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articles tagged with: online-safety


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IE9 Launch - is it time for you to break up with your browser?

IE9 Launch - is it time for you to break up with your browser?

A browser can be like that comfy pair of old slippers, it’s your friend, to take your walks around the internet in. It can be hard to break the habit of those old comfy slippers though, and try a new pair of slippers, even if they may allow you to walk a bit faster and trip you up less. You might not know your way round in them so well at first, they might not be the right fit for what you need or they could be a great improvement; maybe those old slippers are holding you back? With the launch of Internet Explorer 9 last week it’s time for us all to consider if our current browser really is the best fit.

For those less technical savvy amongst you, you may be shocked to know that there is more than one way to view the internet. You may still be using Internet Explorer thinking that that is as good as the internet can get, but let me introduce you to my friends, Google Chrome, Firefox and Safari. These different browsers offer different functionality some are better for macs (Safari) some are faster (Chrome) and some are safer (Firefox). 

Internet Explorer has dominated the browser market for many years; in 2002 95% of web users were browsing through it, now that’s more like 45-50%. This is because the browser market has revolutionised in the last couple of years with the invention of browsers like Chrome and Firefox which offer faster web browsing, better functionality and a more intuitive web browsing experience. Internet Explorer 9 is Microsoft’s latest offering that is trying to win back its market share. It offers integration with Windows 7 to make browsing your favourite sites easier, and gives larger screen space to site contents by reducing the tool bars. 

It’s free to download any of these browsers, so why not find out which is the right fit for you? 




Villagers stage protest over Google Streetview

Pitchfork rabble roused by Google's latest featI wasn't overly surprised at seeing today's leading article on the BBC Technology page.  Google's Streetview project has precipitated much debate on topics ranging from personal privacy to crime since its official launch two weeks ago.  In this instance, residents of a small town in Buckinghamshire physically blocked the passage of a Google streetview car, insisting angrily that the invasion of their privacy was too much to bear. 

I empathise, having felt a deep uneasiness at seeing my front garden two clicks into a Google search.  We are all well aware of increased surveillance and presence of cameras within city centres, but for me this goes a bit too far.

There are benefits to the service though, that I shall no doubt take advantage of.  It will make visits to unknown destinations much easier for a start, as you will literally be able to trace a virtual journey from your start point to destination.

The biggest question I have is what the real purpose of Streetview is.  How do Google propose to monetise this new feature?  I'm guessing a merge between Google Adwords and Local Business Centre (once they sort through their algorithm problems) will allow businesses to advertise their products and services from a virtual shop front, but surely this has already been done more effectively by Second Life?

With Microsoft's plans to launch a rival service later this year on beta, my head shakes with Luddite pensiveness.  This new technology could either take off and thrive in a social networking fashion, or wither away under a backlash of suspicion.  I'm not entirely convinced either way but will be interested to see what the general consensus will be once the launch hype has died down and people start experimenting with both Streetview and GeoSynth.




Changes planned for Obscene Publications Act

CEOP logo
All of us in the development team have recently had the unpleasant task of turning our attention to the dark underbelly of the internet – the world of online sexual predators. 

Lisa's training with Tony Domaille certainly opened her eyes further to the full extent of the problem – and to what lengths professionals are going in order to monitor and control the situation.  Most of us in the office have also watched the recent Panorama documentaries - One click from Danger and One click from Capture.  The planned changes put forward by Justice Minister Maria Eagle to the The Obscene Publications Act therefore comes as welcome news. 

The Act currently makes it illegal to sell or distribute photos of child abuse but it is still legal to own drawings and computer-generated images.  The plans, if implemented, will criminalise the latter too, with a penalty of up to three years in prison for owning any images of child abuse.

Having spoken to a number of people about this I was surprised at how many dismissed the issue of online predation as an uncommon problem, hyped up by a media eager to sensationalise any story.  Thinking back, I was as equally sceptical a few months ago before I began looking into the problem as part of my job. 

Unfortunately I think that in this instance the stats don't lie – they only show the tip of the iceberg:

*  Over 13 million child sex abuse images and videos have been assessed by the NCMEC since 2002.

*  5million of the above images were collected in the last year alone.

*  An average of 400 reports a month of sexual abuse online are recorded by the CEOP.

To me, the link between the wide distribution of pornography via the internet, and the rise in sexual abuse – on and offline – seems too obvious to ignore.  Explicit images and messages have become part of the irritating load of spam that collects in most people's junk email folders, yet the sheer weight of it is feeding a hungry market.  In essence, the internet has normalised pornography to such an extent that individuals already at risk of sexually offending have a ready outlet for their desires.  

This is why I believe that restricting the dissemination of child abuse images should be of utmost priority to the entire industry – ISPs, IM services, large file sharing companies like Pando and social networking sites to name but a few.

*Sources
CEOP
NCMEC

BBC

Created on Thursday May 29 2008 12:24 PM


Tags: online-safety technology web-development


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Conviction rate triples for sex offences against children


Following on from Lisa's last post, I came across an article that really brought home the scale of online sexual abuse.

According to Tom Lloyd at Youth Work News, "the number of people arrested for child sex offences has tripled in the last year.

Figures published by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre show 297 child sex offenders were arrested in 2007/08.

The centre's annual report also shows a 76 per cent rise in the number of reports of online sexual abuse it receives from child protection workers and members of the public, making a total of 5,812 reports.

The work of the organisation in the last year led to 131 children being safeguarded from abuse, and six paedophile rings being dismantled."

These figures are depressing in the sense that they reveal the worrying scale of abuse that is happening right now.  By the rate of conviction rising, however, it should mean that there are less offenders out there.  What it also shows is the need for moderators, designers and industry professionals to be aware of how to safeguard websites from paedophiles.

Related Links:  Youth Work News, Think U Know

Created on Friday April 25 2008 10:33 AM


Tags: online-safety


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Child protection and e-safety

Online child safetyLast Wednesday I had the opportunity to attend a full days' training on e-safety and child protection in relation to online chat facilities and forums. The session was hosted by Tony Domaille of David Niven Associates and the session was not only interesting and useful but also quite an eye-opener.

Tony worked as a police officer for over 30 years as a Detective Sergeant for the Child Protection Department and the last four years working on the Dangerous Offenders Unit concentrating on sexual exploitation of children through the Internet, so he's more than used to dealing with the issue of paedophilia. I was, on the other hand, very naive and completely unaware of the lengths these people will go to in order to carry out their fantasies and that they are generally very respected and trusted members of our community.

We're working with 3 local authorities on web sites which publicise positive activities for young people and include interactive chat facilities. Bath and North East Somerset council (B&NES) have enlisted the help of Tony to ensure that the moderators of the site are fully trained to recognise any misuse of the site. This includes not only being aware of sexual predators and how to deal with them, but also online bullying, cries for help in relation to issues such as suicide or anorexia, and discrimination against others in terms of things like racism or sexuality.

The actual website has also been enhanced by a number of e-safety features to ensure it's as easy as possible for users to report anything that they're concerned about as well as to deter potential predators. Some of the enhancements are:

  • Link to Think U Know, which informs on how to have fun, stay in control and how to report online abuse. 
  • Link to the Virtual Global Task Force, which includes information on how to report abuse and provides a template for reporting. The reports reach appropriate authorities via the Child Exploitation On-line Protection Centre (CEOP) who disseminate reports/referrals. 
  • Link to directly contact site moderators. 
  • Inclusion of House rules for use of the site and forum. 
  • Internet Protocol (I.P) address to be captured at the point of registration. 
  • The email address provided on registration will be verified before the user is able to use the site.  


The new website - B-Active - is due to go live at the end of April.

Created on Monday April 21 2008 02:17 PM


Tags: accessibility charity new-web-site online-safety web-development


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Will The Byron Review help protect children online?


The media have all jumped on the same bandwagon this week, with reports condemning social networking sites - such as Bebo and Facebook - as unsafe websites for children to surf. 

Publishing of the Byron report at the end of March seems to have precipitated this avalanche of comment.  Its author, Dr. Tanya Byron, clearly points out the vital role that parental control needs to play in keeping children safe.  The notion of "nurturing a shared culture of responsibility" is also explored, along with empowering children themselves to make safe decisions online.

The impact of this report will take some time to sink in, affecting as it does the gaming industry, social networking sites, schools, central government and the consciences of all concerned parents.

The consequences for our own business relate specifically to this notion of shared responsibility.  All websites we've designed for young people have firm 'house rules' to protect users from harrassment; moderators of our forums are trained to recognize online abuse by experienced professionals; we also provide clear links to information and policing sites that both discourage potential predators and give guidance to young people wishing to stay safe online.  Yet there will always be new ways in which safe use of the internet can be promoted, something that the Bryon Report has helped to highlight in the minds of the general public.

Related Sites:

Virtual Global Taskforce

Think You Know?

Created on Thursday April 03 2008 06:25 PM


Tags: online-safety technology web-development youth


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