The second Tuesday of February is designated as Safer Internet Day in the Philippines by virtue of the Presidential Proclamation №417 s.2018.
“The Inter-Agency Council Against Child Pornography (IACACP), in coordination with the National Youth Commission, Presidential Communications Operations Office, National Privacy Commission, Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, and National Anti-Poverty Commission, shall promote the observance of the Safer Internet Day for Children Philippines.”
Activities for Safer Internet Day are meant to inform users, specially children, on how to be safe online. Topics ranging from basic digital hygiene to cyber-bullying.
Children need to know the effects of social media on their well-being. Numerous studies have been published on the ill-effects of using the likes of Facebook and Instagram on the self-esteem of the users, more so the children. Parents, teachers and school administrators (and yes, government agencies, too) need to understand that by using these platforms for their official business, they are exposing the children to these potentially harmful elements, including cyberbullying. It is ironic, however, that in some activities conducted during Safer Internet Day, you will find Facebook as a sponsor — which makes it is impossible to include this important topic.
This generation of children needs to realize the massive data collection that is happening online (and offline). Whilst we, the so-called adults, have no way of knowing what will happen in the future, their future, it is our obligation to protect them from unnecessarily disclosing too much information about themselves. Yes, privacy is not dead, but we need to protect it from the surveillance capitalists — companies that collect data, whether with or without consent, and use it to generate revenue and manipulate you to continue providing more data for them to collect.
The two major surveillance capitalists are Facebook and Google (ironically, the two sponsors of Safer Internet Day events). They collect every bit of data that you generate when you are online and using their services (websites, mobile apps, and android devices), and even when you are using other websites or mobile applications neither Google or Facebook owns (yes, they collect your data when you read the online version of the local newspapers!). They surveil you — they track you anywhere you go on the internet. And worse, they manipulate (algorithmic manipulation via your time-line and search results) you to continuously, involuntarily provide them with data. Today’s children must know these before it is too late.
Finally, children must know the dangers of algorithmic personalization. These algorithms only have one objective — that is to make you addicted to whatever it is that you are doing online. The longer you stay online, specially on their websites or mobile applications, the more data they can collect — the better they will know you, the more accurate they can target you for advertisement, which generates them more revenue. Personalization, via search results or your time-line, also creates the so-called filter bubble — a bubble where you only see and read what these algorithm think you like (yes, these companies control that), which removes the notion of discoverability, a vital component of learning.
So, this February 11, 2020, make sure that you educate your children, your nephews and neices, and your grandchildren, that being safe online means knowing what Facebook (Instagram, Messenger) and Google (Search, Gmail, Hangouts, Android) are doing, which are not aligned with your personal privacy, and are not good for your well-being.