (that’s another argument for another day). I agree that it is hard for the students to feel a sense of community, and with what happened to Chris as precedent, are further intimidated into collaborating privately.

    Oops, I’m babbling too! Anyhow, I’m glad you enjoyed my post, and thank you for your excellent comment!

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