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Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes, for the first show of 2013, and we have at our microphones, back at our microphones, she was once with us a long time ago, Marsali Hancock. She is the CEO and President of the Internet Keep Safe Coalition, the website ikeepsafe.org – ikeepsafe.org. I invited Marsali back to our microphones to discuss internet safety, and it’s an issue of extreme importance to just about everybody within the criminal justice system and everybody out there listening to my voice. Marsali, welcome back to DC Public Safety.
Marsali Hancock: Thank you. I’m thrilled to be here.
Len Sipes: You know, I can’t imagine a topic with more universal connection to those of us within the criminal justice system and everybody else who happens to be listening to this program. You and I, before we hit the record button, we were talking about a good friend of mine and she was cyber-bullied. She received threatening messages via Facebook, and this was not an easy event for her. This was not something that she sloughed off. I won’t tell you all the different things that she did and the reactions but she took this very personally, very emotionally, I mean to the point, well, you know, somebody knocking on the door and I’m not there, I mean, it was a very frightening event. So cyber crime, cyber bullying, cyber safety just has an impact, an emotional impact, a strong emotional impact, and it’s probably affecting millions of Americans.
Marsali Hancock: Well, you pull up a very interesting point that there are strong emotions with technical devices, and it’s because people emotionally connect with them. So when you look at the types of communications people send, either through Facebook or text messaging or the photos they sent back and forth or the videos, this is how people emotionally connect and when something goes wrong, that sense of unrest and insecurity is really heightened. So lots of people in the world are trying to navigate, how do I have a good, healthy relationship with my technology, and when something goes wrong, it’s very hard to know how do I navigate it, where do I go, how do I prevent it, and what’s my plan when something does happen.
Len Sipes: Let’s talk about this for a second because I’m not quite sure if people have an understanding of this. They use their smartphones, they Facebook, they Twitter all with their smartphones, they go home to their computer, they do LinkedIn, they do a variety of social media sites, but they see it as having this huge impact on their world. The digital space means something profound to the people involved in it, correct? There’s more to this than meets the eye. It’s just not use of Facebook. It is now pretty much a lifestyle. It is now pretty much something that permeates our day-to-day existence.
Marsali Hancock: Well it absolutely does, and when you look at how often people check their phones, when you look at a mobile device, people feel it’s an extension of themselves so emotionally they’re problem-solving often through that medium, so when things go wrong, it feels very – that you’re space is invaded. It’s a very unnerving experience. Often people forget that the digital world is always public, it can never be private, so what we do online absolutely impacts our future academic and employment opportunities. It impacts our relationships, our future relationships, and you can never fully pull off what has been sent digitally, and anything that can be sent can be tracked and stored and resent by anyone.
Len Sipes: Is there any such thing as Internet privacy?
Marsali Hancock: No. No. You can try to reduce the amount of exposure, you can be very careful by what you post, but you can never plan on anything being fully private, ever. It’s just not to be expected. Sometimes in this space when you work with parents, they’ll feel like, “I want my child to know I trust them, and I want to give my child privacy. I don’t want to look into their private communications,” and that parent is completely mistaken about the reality of technology. The reality is if it’s done through digital technology, it is not private, there is no assumption of privacy, and anything sent can be capture and resent by anyone else.
Len Sipes: But you go on the Facebook and the settings are immensely confusing, and the pundits have complained about the fact that they’re immensely confusing. I’m not quite sure that there’s anybody out there, whether it’s a parent or a child or a professional, that has a full understanding of the fact that what you post on Facebook, you may have it geared for friends only but it’s still searchable and it still is pulled up into feeds of other people within your timeline. There’s nothing private about your use of Facebook.
Marsali Hancock: You can reduce what others see but you cannot ensure that anyone who can see it does not also publish it. You can go to ikeepsafe.org and we do have a guide for parents on Facebook so there are some ways that you can minimize your risks by being able to identify those 9% of fake sites, you know, sites that are just set up by someone to be impersonating or to inflict harm, that’s out there which ends up being 80 million some odds sites that are fake, but learning how to navigate privacy setting is a convenience, it’s not a guarantee. It’s not encrypted. Sometimes people will feel like, “Well, the same type of protection I have from my bank is what I have with privacy settings,” and that is not the case. Encryption is a totally different procedure, technical feature, than privacy settings which are just literally a convenience.
Len Sipes: You put on a variety of training programs for the Department of Justice, and I met you through U.S. Department of Justice contacts. Why you? Why did Justice put their faith and trust in I Keep Safe?
Marsali Hancock: Well first, I Keep Safe is a nonprofit. We’re a 500c3 but we align ourselves easily with industry to help industry make better choices but then also for industry to be able to communicate how can you best use that site. So we’ve done many projects with law enforcement agencies across the country and even outside of the country, so in Pennsylvania the Attorney General, in Michigan the Attorney General, in multiple states. We’ll help to customize and localize what are the key topics that are important to that law enforcement organization, and then what’s the capacity within that state to deliver, and how can we help reach consumers with the things they need to know about how to stay safe online.
Len Sipes: How the criminal justice system can do a better job of Internet safety, again, I have been involved in the digital world from the very beginning of the digital world. I mean, I put up my radio shows on the Internet decades ago. I put my radios up and responded to different people via email, and yet as we proved this morning, I have this first radio show of the year, and I struggled to put all this equipment together. I think I’m intimidated by the digital world. I think all of us are intimidated by the digital world. We within the criminal justice system, I’m not quite sure we fully get it. I’m not quite sure we fully know what to do in terms of advising parents and advising children, in terms of keeping themselves safe. So what do we need to do within the criminal justice system to do a better job?
Marsali Hancock: Well first of all, you’re right, everyone’s dealing with this through their own lens and there’s big challenges, and some of the biggest challenges are the technology changes and the application changes on how we gather information, how we handle an investigation, what’s the communication channels and those lines. So for the criminal justice system, there’s a continual learning curve, and the capacity for professional development needs to be increased. What helps us when we get down to the victim side, all right, what’s hard sometimes for particularly law officers who have not had training in actual digital devices and how they navigate that investigation, there’s an enormous amount of support law enforcement can offer that no one else can. If you’re in a school or a family setting and you’ve got something on Facebook or YouTube or on SnapChat that’s making you really nervous, law enforcement has the capacity to connect with industry much faster than anyone else. There are ways to report abuse and there are things that consumers can do but it’s really law enforcement that has the shortest path to getting to someone on that platform who can be helpful with content.
Len Sipes: On this program however we’ve discussed either from the law enforcement or the correctional side the shortcomings, the budget cuts, the fact that there are a lot of agencies out there that are doing much more with much less over the course of the last five years or so with the budget cuts. Do we really have that capacity at local law enforcement? If you go to them and say, “I’m being cyber bullied,” they really do know what to do?
Marsali Hancock: You know, to be honest, not very many do. I recommend that when a family’s in that situation, if they talk to the Internet Crimes Against Children’s Taskforce, they’re going to find someone that’s at the A-game around digital evidence.
Len Sipes: Right, and how do they contact the Internet Crimes Taskforce?
Marsali Hancock: You can just do a search online to find out your exact state, so every state – its –.
Len Sipes: Every state in the United States has an Internet Crimes Taskforce, and you need to go and use the search engine of preference – see, I didn’t say Google – use the search engine of preference and find the Internet Crimes Against Children’s Taskforce. What about if you’re being bullied as an adult?
Marsali Hancock: Same thing, so they’ll be able to point you, and when you look at the landscape of law enforcement officers, everybody has their niche and their specialty, and some people are really up-to-speed on gang recruitment or some on child victimization, but you need to have someone who can help you know what’s the landscape of opportunities I have to find out who’s behind the types of communication and what do I do to support them. Can I just connect them with the victim’s rights? Has anything actually criminally happened, or, you know, where do I cross that threshold? And from that piece, it takes somebody who knows the ropes about digital evidence, and unfortunately there’s not that many yet but because the digital road grows so fast – every day, 900,000 new Android phones are activated.
Len Sipes: Every day?
Marsali Hancock: Every day.
Len Sipes: Isn’t that amazing? – 900,000 Android phones throughout the world, and they’re all little computers.
Marsali Hancock: Right, and with full-functioning computers with various levels of apps that have the capacity to take a wide range of personal data and spread it to a wide range of countries and developers.
Len Sipes: Yep. They’re more powerful than my desktop five years ago.
Marsali Hancock: Ah, yes.
Len Sipes: Some are more powerful than my desktop three years ago.
Marsali Hancock: Well, and it’s not just the capacity of the device, it’s the types of behavior you use with that device.
Len Sipes: Right.
Marsali Hancock: So what you used to do on your laptop was pretty limited but when you talk about mobile applications, and the global positioning, and your online banking, and your social networking with your closest friends, and your work friends through LinkedIn, I mean, there’s an enormous amount of activity that we never did on a desktop that we do every day with our mobile devices.
Len Sipes: Now I hear from the pundits that all the emphasis within the last ten years has been in terms of cyber attacks – cyber attacks on your own computers, cyber attacks on corporate computers. It is not shifting over to cyber attacks on cell phones.
Marsali Hancock: Mobile devices, so not just cell phones, that’s also your tablets.
Len Sipes: Mobile devices, I’m sorry, mobile devices, your tablets, yes.
Marsali Hancock: It’s anything that connects to something of value, so when you’re looking at the potential for victimization, your value can be your unused credit. So for children, their unused credit is used by criminals and it’s not until you apply for a student loan that parents really recognize so learning what is it of value on my device that helps me to better prepare. So unused credit is a value, so everything around identify theft and protection, you need to have some confidence and competence.
Len Sipes: And all of this you can find on ikeepsafe.org, correct?
Marsali Hancock: Yes, absolutely.
Len Sipes: Okay, and guidance for parents, guidance for children, guidance for law enforcement – its all there. You can start off with that.
Marsali Hancock: Yes, so prevention and then post-incidence response, how do I better manage?
Len Sipes: Okay. Now also the FBI has a huge cyber-crime unit. I’ve advised people in the past to simply Google – oh, I’m sorry – use the search engine of your choice and to look for FBI/cyber crime or FBI/computer crime, and you will come up with the proper unit within the FBI who will provide guidance in terms of cyber crime as well.
Marsali Hancock: Yes, it’s a great resource and like every government agency, everyone’s pressed for resources and time. If you’re the victim, you want to find someone who can help you with your next step and find out what are your rights as a victim and what’s something that’s rational that you can do to prevent it next time.
Len Sipes: What do we say to parents and law enforcement? There has got to be some balance here because their children are going to be on the internet, they are going to be on the internet, and we hear these endless horror stories, and it’s sort of remote and sort of academic until it happens to you as it happened to be me in terms of a woman who’s very close to me, the fact that she was cyber-bullied, and it becomes personal at a certain point. It’s not academic. It’s not remote. What do we say to people in terms of putting all of this in balance and keeping it in perspective because our kids, our 9-year-olds are going to be using the internet, our 14-year-olds are going to be using the internet. Yes, there are literally billions of people throughout the world trolling for them, either to defraud them or to engage them in nefarious acts or even sexual acts. They are out there but we’ve got to put into perspective, do we not?
Marsali Hancock: Oh, absolutely, and when you look at most communication by youth, it’s not problematic, but there is always going to be that’s a challenge, and Danah Boyd in her research calls it “digital drama” because it doesn’t necessarily fit into a criminal act or into necessarily bullying or cyber-bullying where some details about it’s repeated, it’s from a position of power. Digital drama is when somebody’s really upset because of something that s happened online.
Len Sipes: Right.
Marsali Hancock: So you absolutely have to address it. If we pull kids off – so let’s take the Draconian approach. I’m going to keep my child safe by not letting them have a Facebook page or a mobile device, then the expectation is at 18 when they go off to college, they’re going to have to figure it out on their own plus, how about this one? – Often websites are set up or social networking sites are set up for someone who doesn’t have one so let’s look at a couple of different areas, so let’s just take reputation and maybe cyber-bullying. If I don’t allow my child to have a Facebook page, then someone else could create one for them and post all sorts of horrendous things on it, and it takes quite a while – you can get it down but it takes some time. Also about the online reputation, so if I have nothing on the web, then if we’re done with this show, you write, “Oh, that Marsali Hancock, she was just such a bore,” then that’s the 100% of what’s on the web if you’re the only one who’s posted. So really when you look at the web as a potential positive and reducing negative, it means you actually get involved, you get engaged, you create your own online reputation that’s an asset rather than a liability proactively, and we have to look at the digital world as a place where we want our children to succeed. They can’t succeed if they are not prepared and practiced.
Len Sipes: Okay, well let’s go back to the criminal justice system and let’s align some things up. Well, we’re already halfway through the program. Let me reintroduce you. Ladies and gentlemen, our guest today is Marsali Hancock. She is with the Internet Keep Safe Coalition. She is CEO and President – ikeepsafe.org – ikeepsafe.org. Marsali, for the criminal justice system, they need training, they need background, but there is in every state in the United States an Internet Safety Taskforce. So if you searched Maryland or Iowa or Montana Internet —
Marsali Hancock: It’s actually Internet Crimes Against Children.
Len Sipes: Internet Crimes Against Children, but they will also help you with other internet-related areas, correct?
Marsali Hancock: Yes. They can help point you in the right direction so it’s a real voice, they have a real number, and they will be somebody who can point you in the right direction.
Len Sipes: Okay, so there’s a local contact for people and there’s a national contact for people through the FBI, their Internet Crimes Taskforce; but local law enforcement needs training, do they not?
Marsali Hancock: They do need training, and it’s very helpful when they recognize they can literally be the golden ticket for their schools. So when you are looking at a principal who’s dealing with let’s take a situation of sexting. It’s very helpful for that principal to have a network of law enforcement, attorneys/psychologists, people who are up-to-speed in how to manage a digital experience like this where you minimize the risk to the victims and you minimize the risk to the perpetrator and you reduce the risk to the bystanders too who are just caught up in the experience.
Len Sipes: Okay. So the bottom line is that there are places for local law enforcement to go, and they can go to your website, ikeepsafe.org, and begin the process of finding out what resources are available to them.
Marsali Hancock: Yes. And for children, you can also report it to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. They are the center, if you are seeing online exploitation; they are set up and ready to gather up that information. If you are a victim or you are a parent at home and you’ve got something that’s concerning you, you’re not sure it crosses that threshold; it’s very nice to call an Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce officer.
Len Sipes: Okay. For parents, it is a matter of what? It is a matter of, again, going to your website and websites like yours to learn how to deal with their children and what access to give, what age to give it, and how to guide your children in terms of keeping them safe?
Marsali Hancock: Well, ikeepsafe.org will help parents get the picture, so what are the big key issues? What are the areas where, if I don’t help prepare my child, there could be a very big pitfall?
Len Sipes: Right.
Marsali Hancock: So where’s the big gaps, and then how do I talk to my child in a way that I’m just not talking about all the pitfalls because kids glaze over, just like when you talk about awesome cars, the car-owner doesn’t want to hear about how they can be killed in their car. They want to talk about their awesome car. Kids want to talk about their awesome technology.
Len Sipes: That’s a good analogy. That’s a good analogy.
Marsali Hancock: So looking at how can we help them better balance the ethical, be careful with their privacy, manage their online reputation, have healthy relationships, and understand the importance of online security. You cannot miss one of those topics.
Len Sipes: Young people do not separate themselves from their digital identity so they see Facebook, they see Twitter, they see the other social sites as being integral to who they are. They don’t see themselves as being different from their digital presence, correct? – And that applies to not just kids, that applies to just about everybody today, correct?
Marsali Hancock: Well, it does, but to youth, because they have grown up with this ubiquitous access often, they connect emotionally with and through their digital device, and they define their relationships on web platforms, and that’s different than those of us who have a few grey hairs.
Len Sipes: So if they’re bullied or if they’re attacked via the Internet, they take it as seriously as if it happened on the street.
Marsali Hancock: It’s actually in many ways, emotionally, it can be more serious because if I viewed bullying in the old days on my bus, I’m going to get off that bus and I’m going to go home, and I’m not continually seeing that bullying on the bus. If it’s online it goes on and on, and what to use to just involve maybe 5 students or 100 students or 200 students now can be 100,000 or 2 million or 5 million students, and in that process as people are viewing digitally the bullying experience, they are either becoming desensitized or they have a sense of ethics that help them to know, “I need to flag and tag this. Whatever platform this is on, I can send an anonymous tag so that this type of behavior is better monitored by the platform.”
Len Sipes: Bullying, cyber-bullying, the topic, the individual topic that we’ve touched upon throughout the program, again, law enforcement, if I’m John Doe police officer and I get a call to go to a house and to deal with an issue of cyber-bullying, I’m going to be stumped.
Marsali Hancock: Well, you don’t have to be stumped, first of all. First know that at search.org, which is set up for law enforcement, there is a research and it’ll be on our website. We have a blog that when we post about this show, we’ll link to it. It gives you the law enforcement entry point, so it’ll give you either a phone number or it’ll give you an email that’s fast-tracked through the company. So here’s an example: in Maryland we were at a school and they were having an issue with cyber-bullying. Some of it was anonymous, some of it involved a few students at the school, but they were assuming it involved quite a few more because of the anonymous posts. So the school resource officer was able to connect with the law enforcement community, get a warrant. They were able to identify the IP addresses of all of the individuals involved so they could go back to the principal and say, “Well, okay, here’s what we have. Here’s the evidence. These are the students’ homes that we know the digital communication was sent from these households.” Now you can’t ensure, we never know for sure who’s actually on the other end of the digital communication. It could be a mother, it could be a friend at that home, but it narrows this huge, giant universe of the web down to, okay, here’s these 12 homes that were involved in actually sending content.
Len Sipes: You really don’t live anonymously. Now there are all sorts of fraudulent sites out there and we haven’t even discussed cyber fraud. My heavens.
Marsali Hancock: Another day.
Len Sipes: Another day, another time, because they originate in Russia and send their messages through —
Marsali Hancock: China.
Len Sipes: — China, and they end up through Burma, and then they end up on your computer, so it’s very hard to track them down but the local cyber-bullying is something that can be traced back to various IP addressed, various computers and various addresses.
Marsali Hancock: It’s difficult to be totally anonymous. To be completely honest, it can happen, but it takes someone very skilled.
Len Sipes: And I think that’s pretty reassuring for a lot of people listening to the program, and I think it’s hopeful to the criminal justice personnel that they can do something about it. So again, they have to work through their task forces, and again, if they have any questions, they can go through the website ikeepsafe.org. Suicide – one of the things I do want to get into is the emotional trauma – it’s just not emotional trauma for a 12-year-old, a 13-year-old to be bullied in a massive setting and that spreads through the school and literally hundreds, if not more, students have access to these messages. So that’s got to be profoundly difficult to deal with, and that’s one of the things we have to – parents need to sit down with their kids, and we in government need to be prepared for the emotionally trauma of what happens when you are bullied and the possibility that suicide could be a result.
Marsali Hancock: Well, Len, you bring up the point about suicide, and what kids are posting online can be incredibly traumatic. I think one of the areas – there are not that many cases that show bullying and online bullying lead to suicide but there are many cases of students who are considering suicide who post about it online, so for the criminal justice community to recognize that we’ve never had the capacity that we have now for intervention and early intervention, so here’s a couple of examples. This one doesn’t involve suicide but my second one will. We were at a school in North Carolina. One of the teachers had picked up a cell phone because they were texting in class. When she picked it up, it was actually an image of his private parts, so now that image is a sexting image of a child so it is child pornography. She wasn’t sure where she takes that and how she manages that. At the same school, another phone she picks it up, and it’s a gang paraphernalia on a 12-year-old with handguns, so she’s going, “Oh, no. Now what do I do? What do I have to do? What’s legal? What’s ethical?” She took it to the law enforcement officer there connected with the school, they pulled the child out. They found a stash of weapons near the school, but the best thing – and here’s my point – is now this 12-year-old is in a gang intervention program before he’s in the criminal justice post-crime.
Len Sipes: Why is it that so many people create that presence on the digital world? The mass shootings – not to deviate into that – but they oftentimes leave digital trails. They oftentimes basically tell people in subtle ways that this is what they’re going to do. I’m not quite sure if everybody recognizes that. How do you recognize a child in trouble? How do you recognize an individual in trouble through their digital presence?
Marsali Hancock: Well in the UK, there was a young woman who had posted she was going to commit suicide. She had over a thousand friends on her Facebook where she had posted it – no one did a thing. So they found her the next day, passed away.
Len Sipes: What are you supposed to do?
Marsali Hancock: You’re supposed to notify, so if you know that person for real, then you call the police. My nephew had a very painful situation where he was instant messaging on the platform MySpace, and as he was instant-messaging with her, he realized she was creating her goodbye communication. There were three people that she was instant-messaging with, saying her goodbyes, it was her birthday, she was in high school. He only knew her from high school so he only knew her as a school friend. He did not know her parents’ name or landline, and in today’s world, you don’t call landlines. So if I ground my child from their cell phone, nobody calls a landline and goes through mom. They don’t have that communication. So he didn’t know how to find that information, he wanted to call 911, so he starts doing reverse searches, he’s working, working. By the time he figures it out, law enforcement goes, she’s in a coma, and it’s a week before she passes away. But in his mind he will always wonder, “How do I report potential suicide when I don’t know what we used to know which was people’s parents’ names and their home address?” – Because digital friends don’t always know where you live. So part of the criminal justice charge in this generation is to help people learn how to report and respond when they see something. Now not ever case is tragic. There was another one last year where there was someone, a teen, a youth in the UK who had reported that she was going to commit suicide, and her friends did report to law enforcement, they reported to the State Department that sent a message to the UK that found the child and there was intervention just in time.
Len Sipes: Parents need to have age-appropriate conversations with their kids about digital safety and about the digital world because it’s obvious that kids do not separate the real world from the digital world, and I’m beginning to believe that’s applying to more and more adults.
Marsali Hancock: Well, see, we call it the real world and the online world but youth, there is no difference because which they do online is just like hanging out at their friend’s house. What they used to do at the corner store now is done in a group digital experience, either creating or they’re sharing instant messages or it’s on the texting, so there is no on-and-off line for kids. There’s just life.
Len Sipes: But you agree with me that the first line of defense is that parent having that age-appropriate with their child throughout the process and recognizing this, that maybe the digital world did not exist for them just a couple of years ago but it does exist for their 9-year-old, it does exist for their 12-year-old, it does exist for their 17-year-old, and regardless as to how much they protest it, they have to be involved in the child’s digital world.
Marsali Hancock: It starts when they’re 2 and they’re on an iPad. It starts when they’re 3 and they’re 4. Some interesting statistics from Rochester Institute of Technology – by second grade, kids start to harass each other online so that cyber-bullying message needs to happen before second grade. By fourth grade, they’re downloading illegal music and game files. By seventh grade, they are hacking into and out of servers where they don’t belong. So the time to prepare a child to be responsible and ethical and resilient online is as they experience technology. It will never happen by accident that we will have ethical and responsible children in the digital space. Adults must help them through how they navigate it. They don’t have a frontal lobe. They need us.
Len Sipes: Prevention is key from the standpoint of parents’ involvement with children and getting criminal justice personnel trained so they know what to do in terms of providing preventive messages and knowing what to do in terms of an adequate response.
Marsali Hancock: Well, and one thing that everyone can take from the show today, one of the most hurtful thing is when someone says to a parent, “Well, kids will be kids.” What they need from the criminal justice system and from other adults is, “We are here for you. We recognize it was traumatic. We’re going to help you navigate this” rather than “Oh, it didn’t cross criminal barriers. You’re out on your own.”
Len Sipes: You know, that’s just it. I think people need to understand that it is a complex world and they need to know they’re not on their own. There are places that they can go, like your organization, ikeepsafe.org, the FBI, the local taskforces. That’s the bottom line in terms of the messages for today.
Marsali Hancock: And the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Len Sipes: And we’ll put those in the share notes. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We really appreciate your listening to today’s program on internet safety. Marsali Hancock, she is the CEO and president of the I Keep Safe organization, ikeepsafe.org. We really appreciate the calls, the letters, the emails, and we hope that you will have a wonderful listening experience in 2013. Please keep the comments coming in, and have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.