Siblings Kristen and Michael are pretty typical "tweens." They both have Facebook and Twitter accounts. Their mom agreed to meet with us on a story about Internet safety. We introduced Kathy to the Chief Deputy DA. Just Kathy's name. We had an undercover detective go online. For the purpose of this demonstration, they focused on Kristin and without much trouble had a lot of information. "I now know her church, her residence, what her mom does, her soccer club, her friends' names," said the detective.
He showed Kathy and daughter Kristin how they got all that information. And then the moment of truth. He tells them that with all of that info he was able to pose as a 13-year old girl and request to be Kristin's friend. The supposed girl said she went to Kristin's school. She accepted the request.
"That is really scary," said Kathy. "That's really frightening."
"Now we've gone full circle," the detective explained. "We've gone from knowing your soccer team, knowing your church, knowing your school, knowing your friends, and now we're able to talk to you. And the name there is a girl's name, right?"
"Girl's name," said Kristin. "Yeah."
The detective asked, "Do I look like a 13 year old girl?"
"No," Kristin responded.
It is scary for them both to see. Kristin's page is private, but some of her friends' pages were not. "If I were interested in targeting Kristin," added the detective, "I would do it through her friends' pages."
All of this despite the fact that Kathy and her husband guard their children's Facebook pages very carefully and have strict rules about what gets posted. Something the detectives say is great parenting, but unfortunately many parents do not know how to monitor activity or the value.
"We have discussed that," Kathy said. "You know, how, don't tell people you're alone on line. That kind of thing people.. Even people that are friends with them. If you don't recognize the name, don't do it."
"It is very easy to manipulate the Internet to gain information on people," said the detective.