Addressing Children’s Privacy Concerns on the Internet
Joseph (Joe) Miller, Esq is the Founder, President, CEO, and Founding Board Chair of The Washington Center for Technology Policy Inclusion (WashingTECH) — the nation’s first organization focused exclusively on diversity and inclusion in technology public policy making. Joe is a member of the Advisory Committee at the Center for Democracy and Technology, a cohort for Google’s Next Gen Policy Leaders, and is a recipient of the Rainbow Push Coalition’s 2019 Media and Technology Inspiring Leader’s Award. Before founding WashingTECH, Joe served as Deputy Director and Senior Policy Director of the Media and Technology Institute at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- Joe Miller discusses his career path from broadcasting to technology public policy
- The privacy and security threats parents should consider
- Joe addresses social media safety concerns
- Do policymakers truly understand privacy and security regulations?
- The moves parents can make to protect their children online
- Joe’s recommended resources to monitor kids’ online activities
- How parents can get involved in privacy public policy
- Joe shares his ultimate privacy tip
In this episode…
The internet is largely unregulated, with social media platforms targeting and coercing children to use their sites. As parents, how can you manage and control your children’s online activity to ensure their safety?
Joe Miller urges parents to conduct in-depth research into popular sites and platforms to ensure they are appropriate for use. It’s also crucial to recognize the peer pressure that accompanies social media usage, so you can establish the proper boundaries. By familiarizing yourself with each application’s parental controls, you can protect your children’s data and monitor their media consumption.
Resources Mentioned in this episode
- Jodi Daniels on LinkedIn
- Justin Daniels on LinkedIn
- Red Clover Advisors’ website
- Red Clover Advisors on LinkedIn
- Red Clover Advisors on Facebook
- Red Clover Advisors’ email: email@example.com
- Joe Miller on LinkedIn
- Joe Miller on Twitter
- Protect Your Kids Online
Sponsor for this episode…
This episode is brought to you by Red Clover Advisors.
Red Clover Advisors uses data privacy to transform the way that companies do business together and create a future where there is greater trust between companies and consumers.
Founded by Jodi Daniels, Red Clover Advisors helps their clients comply with data privacy laws and establish customer trust so that they can grow and nurture integrity. They work with companies in a variety of fields, including technology, SaaS, ecommerce, media agencies, professional services, and financial services.
You can get a copy of their free guide, “Privacy Resource Pack,” through this link.
You can also learn more about Red Clover Advisors by visiting their website or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Welcome to the She Said Privacy/He Said Security Podcast. Like any good marriage we will debate, evaluate, and sometimes quarrel about how privacy and security impact business in the 21st century.
Jodi Daniels 0:21
Hi, Jodi Daniels here. I'm the founder and CEO of Red Clover Advisors, a certified women's privacy consultancy. I'm a privacy consultant and certified informational privacy professional, providing practical privacy advice to overwhelmed companies.
Justin Daniels 0:36
Hi, Justin Daniels. Here I am passionate about helping companies solve complex cyber and privacy challenges during the lifecycle of their business. I am the cyber quarterback helping clients design and implement cyber plans as well as help them manage and recover from data breaches.
Jodi Daniels 0:50
And this episode is brought to you by Red Clover Advisors. We help companies to comply with data privacy laws and establish customer trust so that they can grow and nurture integrity. We work with companies in a variety of fields, including technology, ecommerce, media, and professional services. In short, we use data privacy to transform the way companies do business. Together, we're creating a future where there's greater trust between companies and consumers. To learn more, visit redcloveradvisors.com. Well, today, we're going to bring on a very special guest who is going to help all of the parents out there be better informed to ensure that we can protect our kiddos. We are joined by Joe Miller, who is the founder and CEO of the Washington Center for Technology Policy Inclusion, known as WashingTECH a nonprofit in Washington DC that fights for a safe and trustworthy internet by teaching tech law and policy to everyone who wants to shape it. A media and communications lawyer with over 15 years working on public policy issues appearing before the FCC and Congress Joe is committed to including parents and caregivers and important conversations happening at the intersection of privacy and parenting in the digital age, which is Oh, such a very challenging issue today. So Joe, we're so excited that you were here today.
Joe Miller 2:13
I'm excited to be here. I've been looking forward to talking to you both. So thanks for having me.
Jodi Daniels 2:17
Absolutely. Well, to get us started, we always kind of want to understand how did you get to where you are today? So can you walk us through your career journey?
Joe Miller 2:28
Well, sure. I mean, I've had a really sort of unconventional path. I actually started working in, in broadcasting in New York City. Many years ago, when I was still in high school. And you know, the technology and media landscape has changed so fast, fast, you know, initially started, I wanted to be a station manager. And that's why I went to law school. And then, you know, my wife found a job here in DC, we decided, you know, what, if we're going to move, we should go ahead and do that. So we went ahead and moved to DC, I had no clue about public policy. My my background, like I said, was all in, in broadcasting, both on air and working in advertising sales. And you know, when I started out in this field, we were focused primarily always been focused on public policy issues related to individuals and telecommuted telecommunications policies affect them. But when I started out, we were focused on things like broadcast regulation, and increasing opportunities for women and people of color to own more broadcast stations. In the US, we've also done a lot of work on trying to advocate for better broadband adoption, so that we have coverage in rural and urban areas that still to this day, are surprisingly, what's arguably the richest country in the world, we don't have still have about 26 million people who lack access to broadband. And it's sort of evolved. I mean, with the Internet. I graduated from, from college in the in the 90s. And so my, my career has sort of tracked my career has sort of tracked the development of, of media and communications policy over the last several years and just, you know, kind of the Internet has taken front, you know, front and center. And we have issues that, you know, folks that were anticipated in the, in the opening stages of the internet, sort of what a lot of folks refer to as the wild west of the internet. And when we had very few regulations applying to apply to the internet and and the way individuals are affected by not just what they see and hear and ensuring that we don't that we have accurate and trustworthy information. But also you know, now we have these privacy issues and you know, issues affecting children and issues affecting individuals, adults that we are grappling with here in Washington and in the States as you both well know I'm so that's kind of been an interesting sort of weird path. You know, this hybrid between advocating for an internet that empowers businesses like yours, and mine, we never would have been able to start a business many years ago with the overhead that we're allowed, that we could enjoy today and fighting for policies to keep the the Internet open and free and accessible to us as entrepreneurs, but then also protecting consumers as well.
Jodi Daniels 5:29
That's so interesting. I actually always wanted to be in broadcast journalism in my early career and then made a switch. So I just keep circling around around media. Interesting. How you started as well.
Joe Miller 5:43
Yeah. And you get to sort of bring everything together, I think in our, in our careers, we do less glamorous than I anticipated.
Justin Daniels 5:52
That's okay. But Jodi, you are in broadcasting, since you do have your own. It's true.
Jodi Daniels 5:59
Who knew way back when there'd be this thing of a podcast? And I could, I could have my own show? You're absolutely right. Maybe that's why I'm having so much fun with it.
Justin Daniels 6:07
There you go. Exactly. So, you know, getting to the root of the topic today is, you know, Jodi and I are both parents, and we have a lot of parents who listen to the show. What are the threats that parents need to know about today?
Joe Miller 6:23
Well, as you will know, you know, the the the main concern is that a lot of parents just are afraid, you know, the main thread is that we often don't know what we don't know. And as a parent of two girls, myself, I have a 13 and 10 year old, don't constantly thinking about and they wish I would stop talking about, you know, the threats that that are constantly online at any given moment whenever they log in. And so the the main issue, I think, is that a lot of times we don't know, what our kids are doing, and so how do we protect them, in the same way that we protect them in the past when they were sort of playing outside and keeping an eye on them when we had them right in our line of sight. But on the internet, there are all these threats that we don't even understand. And then we have to communicate that to children who don't necessarily have the judgment yet. And then the The other issue is grappling with, with what schools are doing, we don't really have a lot of insight and transparency around what students are doing with kids data. And, you know, I mean, we don't, I don't recall, I don't know if you recall with your kids in school, how much they mined, we didn't get in Fairfax County, any specific forms that that we were we consented to the use of our kids data by all these different platforms like Schoology, and Google education, you know how these folks, companies would collect our kids data, and whether they share that information with data brokers, or how they're sharing it with data brokers. So I think there's a lot of uncertainty that we're dealing with, when it comes to online safety. And that's the main threat, the main challenge, or the old main overarching challenge that, that I can see from my vantage point is you will both know, developing privacy policies as you as advisors, that there are a number of different threats and alone of compliance issues and ethical issues that companies have to grapple with in the absence of of certainty around regulations, particularly in the US.
Jodi Daniels 8:32
So you mean, we're not the only parent who has kids don't like that we're in this field.
Joe Miller 8:38
Yeah, yeah. Really? How old are your kids?
Jodi Daniels 8:42
They're nine and 12. So not too far from you?
Joe Miller 8:45
Yeah, we have the same we have the same exact spread. So you know, it's like, and then they're technically savvy, so they know how to get around some of the controls we have in place.
Jodi Daniels 8:57
You know, it's interesting, you brought up the school thing, because in that situation, parents really don't have any choices. If you're, if you say, No, I don't consent to this, then your child can't use the potentially required thing in a school. So I think it's an interesting conundrum that parents are, it's kind of a forced consent. It's really not consent.
Joe Miller 9:18
Yeah, it's almost like extortion.
Jodi Daniels 9:20
That would be a bold word. But I mean, it's it's an interesting situation, it really isn't consent when you have no other choice. But to do that.
Joe Miller 9:31
That's exactly right. That's exactly right. And if we could, we could take in a big issue right now is when we when we look at tort law, or criminal law. The notion of consent is very clear. When we're talking about theft, or when we're talking about safety, the notion of consent is very clear. But for some reason, we're not applying those same standards on the internet in the US.
Justin Daniels 9:55
Well, it's interesting. You bring up that point because I know Jodi was talking to me about a three year old About a popular account, and now the mom is taking all the pictures down after realizing they were being searched and saved 10s of 1000s of times, from a parent's perspective, how safe is social media?
Joe Miller 10:11
Yeah, that's, that's the answer we constantly have to grapple with. I mean, so we don't have to worry about Facebook with them because they're not on on there. We kind of have to worry about Instagram still. But you know, snap, Snapchat doesn't get a lot of attention. There are a lot of companies that Congress hasn't even been thinking about. I think Tik Tok testified after the big scandal with meta when it was called Facebook at the time was the sort of the parent company is now meta. The parent company used to be Facebook, mainly created meta, and when the whole scandal arose last year, where a whistleblower Francis Haugan revealed that, you know, they were targeting six year olds to you know, figure out how to get six year olds on on Instagram. Like, that's not, that's not okay. And so, I think, you know, we have some some legislation in Congress that's currently percolating, but it's leading a lot of conflicts coming up against a lot of conflicts, because we also have this patchwork of state regulations in the US. So these things are becoming federal legislation is difficult to pass. But uh, you know, one of the key issues is that companies are not technically allowed under under COPPA, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act to target children are 13. And so one of the goals of the of the current pending legislation is to raise that age to 16. But again, you know, these Children's Online Privacy modification and also the Privacy Bill, that's federal privacy bill that's currently percolating, and has most of the votes it needs, but they're meeting some resistance in California in particular, because there's concerns that the federal federal legislation would preempt state legislation which some California legislators think grants less protection to consumers and their own state privacy legislation. So there's all different kinds of things to think about that try to address a try to approach some of these concerns around online safety, for children that sort of start with how old kids are when companies can start targeting them.
Justin Daniels 12:40
I want to ask you a follow up question. Just love to get your opinion, because you're in the heartbeat of our legislative bodies in DC. And that is, we talk a lot about on this show about potential federal privacy laws. And what is your sense about how well people in Congress or the Senate really understand the privacy issues? Or is it really they may not, but their staff does, and they just know, it's important? I'd love to get your perspective, because you're you've testified and you're in DC,
Joe Miller 13:09
I think the issue is less about less about whether policymakers in Washington understand privacy than it is about engineers and whether they have the ethical commitment to preserve privacy when they build these algorithms. So in DC, the the concept of privacy is very simple. You know, privacy means that there are intrusions into folks, what they're doing online without their consent, we're not selling companies aren't selling their data without their consent to, you know, these kind of mysterious data brokers, who once they have the information, we don't even know what they're doing with them. And so, from a lot of policymakers perspective, why are these kind of backdoors built into technology in the first place? And so I know that Aspen and some other organizations are trying to bring more technologists into the policy debate, not necessarily because policymakers in Washington, and advocates in Washington don't know what's going on and aren't technical, but because the apparently, you know, from what we've seen, and what we continue to see is that these the engineers haven't built these things into the algorithms, we're confronted with a lot of issues around algorithmic bias. And somehow, marketers are able to get through to kids under 13 years old. So that that is really the kind of how the conversation has shifted here in Washington away from this kind of missed that. policymakers don't know what's going on to this kind of focus on what the engineers are doing and whether the engineers are are giving the level level of portents to privacy and online safety as, as they, you know, attempt to from Silicon Valley try to, you know, have this preserve this, like I was saying before this unregulated sort of wild, wild west environment that we've been in, since 1996, that has stimulated a lot of innovation. And a lot of returns on investment for folks, which is great. But there's been a trade off when it comes to online safety.
Jodi Daniels 15:30
So with all that being said, What can parents do today to help keep their families safe?
Joe Miller 15:36
So you only saw some research from Kaspersky that says, Only 46. Parents, that parents don't spend a lot of time talking to their kids about online privacy. This particular research said parents only spent about 46 minutes talking to their kids about privacy throughout their entire time online. I don't know how accurate that is, but who knows what how many minutes it is. But, you know, there are certain things that that parents can do, that aren't necessarily so straightforward, that require some research. So what we have, we have an online checklist that folks can make parents and caregivers can download. Because it's not only parents, but we're also talking about foster parents. We're talking about, you know, folks who work in in foster care, and orphanages, and things like that, who have to deal with these issues as well. And, but it's labor intensive. And so what we try to explain in our checklist are, you know, a few things that parents can do, and folks can find that at protect your kids, protectyourkids.online. But one of the things is I mean, on the devices themselves, there's no setting those privacy parameters, where you can kind of set boundaries on when your kids can be online, and which sites kids can visit, sitting with them and talking about the sites that are appropriate in the site, or are those sites that are inappropriate, I remember when I was a naive parent, my kids were first going online and trying to just put National Geographic things on there. But you know, their kids start talking about and so a lot of their friends start talking about it. So there's a lot of peer pressure around around a lot on these platforms. It's similar to a lot of the peer pressure we had around. We continue to have around drugs and alcohol abuse. And so what are the what are the peer pressure issues when it comes to online safety? And how can parents be more involved in having those types of discussions locally, to ensure that the kids aren't going on to channels that they don't need or that are affecting them? I mean, why did why do kids need discord? For example, what you know why why kids need access to all of these various platforms, I mean, there's, and there's incredible social pressure for them to be on there. So a lot of it is going to require parents to make a judgment call about whether these things are really are really all that necessary. Then you have the settings on the applications themselves, you know, and making sure that you're going to tick tock and you're going to Instagram and all of these other platforms and looking at how what the parent parental controls are. And if they're not sufficient, then potentially not using those platforms, then you also have location data on devices and making sure kids location. services aren't disabled, enabled. Because you don't want who knows, you know, who knows is going to be tracking them with their when their location preferences are probably following them around everywhere. So, you know, and a lot of this is a lot of this at the end of the day is going to come come come down to who folks decide to put in, in Congress. And right now there's lots of bipartisan support for online safety. And so what we really need parents need to think about whether the candidates who are being elected, think about safety, not just in terms of law and order and you know, the physical defund the police and all these political conversations that are going on. That kind of missed the miss this entire world of what local law enforcement can do to have the tools that are necessary for parents to delegate delegate a lot of those responsibilities of monitoring, monitoring online traffic, and moderating online traffic and preventing bad actors from from accent messing our kids data. So again, your folks can find a checklist that we have that protectyourkids.online. And then with the checklist, there's also a webinar that we have that you can access once, once you once they download the checklist, where we talk about some of the controversies and things that have been going on, on in what these platforms have been doing and how they've dealt with these issues around online safety, most of the time, not very effectively. So that parents can know exactly what's a little bit more about, you know, what they don't know, and eliminate a lot of that uncertainty. And then we also have a membership, a new membership program that folks can join, where they can engage in debate with other parents to kind of think, you know, craft their own policies and advocate locally for for around issues that we that we're building platform to teach them how to generate more civic engagement around this, instead of just having a bunch of engineers and Putin lawyers fighting with each other, and holding up these, these regulations that we desperately need to protect our kids online.
Justin Daniels 21:22
So what are some of your favorite software tools to help monitor what kids are doing online?
Joe Miller 21:27
You know, I mean, there are, I mean, we have the internet service providers. And they provide the, you know, they give you the ability to set privacy controls. And I think for now, those are the most reliable. You know, folks in Washington know that I'm not a huge advocate for ISPs, because their pricing is too high relative to other countries in the US, their customer service is terrible. But when it comes to a centralized hub, for managing online safety, and how much time our kids are spending online, and which sites they visit, I think ISPs offers some of the best controls available. There are a few others out there that are okay. You have Griffin, which provides a you know, they have a separate router that you can use to provide more granular monitoring of kids traffic, there's also bark, which lets you know, what kids are talking about. And so the problem with bark is, you know, it lets us know what kids are talking about. But it also lets bark know, what kids are talking about, and what is bark doing with that data in an environment where the regulations are so low uncertainty, and we still don't have any standards around that. So you know, if there's going to be a central hub, I would say to start with the ISP, ISPs controls. And then from there, kind of do keyword searches based on your own individual concerns around what's happening with with your kids, and there may be nuances that you're concerned about that don't affect everyone. So a lot of these platforms aren't one size fits all. And so I think it really comes down to parents and caregivers to craft solutions based on what their kids are doing, which is tough, because I mean, we have our distractions to that we want to get to, you know, we want to get to see, we don't want to sit around and deal with these privacy settings. But, you know, we do have controls in place that parents can, can kind of look into to address their individual concerns. And hopefully our platform can be a starting point. To make that bit easier.
Jodi Daniels 23:53
Thank you for sharing if parents wanted to get more involved from a policy perspective, you mentioned the membership where parents can connect with other parents. But if someone's really passionate, what would you recommend? They do? So it depends?
Joe Miller 24:08
That's a great question. It depends on on the context, and the way their local governments are set up. But I would suggest starting locally, I mean, the most direct access that folks have to government, caregivers and parents have access to government as do their children's schools. So one of the first things they need to thinking about, especially in the beginning of the school year, when they signed those those agreements, whether there were provisions in there that protect their kids online safety, that address some of the issues we talked about today. One One other area that that parents, some parents in some states should be well aware of is how children how the schools use discipline data in one school district in Florida was taking discipline data to predict school discipline data to predict future criminality. And so you know, you know, it's not just the sharing with the companies, that's a problem. But it's also the ways in which law enforcement and schools are working together to, quote unquote, predict future criminal behavior, which has always been kind of taboo when it comes to criminal law. But for some reason, when it comes to algorithms, for some reason, a lot of law enforcement agencies have thought of this as a way to intrude on privacy. Rather than being ethical about how they're using data, very interesting.
Jodi Daniels 25:37
You've shared a lot of really great privacy tips, we always ask all our guests their best privacy or security tips. So is there one that you'd like to add that we didn't cover?
Joe Miller 25:48
Shut it down? No. That is, we put a book and take the tablet out of their hand and put a book in their hand instead? We try, but we're not very successful at that. But I, you know, I think that the parents seem to understand that they are in control, that it's not a given that that kids need to be on these platforms, that it's not abuse, to limit their access to devices, because there's still a lot that we don't understand. And so I think ultimately, it does come down to, to terrorists to you use the tools that are at their disposal, to kind of make the make the changes that they feel like they need in their own individual situation. Well, Tony's answer your question, I'm giving super long answers. But to answer your, you know, in short, I'd say it's up to each each parent, I have my, my favorites, but they don't always work. You know, they have to constantly be refined. I like using the ISP as a hub. But that may not work for everyone. Some parents may want more granule granular approaches, like the Griffin router,
Justin Daniels 27:03
well, when you're not out, helping protect kids and educating parents, what do you like to do for fun?
Joe Miller 27:10
Uh, you know, I have to get back into my music. You know, I went to school in New York that was based on the show fame. So I like to produce, I'm getting into producing electronic music, I like fitness. I like working out. I like travel. But it's not just about protecting kids online. And you know, it's also about protecting everyone online. And it's not just privacy, that's an issue. It's also misinformation, and whether folks have access to broadband, that enables them to participate in the discussion and provide counter narratives to a lot of the misinformation and disinformation that we're seeing. So the Children's Online Privacy is really just one product that we're that we're focusing on one initiative that we're focusing on. But some other initiatives are focusing, we're focusing on bringing more diversity inclusion to tech policy debates, and to impacting how engineers develop technology, by increasing diversity inclusion at tech companies, so that you have a more democratic process around how these algorithms are being developed. So you know, that's, that's pretty much it. My personal interests are pretty much the same as everyone's I suppose. You know?
Jodi Daniels 28:32
Well, Jeff, thank you so much for sharing with us. Where is the best place for people to connect with you?
Joe Miller 28:39
So folks can find me on Twitter @JoeMillerJD, same on Instagram, JoeMillerJD, and then on LinkedIn, the same JoeMillerJD and find me there. And then also, our website is Washingtech.org.
Jodi Daniels 28:54
Excellent. Well, we'll be sure to include all of those in the show notes. So thank you, again, so much for sharing all of this really important information, especially for parents to be able to keep their kids safe on line.
Joe Miller 29:09
But absolutely, thanks so much for your work that you're doing to help companies create policies that are more where folks who work they're actually thinking about their own kids when when it comes to how they're using data
Jodi Daniels 29:24
is a collective process for sure. So thank you again.
Thanks for listening to the She Said Privacy/He Said Security Podcast. If you haven't already, be sure to click Subscribe to get future episodes and check us out on LinkedIn. See you next time.