Betty teaches you the importance of keeping your OFFLINE identity separate from your ONLINE identity


Cyber Defender & Clubhouse Supervisor

Betty learned the hard way about sharing too much information online when rumors she had spread through her online blog upset some of her friends. Since then she has made it her goal to educate everyone about what information is inappropriate or unsafe to share online to prevent others from getting hurt.

As a Cyber Defender, Betty focuses on the most important information you should never share online, your offline identity.

Favorite Quote:

A stumble may prevent a fall
- English Proverb

Favorite Food:

Tea and crumpets


Chatting, macrame, collecting teacups

December 14, 2010

Personal Information: No More Anonymous Gaming?

Back in July, a hugely popular massive multiplayer online role playing game announced that their players would all have their real names featured on their forums instead of their character names. The game makers said that this would make the community stronger because, without anonymity, there would be better conversations and fewer forum trolls. Others said that this would lead to out-of-game harassment, particularly for female and minority gamers.

To try to alleviate these concerns, one of the game designers published his name on the forums first. Within hours, the game community found the person’s phone number, address, and social networking account. Talk about dangerous information!

While I can appreciate trying to make a better gaming community, it shouldn’t be at the cost of online privacy!

posted by Betty
topics: Personal Information

November 15, 2010

Personal Information: The Upside of Record Leaks

We know that losing control of your personal information is a terrible thing…but can there be a positive side to it? Well, many record companies and recording artists believe so. Although we know that illegally downloading music is wrong, there are those that believe it actually helps boost music sales.

For example, several of the top selling albums were leaked online a week early. The theory is that letting the fans hear the music before the record comes out actually makes them more likely to buy the CD or pay for the downloaded album. Of course, that entirely depends on whether or not the listener enjoys what they’ve downloaded.

My dear cadets, in no way do I suggest stealing music from the Internet. Stealing is wrong. Still, I wouldn’t feel right providing you with only one side of the argument. Doing the right thing is, as it always has been, entirely up to you!

posted by Betty
topics: Personal Information

September 16, 2010

Personal Information: Genealogy Scams

All this time travel has got me thinking about my ancestors. Who were they? What were their lives like? Did they collect teacups, too?

I went online to see what information I could find about my genealogy and do you know what I found? SCAMS! My dear cadets, if you’re curious about your ancestors, be careful where you look. Make sure the service you’re using online is legitimate because many sites just want your personal information. Many good ancestry sites will allow you to do free searches before you register. This way you can see if the website is worth your time and the risk!

As with all websites, be sure to ask a trusted adult before entering any information on the Internet. Here are a few things to look for when choosing a good site.

  • Contact info – Make sure the company running the website has a physical address, not just an email address.
  • Check the results – Enter an obviously fake name into the search bar and see if results come up. Chances are, if the site claims to have records for someone named Captain Reginald B. or some other fake name, it’s not a legitimate.
  • Free sites – If a website claims to be free but makes you sign up for silly “rewards” before getting your result, it’s almost always a scam.

posted by Betty
topics: Personal Information

June 16, 2010

Personal Information: Public Tweets

Hey cadets! Do you use Twitter? Well, if your “tweets” are public, the U.S. Government is logging them all in a database! That’s right, the Library of Congress now has a record of every time you wrote “I’m having a really awesome meatball sandwich” or “My socks are bunched between my toes and it’s driving me nuts!” or anything else you’ve ever tweeted about.

The Library of Congress says that they’re keeping track of the tweets because they are a great research tool. They hope that future researchers can use this Twitter database. I know that it really will be a terrific research tool for future generations but…I don’t know. I don’t think I’m comfortable with my tweets being kept in some database forever! Though I suppose if I really wanted to keep something private, I wouldn’t tweet about it publically in the first place. What do you think about all this?

posted by Betty
topics: Personal Information

May 14, 2010

Personal Information: Online Wish List

Shock! Awe! Fear! I can’t believe it, cadets! After reading Commander Omni’s blog about ego surfing, I decided to give it a try. And do you know what I found? One of my wish lists! At first, I thought it was nice that anyone who searched my name could see what I wanted for a gift. Maybe now people will stop getting me socks for my birthday! But then I realized something. The wish list also showed my home address.

Imagine my surprise! Anyone who looked up my name would know exactly where I live! That’s like having a big blinking sign over my house that says “Hey Weirdo Stranger, come on over!”

I immediately signed into my account and set my wish list to private. That should keep stranger danger down to a minimum. My dear cadets, if you’ve got a wish list on the Internet, make sure you have it set to private! If someone wants to know what you want for a gift, they’ll just have to ask you!

posted by Betty
topics: Personal Information

February 26, 2010

Personal Information: Online Quizzes

Beware, my dear cadets! Beware the dangers of online quizzes! What's that? You think I'm overreacting? Well, I think you're underreacting! Of course I know that's not a word!

Ahem. Sorry. I'm better now.

In all seriousness, online quizzes may be fun, but they are very risky! Say, for example, you want to find out what type of dog you are. So you sit t1here and you start entering all this personal information. After that, do you know what happens to all that information about you? The company that runs the quiz is keeping track of all of it! Then they take all of it and sell it to advertising companies!

And on top of all that, the quizzes are not even accurate! So just think, not only did you just give away all your personal information, you might not even be a poodle after all!

My dear cadets, please think twice before filling out any online quizzes. A few minutes of fun isn't worth putting your information on the Internet for anyone to have!

posted by Betty
topics: Personal Information

April 7 2009

Personal Information: What's NOT personal information?

Hopefully you read my post about coming up with your own personal information filters and have put some thought into what your own filter would include. But with all this information that is not safe to share online, you might be wondering if there anything left that is safe to share.

Well, dears, I can't list everything that it is safe to share, but I can give you some advice for deciding for yourself. Sometimes it's just a matter of not telling the whole story. For example:

  • Share your favorite band, but not which concert you have tickets for
  • Share your pet's name, but not which park you take him to
  • Share your favorite food, but not which restaurant you go to all the time
  • Share what sports you play, but not what team you play for
  • Share which books you have read, but not which library is near your house
  • Share your opinion, but not if it's going to hurt someone's feelings or offend someone
  • Share a funny picture of a squirrel, but not a picture of you acting squirrelly

These can give your online friends an idea of what your likes and dislikes are and who you are as a person without giving away any of your personal information or your online identity.

But you still have to be on your toes all the time, because some sneaky weirdo strangershave a way of getting you to reveal more than you intend to . They might stick around for a long time, pretending to be your friend but actually trying to get you to reveal your personal information. It's much safer for you to reveal not enough information than to reveal too much.

posted by Betty
topics: Personal Information

March 3 2009

Personal Information: Deciding if it's TOO personal to share with your Personal Information Filter

I know we say over and over again "Don't share your personal information online," and we have the Hint Sheet for the Level 1 Communications mission that has a list of 22 different types of personal information you should keep offline. But what about things that aren't on the list? How do you decide if something is too personal for cyberspace?

As a cyber citizen, you are in control of your online identity and the information you share in cyberspace. You have to make a judgment call every time you click the button to post or send something, deciding if what you’re about to share is safe or appropriate.

Sometimes this can be a really hard decision to make, so it helps to come up with a list of questions you ask yourself before posting something, a sort of Personal Information Filter.

These are some of the questions I ask myself:

  • Can this information be used to locate or identify me offline?
  • Can this information make it easier for someone to cyberbully me, hack my accounts, or steal my identity?
  • Would I want this information to show up in a search engine's results for my name?
  • Is this something I wouldn't want my grandmother or teacher to see?
  • Is this information that someone could use against me in some way?
  • Is this information that only a few people should know?
  • Is this information that would help someone guess my password?
  • Would this information give someone the wrong impression about me?
  • Is it going to be a problem if I can't take this information back?

If the answer is NO to every question, the information has passed my Personal Information Filter, and I've decided it's safe to share online. You can work with a trusted adult to come up with your own list of questions. If you still have doubts about some information, even if it has passed your filter, it's safest just to keep it offline.

posted by Betty
topics: Personal Information

December 2 2008

Personal Information: Saving information in your Web browser

Web browsers have lots of convenient information-saving features that can help speed up your browsing experience. This can be great if you're the only one who uses the computer, but it can put your privacy at risk when you share your computer with others. Some of the ways a browser stores your data can be a security risk, and if you don't regularly clean up the files it saves, your hard drive can become cluttered too.

Some of the types of information your browser can save for you are:

  • Favorite Web sites - Most browsers have a Favorite or Bookmark feature, which saves a link to a Web site to make it easy for you to visit it again.
  • Browsing History - Browsers can keep track of every Web site you have visited for months at a time, even the ones you didn't Bookmark or accidentally visited.
  • Form Data and Passwords - Browsers can save data you have entered into a Web site form, such as a username and password, and give you the option of automatically re-entering it the next time you visit the site.
  • Web Search History - Browsers can store the strings of words you enter into Search Engines in case you want to search for the same thing again
  • Offline Web sites - Browsers have the option of saving a Web site's files so that you can still view them even when you're not connected to the Internet. However, this doesn't always work and it only saves the page as-is so none of the links will work.
  • Cookies and Certificates - Many of the behind-the-scenes files that enhance Web sites and allow you to log in to them can be stored on your computer so they do not have to be created every time you visit the site. This information can be a security risk though because some malware can sneak into your computer and access it.

Aside from Bookmarks and Favorites, saving information with your Web browser can be risky, especially if it is your personal information. Cyber criminals can use malware to invade your computer, looking for files that contain personal information, and other people can log into your accounts and pretend to be you.

It's a good idea to clean up any information you may have left behind in a Web browser, especially if you share a computer with other people. Check the browser's options to make sure that it will ask you before saving any information, and delete the browsing history, cache, cookies, and any other private data. October's Ask Omni: What should I be concerned about when using public computers? has more tips for safely using public computers.

posted by Betty
topics: Personal Information

October 21 2008

Personal Information: Politicians and their permanent records

Elections are always a very interesting time to be a citizen. Throughout the course of a campaign, the candidates' lives are closely examined by everyone. Journalists and other politicians are eager to find examples of mistakes they have made in the past in order to make people question their judgment and their decision making. This negative campaigning, also called mudslinging, can sometimes unearth some pretty bad "secrets" that can potentially ruin people's careers.

My dear cadets, remember what I said about your permanent record? Thirty years from now it probably won't matter what your hair looked like, what shoes you wore, or even if you didn't get the greatest grade on that biology test. But it will matter what you posted online, especially if you become a politician.

Anything you say and do online will still be around when you're an adult and can easily come back to haunt you. Just look at former Congressman Mark Foley. He had to resign from Congress after it was discovered that he had been chatting inappropriately with high school students online.

Mark Foley may not have realized that his actions in cyberspace were easily traceable or that anyone would look into them, and as a result his reputation was destroyed. Learn from his mistake, cadets, and don't ever let anything that could ruin your reputation or your future end up in cyberspace.

posted by Betty
topics: Personal Information, Case Studies

August 5 2008

Personal Information: Creating a safe Alias

Your alias or screenname is the most important part of your Online identity, so you want to take care when choosing it. You want it to be something fun that you're going to like, but you also want it to be as safe as possible. Here are some tips for creating a good alias:

  • Don't use any of your personal information in your alias. This includes your name (even if it's just your first name), your age, or where you live.
  • Choose something that is gender-neutral, meaning that people won't know right away if you are a girl or boy.
  • Follow good netiquette and choose something appropriate and respectful.

An unsafe alias can make cyber criminals and weirdo strangers think you are an easy target, and you might get more attention from them than you'd like. Be sure to choose carefully, especially if you plan on using it for a while.

Here's a list of aliases, some are good choices and some are not. Do you know which ones are unsafe?


posted by Betty
topics: Personal Information

June 10 2008

Personal Information: Your Permanent Record

It's so easy for anyone to publish information to the Internet these days. Whether you're posting content to a blog or social networking profile or commenting on someone else's blog, photo, or video stream, you are leaving little traces of yourself all over cyberspace. You may not realize exactly how permanent or public these traces are.

Once something is on the Internet, it is there permanently. Even if you wanted to remove it, chances are it has already been copied and archived on several other machines and passed around so many times that you'll never be able to remove every copy. That's why you should always think really hard about something before you publish it on the Internet.

Everything you publish can be traced back to you and reflects on your personal character. Think of it as your permanent record. You wouldn't want to get suspended from school because your principal found pictures of you misbehaving at a party, would you? Or to get turned down for a job 10 years from now because they found out that you had published important secrets on the Web when you were younger and decided that they couldn't trust you. It's becoming a very common practice for colleges and workplaces to use search engines to look up potential students and job applicants to find out what kind of person they are, and many people have been turned down because of what they put on the Internet.

Instead, why not use your Internet permanent record to your advantage? Make sure that the only things published by or about you online are good things. Things that show you are an honest, considerate, hard-working person, and someone a college or employer would be honored to have as part of their organization. Remember: think before you publish, every single time!

posted by Betty
topics: Personal Information

May 13 2008

Personal Information: Your ONLINE/OFFLINE identities

Your OFFLINE identity consists of all of your personal information, like your name, age, and where you live. Your OFFLINE identity is the real you, the one your family and friends at school know and love. When you're in cyberspace, you never ever want to reveal your OFFLINE identity or any of your personal information to anyone. It can be very dangerous to do so!

Instead of using your OFFLINE identity in cyberspace, you need to create an ONLINE identity for yourself. Usually this just means coming up with an alias or screenname, something like FunkyMonkey or iLovePinkSocks, just as long as it doesn't contain your real name or any of your personal information.

Whenever you're in cyberspace, only use your ONLINE identity to be safe. If someone starts asking you questions about your personal information or your OFFLINE identity, the best response is to just ignore them. If they continue to bother you even after you tell them you don't share that information in cyberspace, you should tell a trusted adult about them. You can also block people to stop them from sending you emails and Instant Messages.

posted by Betty
topics: Personal Information

April 15 2008

Personal Information: What exactly IS personal information?

If you haven't completed your Communications Level 1 training mission yet, all this talk about personal information might be confusing to you. I'll try to clarify what we mean by personal information and also to explain why it's so very dangerous to share it in cyberspace.

Personal information is any information about you that can be used to identify you or find out where you are. This includes not only the obvious things like your full name and your address, but some other less-obvious things, like your car's license plate number or what sports team you play on.

Really sneaky Cyber Criminals and weirdo strangers will use everything they know about you, from your alias to your favorite food, to try to trick and harm you. Knowing your personal information just makes it that much easier. They might try to find out where you live and come break into your house, or try to steal your money, your identity, or your car. They might even lie to you about how old they are and try to get you to meet with them in person to hurt you or even kidnap you. The more personal information you reveal in cyberspace, the more in danger you are putting yourself and your family in.

You can refer to Hint Sheet #2 for a list of examples of personal information. I'd recommend printing it out and keeping it near your computer as a reminder. You can also read all my blog posts on personal information to learn more.

posted by Betty
topics: Personal Information

February 26 2008

Personal Information: Protect your friends

You want your friends to be careful about not revealing any of your personal information online, but you in turn need to be careful not to reveal any of theirs. You should check with them before posting anything about them online. The same rules for what is personal information apply to their information as well as yours.

Also, be sure to help them learn how to keep their personal information safe online. You may know a lot more about it than they do!

posted by Betty
topics: Personal Information

January 29 2008

Personal Information: Check your friend's posts

If you have an online profile, you're hopefully using extreme caution and monitoring everything you post there to make sure that you don't reveal any personal information, right? Of course you are, cadets! But what about your friends? Another risk with some social networking sites is that your friends can post comments on your page and could very easily reveal some of your personal information.

Be sure to check through what your friends are posting because even if you are very careful, they might not be and may be putting you at risk! Some sites even allow you to moderate comments so you can check through everything before it goes on the Internet. Remember, once it is on the Internet, you can't take it back!

posted by Betty
topics: Personal Information

December 20 2007

Personal Information: Hidden Personal Information

Photos and videos can have all sorts of personal information in them that you could reveal without even meaning to if you post them online. This information could be used for identity theft or cyber bullying, or it could even reveal your offline identity.

You could give away your school or a location you like to visit often by posting a photo of that place. A photo of you wearing a school or team t-shirt, a scout uniform or baseball cap could help a Cyber Criminal figure out what your interests are and even where you'll be after school. Why, I just had to give a stern talking-to to a friend of mine who wanted to post a picture of a flower in her front yard. She didn't even realize that in that photo you could see her house address, the name of her street, and her car's license plate number!

Before you click, check each photo thoroughly and don't post any that reveal personal information! Blur out or alter any risky parts, or better yet, don't post them at all. If you need to share a photo with a friend, show it to them in person. It'll be easier to talk about, too!

posted by Betty
topics: Personal Information

November 27 2007

Personal Information: Combining small facts

Cyber criminals and weirdo strangers can be very sneaky and very patient if they are trying to find out your offline identity. They probably won't come right out and ask you for it. They'll slip it into the conversation, hoping that you won't notice. They remember everything you tell them, and they'll stick around for a long time to find out what they want to know. Even sharing little things like what kind of car your parents drive or what color your house is can help them figure out who and where you are.

That's why you have to always be on guard, Cyber Defenders! Even the littlest things that seem so harmless can be dangerous to share.

posted by Betty
topics: Personal Information

July 11 2007

Chat Rooms

I love going to chat rooms. You can meet such interesting people there if you know how to look and what to say. But chat rooms can be dangerous too. Just the other day I was in a room where a man asked for my home address. It scared me a bit. If I had slipped up and answered him, he would know too much personal information.

No matter what you do online you must be careful about what personal facts you share. A good idea is to never tell anyone on the internet anything that can be used to track you down.

posted by Betty
topics: Personal Information

June 13 2007

Dear Cadets,

Now I know what you're thinking. Why on earth does Betty have a picture of herself on her blog when she tells me all the time not to put pictures of myself online? Well honey, as an adult, I understand the risk I am taking and the consequences of having my picture here.

You'll also see that my photo is my work picture, not some picture of me at a party having a good time! It's very important to be aware of how you are respresenting yourself Online. I don't want my great Aunt Matilda coming across any embarassing pictures of me online, so I make sure there just aren't any there to find!

posted by Betty
topics: Personal Information