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Take Control – You and Your Children’s – Online Privacy


In the wide-eyed wake of an event coined “The Snappening,” users of social media, parents of tweens and teens and celebrities who have been hacked are pausing before posting.

“The Snappening,” named after the application Snapchat, occurred in late 2014, when hackers captured and leaked 200,000 sensitive photos that were supposed to have vanished from view 10 seconds after they were uploaded. Turns out, nefarious networkers cached the images before they disappeared and distributed them at will. Many of the snaps were of minors, but several were of celebrities.

“The slew of celebrity nude photo leaks on 4chan in the past month have indicated, now more than ever, that privacy is an illusion,” a Newsweek story reads. “Nothing on the cloud is spared, apparently not even Snapchats – fleeting photos the app’s users are told can be opened, deleted and never resurrected again.”

Among the celebrities was actress Jennifer Lawrence, whose iCloud account was compromised, nude photos and all.

Web Surfing Safety

“The Snappening” marks the second time Snapchat has come under fire. In early 2014, the app’s usernames and passwords were stolen by hackers.

According to Newsweek, Snapchat responded to the latest crime by issuing the following statement: “We can confirm that Snapchat’s servers were never breached and were not the source of these leaks. Snapchatters were victimized by their use of third-party apps to send and receive Snaps, a practice that we expressly prohibit in our Terms of Use precisely because they compromise our users’ security. We vigilantly monitor the App Store and Google Play for illegal third-party apps and have succeeded in getting many of these removed.”

Among the prohibited activities listed in the Snapchat’s Terms of Use are developing “any third-party applications that interact with User Content or the Services without our prior written consent.” Snapchatters also are prohibited from using the app “for any illegal or unauthorized purpose.”

“The Snappening” is a stark reminder that many of the technological advancements of the 21st century value user enjoyment over user privacy.

“If you must send sensitive pictures, the safest way is still by disposable camera, where prints can be sent to friends via carrier pigeon,” writer Paula Mejia opines in the Newsweek article.

The digital, mobile and social era in which we live has made the carrier pigeon a thing of the past. That being said, there are steps you and your family can take so as not to end up like Lawrence.

Consider which applications to use and decide on the permissions you grant each one. Why do you want to use the app? Does it need access to your personal data to operate properly? If so, what is its privacy policy? It’s also a good idea to review the app’s ratings and user comments prior to downloading.

  • Review all applications on your children’s phones, as well as the software they have set up on their Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. Both social-media sites harbor hackers.
  • Be discerning about with whom you connect. “If a stranger watched, snapped photos of or followed your family around, you would call the cops,” writes social-media expert Augie Ray on “Many people not only ignore that strangers do this online but welcome them to….”
  • Review your device’s security settings. Does your tablet automatically upload everything to the cloud, unbeknownst to you?
  • Consider what types of content you share. Are nude selfies a wise choice? Most definitely not. Less-risky but potentially troublesome behaviors include announcing on Facebook the fact that you are traveling and away from home (a burglar’s temptation), using the same password on every site (one hack, and you’re done), and “liking” your bank (revealing where your life savings lies.)

“…empowering people to avoid becoming victims is smart and caring,” Ray concludes.

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