Monday, February 15, 2010

So, A Pedophile Logged into Google Buzz

No, not the start of a creepy joke, just some observations after using Buzz for a few days. According to Google, Buzz has been spreading like wildfire around the Internet so my guess is, it is here to stay. The other day, one of the people I have been following, who had been posting some relatively decent content, posted a rather explicit picture of a key part of the female anatomy. My first thought was, "uh...dude, you're kinda creepy" which was followed by an unfollow. Then I thought about the Google's GMail sign-up process and while it asks for your birthday, it doesn't have any form of age restriction for Buzz.

So, I went ahead and signed up for a new account, put my birthday as 02/15/1995 and signed into my account (sorry Google for creating a bogus account, I am sure I am not the only one). Once logged in, I opened Buzz and went to find friends. I put in some dirty words that would have made George Carlin blush and sure enough, as a 15-year-old, I could have followed some less than stellar individuals on Buzz.

Now in Google's defense, Twitter does not have an age restriction either. However, Twitter doesn't incorporate e-mail into the network and accesses to user's contacts if the user is too naive to hide them. On top of that, Twitter doesn't have the same abilities to simply post a picture or video into the conversation feed. Given, you simply have to click a link to get to the information but that requires a little extra work. Basically in Buzz, if a pedophile decides to target someone under age, once they are able to get the minor to follow them, the next thing they can do is post any pictures or video that they wish directly into the stream. Also, Twitter isn't as heavily used by the under 18 crowd but Buzz definitely has the potential for all age groups just by carrying the Google name. "Dad, I'm not doing anything I'm not supposed to, I'm just on Google," can become a pre-teen's mantra.

Not only are child predators salivating at this new form of media but I am sure porn sites can't wait to start spamming not only minors but all of us with follow requests. Do I really want there to be age restrictions? Not really. If the world were a perfect place, there wouldn't be a need. But, and I know this is going to be hard to believe, the Internet is filled with some really, really creepy people and any means that can be made to keep them at bay, the better. In the end, just like I tell all of my students, the only real way to keep children safe on the Web is parenting them while they use it.

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