Imagine a future where the internet knows all about you, where it controls what you read, directs you to what to buy, tells you where to live, what to wear, and … oh!
'Linked' an original pay by N-Act Theatre in Schools is touring schools once again in September. It's aim? To keep our young people safe on-line!
But what's new? I'm quite internet savvy!
Do you actually read Ts and Cs before ticking the box?
Have you read the Terms and Conditions for Instagram for example? I mean really read them, not just ticked the box? If you had, you would realise that by ticking the box you are giving Instagram (and Snapchat and many others like it) your permission to use your pictures as they see fit.
They can give your pictures to other people around the world; they can charge others for the photos (no money to you of course) – because they own everything that goes onto their site.
Do you know the extent of the information Google can find out about us?
Have you read about this fairly recent experiment?
This researcher took two mobile phones around town. Both had the SIM cards removed. One phone had Flight mode switched on. Then the phones were switched off and put in his pocket. There was no internet connectivity.
He took a trip around town, sometimes walking, sometimes driving. Going in to various buildings and taking a selfie in front of a statue. The special decryption machine that he plugged the phones into on return, printed out identical data – for both phones. Even the one with Flight Mode switched on!
It listed each of the venues where the phones had been taken, and what time he arrived. It listed whether the owner was walking or driving. And get this - it even knew when he got out of the car! The data print-out used the words: ‘exited car!’ Can you imagine – Sam exited car at 10.15am!
Google tell us that they - and other search engines - use this information to personalise our on-line experience. But at what cost?
Now, how scientific this particular piece of research is, is not really the issue. We all know that any time we share information on line, it is available for anyone to find and use as they see fit.
But while we can’t do much about this, apart from being aware, there are things we can do to keep ourselves safe.
Through our interactive performance of 'Linked', we aim to raise awareness of this and many other issues.
For instance, turning Location Settings off while taking photos to avoid the photo's meta-data being available to others! Not sharing information with the whole world!
We remind them that the world-wide-web is just that - open to anyone if your privacy settings are not monitored.
Do you tell everyone online when you are on holiday – effectively notifying criminals that your house is empty?!...
... But they wouldn't know my address!
It's remarkably easy to find out someone's address. Some examples which seem to resonate with many of the parents who have seen our show ... the unscrupulous visitor to your page can work out where you live through the following:
1. Your photos when you were out for a meal with friends, 'checking in' to share a fantastic night out! (evidence of the town you live in)
2. Your photos of your children in their school uniform (let's narrow it down a bit - you live in the catchment area of the school)
3. Your photos of your youngest in their new uniform in front of the door (oops - there's the door number!)
And all that meta-data on each photo you take, which holds the precise location (even down to the room the photo was taken in!). All the professional hacker needs to do is buy the software to read that meta-data!
Solution - turn off Location settings on the specific App you are using.
And then the Snap Chat Map App... well, for those who don't know, anyone can see where you are on the map just by clicking on your image! Great if you want to keep an eye on where your child is, but who else can see this?
Solution - Ghost mode (although be aware, this does not completely ensure privacy)
'Linked', a new play by Sharon Williams, is set in our future in a world we have created through our use of the internet ...
... and has already been performed to over 10,000 young people in the last year.
The play comes with an information sheet to help keep you and your children safe on-line. For schools it also comes with an option to buy a scheme of work, sets of scripts and other resources so you can work through the various issues with your young people.
Far from being able to step back and relax our stance on on-line safety, we need to be more educated, more aware and more hacker-proof than ever before.
Dr Sharon Williams
Sharon is the Artistic Director of N-Act Theatre in Schools company.