New PSA warns against sharing too much information online

Children of the Street Society highlights the risk of apps that allow geotagging

A new public service campaign aims to warn parents and their kids about the risks of online sexual exploitation from sharing too much information on social media.

The “New Follower” campaign — launched by the Children of the Street Society, with the support of Cossette Vancouver — highlights the potential problem with apps that allow “geotagging,” a tool that adds a user’s location when they’re online.

A TV spot shows a young girl taking selfies on her smartphone and posting them online, while a predator who has tracked her location stands outside of her home. It’s a creepy thought that is unfortunately a reality in today’s social sharing culture.

“Online is the new playground [for predators],” says Diane Sowden, executive director of the Children of The Street Society, a provincial society and federal charity dedicated to preventing the sexual exploitation of children and youth in B.C.

The society has been running campaigns for the past few years, targeting both parents and kids and predators. This year, it thought geotagging was a good issue to address, especially given many online users weren’t aware of how it can be used to track people.

“As parents hand devices to their kids, a lot of times they don’t know what that advice can do, or they don’t educate their kids about how to use it,” Sowden says.

That includes detailed location information, which provides a predator with “a digital breadcrumb trail,” says Michael Milardo, executive creative director at Cossette Vancouver, which did the work pro bono.

Cossette’s creative includes a 30-second TV spot airing in B.C., social media, and out-of-home ads in transit shelters in Vancouver. The message across the campaign is: “Who’s following your kids?”

The campaign also targets predators. It includes stock photos of young teens uploaded onto Instagram with hashtags that a predator might search for. Those who search further into the profile of the photos comes across a jail cell mosaic made from Instagram’s photo grid, along with the message: “If you’re searching for underage teens, then we’re searching for you. Undercover officers are online.”

Direct mail pieces will also be hand delivered to the private residences of select media personalities, which the Cossette team tracked down by using their location tagged Instagram photos.

“The hope is that these media personalities will help draw attention to the importance of adjusting your mobile location settings and keeping social media profiles, such as Instagram, private from strangers,” Cossette said in a release.

The campaign began during “Stop Sexual Exploitation of Children and Youth Awareness Week,” which runs from March 14 to 20. It also encourages the public to track the location settings on their social media accounts through its website.

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