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Making the Internet a safer world for children

Internet Safety Month is an important reminder for Internet users to use caution when sharing their data online.

Three women in Havana check their mobile phones. — © AFP
Three women in Havana check their mobile phones. — © AFP

This month (June 2022) is marked as Internet Safety Month, by those in the technology arena and policy makers (at least in the U.S.) The event stands to remind adults and organizations to protect minors online.

This is important since children may not always be able to protect themselves from predators or ensure their digital identity is secure, thus it’s critical that businesses do their part to safeguard them from the dangers of the online world.

Looking at some of the key messages for this year’s Internet Safety Month for Digital Journal is Miles Hutchinson, CISO of Jumio.

Hutchinson begins by setting out the key issues to observe when it comes to online safety, noting: “In a day and age when everyone is spending more and more of their daily lives on the Internet, it’s critical to recognize the risks hiding within the online world, particularly as they pertain to younger generations.”

While some measures have been taken by technology firms, these are insufficient. As Hutchinson spells out: “There have certainly been advancements in age verification, with many online organizations now requesting users to confirm their age before accessing adult-restricted websites.”

To a degree, a sizable proportion of the population take something from this. Hutchinson notes: “In fact, 36 percent of consumers have confidence that sites that serve age-restricted services and content are taking age verification seriously to protect minors from harm. However, these measures are not enough, as anyone can state they are above the required age and access content they aren’t supposed to.”

There are other concerns as well. Hutchinson highlights these as: “Furthermore, the misuse of children’s data online has led to an increasing cause for concern.”

As an example, Hutchinson says: “Most recently, an international investigation discovered that remote learning apps were sharing children’s data with data brokers and advertisers, despite laws in place, such as the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). This emphasizes that once data is shared online, there is no telling what organizations can do with it.”

This makes the current month important, for issuing reminders and helping to drive protective technology. According to Hutchinson: “Internet Safety Month is an important reminder for Internet users to use caution when sharing their data online, not only because they believe that party might abuse it, but also the likelihood of that party losing it through a data breach.” Furthermore, says Hutchinson: “Its critical users understand that once they consent to data sharing, it will always be out there and could be accessed in ways they didn’t initially intend. Online organizations can also do their part by evolving their age verification measures to include biometric authentication (leveraging a person’s unique human traits to verify identity), which can confirm a user is truly the age they claim to be.”

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Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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