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February, 2014

Think before you hit send

Law expert helps students avoid online pitfalls

By Jo Heffner

C.L. Lindsay

“Would you tape pictures of yourself in a bathing suit all over your school or neighborhood? How would you feel if your neighbor had a copy?”

These are questions C.L. Lindsay posed to Gateway Elkhorn Campus students during his Feb. 6 “Computer and the Law” presentation. Lindsay works for the Coalition for Student & Academic Rights and is the author of “The
College Student’s Guide to the Law.”

Lindsay had straightforward advice for students: use common sense before hitting send, know your online friends personally, use the highest level of security settings and check the settings often. Employers, recruiters – even law enforcement and predators – are privy to what you post, Lindsay said. Once it’s out there, it can’t be taken back.

Students should give serious consideration when choosing user names, avoid joining groups that could damage reputations and avoid negative posts about past or potential employers, he said.

“Fifteen percent of teens have sent pictures to people they’ve never met in person, and the majority of inappropriate images intended for a significant other often end up being forwarded as bragging rights or revenge,” Lindsay said.

Never post personal information such as addresses, phone numbers or even pictures of your house, because there are image search applications, he said. Smart phones are coded, so posted pictures have GPS coordinates.

“You can’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy for anything you put online,” Lindsay said.

He shared a slide show with humorous action figures illustrating some of the types of images that get posted online. Those images got quite a few laughs, however, when Lindsay showed a photo of a teen who lost her life to an online stalker, the room of students was silent.

“That girl could have been someone at our school,” said student Juniper Szura.

Student Agustin Huerta spoke up and said, “It’s important to have these types of presentations. There are smart, creepy people out there who have mastered the system.”

Lindsay ended the program by showing a photo of a registered sex offender and said, “The next time you think of posting a picture of yourself, think about it hanging on this guy’s wall.”

As the college experience becomes increasingly electronic, today’s students must protect themselves from the equally serious risk of digital information falling into the wrong hands.

Here are five tips to safely exchange information on the Internet.

  • Research before you register for anything
  • Stick to messaging people you know
  • Be skeptical of sites wishing full contact information
  • Think before typing
  • Trust your gut

“You can’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy for anything you put online.”

C.L. Lindsay