January 16, 2018

You keep saying Privacy, but it don’t mean what you think it does.

Part of my work at noslang.com involves educating parents about how to “monitor” their teens online. I’ve written several articles in the past about how parents should be involved with their kids online. I don’t talk about spying, but I do talk about adding them as friends on facebook, keeping the computer in an open area of the house (which is pretty impossible with the rise of laptops,) and sitting down to talk with your teen about being safe on the internet.

Often times, the best solution for internet safety, privacy, and security is to just talk with your teen and let them know what they should and shouldn’t be doing. Plain old parental involvement is usually the best solution for any “teen” style problem.

For some reason though, most congressmen don’t feel that way. They all feel we need silly laws to help us raise our children online. Maybe it’s because they spend so much time secluded away from their own offspring, or perhaps it’s just that they’re all out of touch with reality.

I’m talking about the latest bill, the Child Online Privacy Protection Act (2.0) – where congress is seeking to update the 1998 bill to basically make the internet less private while bragging about protecting privacy.

If you read the bill, there’s several times where it talks about increased privacy while actually doing the opposite. So, to be clear, I’d like to remind the government about a key difference in terms:

Privacy – is the ability of an individual or group to seclude themselves or information about themselves and thereby reveal themselves selectively.

Security – is the condition of being protected.

Now, I’m not a linguistics major, but it seems to me that anytime you require more information from me, it’s decreasing my privacy.

I’m talking about the bill’s requirements for age verification and parental consent. There’s going to be a whole bunch of data collected by websites to enforce this. More data that I don’t want to give you means less privacy. It also means less free speech and more opportunities for data to be abused.

Since it would be a US law, it also means that anybody in the social networking space would be best to start their company anywhere but in the USA – so the law wouldn’t apply to them.

If you’re serious about protecting the privacy of teens online, take the opposite approach. Privacy is all about letting the user control what data he or she wants to share. Anytime you make a law requiring a user to share information you’re sacrificing his privacy.

If I were making a privacy law, it would have 2 major components. The first would be to limit what information websites can store without clear consent, and how long they can store it. The second would be to limit who can propose bills about the internet to those who actually understand the internet – and that rules out everybody in the house and senate, and most of those in the white house.

About Ryan Jones

Ryan Jones is an SEO from Detroit. By day he works as a manager of SEO & Analytics at SapientNitro where his team performs SEO for Fortune500 clients. By night he's either playing hockey or attempting to take over the world with his own websites - which he would have already succeeded in doing had it not been for those meddling kids and their dog. The views expressed here have not been paid for and belong only to Ryan, not any of his employers or clients. Follow Ryan on Twitter at: @RyanJones, add him on Google+ or visit his personal website: www.RyanMJones.com