Cybersecurity expert: Private social media an oxymoron

Carlisle/West Shore

Imagine you’re heading on vacation tomorrow morning, your bags are packed, and you want your friends and family to know – so you post a picture about when and where you’ll be going.

But would you ever put that advertisement of your whereabouts on the front page of your local newspaper?

One cybersecurity expert believes doing so online is far riskier.

“You have to understand that social and private by definition are complete opposites. It’s an oxymoron,” said Richard Guerry, founder of the Institute for Responsible Online and Cellphone Communication, or IROC2.

That expectation of privacy on platforms built for billions of curious eyes is nearly impossible to achieve, said Guerry.

“Where you see people getting into trouble is when they put things on a platform that was purposefully made for communication that they don’t want communicated,” said Guerry.

Guerry spoke Tuesday to parents in Camp Hill about how to keep online risks low when activity is high.

He calls his presentation “Public and Permanent.”

“If you look at how many people get in trouble, it’s because they believe ‘only their friends will see’ on a platform that was intentionally designed for communication,” he said.

Guerry urges parents to know what apps their kids use, how often they use them, and who their kids are interacting with on each site.

That element of anonymous interaction is a major concern for Sarah Marroquin, mom to 7-year-old Isabella, who’s already talking about YouTube and Minecraft.

“Is it really safe? You hear about people seeking kids online while they’re playing Minecraft, so how do you know?” said Marroquin. “Is there a way to camouflage who they actually are? There must be, but I don’t know much about it.”

Teaching parents how to use new phones or apps is just as important as teaching the kids, said Guerry.

He urges parents to treat new technology just like anything else you learn to use.

“If we passed a book of matches to everybody on the planet and never taught playing with fire can burn, that mindset, what it can look like out there, well, we’ve passed out the 21st-century flame,” Guerry said as he held up a cellphone. 

He suggests sharing the dangers and setting guidelines, as well as creating an online persona concerned with futures over favorites.

“Change our thinking from ‘how do I hide something catastrophic in a world built for communication,’ to ‘how do I use a tool of communication to show the world that I can be amazing’ – that’s it.”

Guerry said instead of calling them privacy settings, think of them as transparency or visibility settings because there is no way to guarantee 100-percent privacy when the whole world has access to online content.

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