I have just been looking at the website Cyber Streetwise. The site describes itself as:
“a cross-government campaign, funded by the National Cyber Security Programme, and delivered in partnership with the private and voluntary sectors. The campaign is led by the Home Office, working closely with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Cabinet Office.”
So what does this UK government initiative say about privacy and social media? It says:
It struck me that this government-sanctioned advice concerning social media was in fact consolidating the problem. Because the statement “never upload or say anything in social media that you don’t want the world to know” conceives of privacy as binary: you are either private with your thoughts, or you are sharing them with everyone. And this dichotomy – besides missing the point entirely regarding how people use social media in a way that acknowledges different contexts, audiences and identities – is precisely what lies behind the kind of victim-blaming that I have been studying for my thesis. Because if you think of privacy in terms of an on/off switch, then what is to stop someone sharing another’s data – after all, if it’s been shared at all, it might as well have been shared everywhere. So despite the good intentions of this website, the sentiment it expresses here is exactly the same as we see regarding victims of involuntary pornography. Don’t share unless you “want the world to know”. Therefore instead of helping to guard readers against privacy transgressions, this simplistic approach is cementing the right to commit such acts of aggression, by presenting it as to be expected.
Aside from this heavily problematic sentiment, the rest of the site is a bit of a puzzle, as it is laid out like some sort of video game that you scroll through and click on:
I can’t really think who this is designed for… Who learns about online banking like this?
And this “Threat Hunter” game… Who is this for?
The site also has a strange philosophy behind it, encapsulated in the warning “you wouldn’t do it on the street, why do it online?” (on the red bus below).
Like the warning not to share unless you “want the world to know”, the sentiment seems to present itself as common-sense, but again this misrepresents what people do with social media and computing. After all, there are plenty of things I do online that I wouldn’t do in the street, such as playing games, displaying photos and offering opinions to no-one in particular, such as here.
What this site tells us is that online security advice is still lagging a long way behind where it needs to be, if it is actually to be effective, and if it is to avoid making the problem worse rather than better.