City Hall

Council Gets a Primer on "The Dangers of Social Media"

By Erica C. Barnett August 5, 2011

You might think Seattle is a tech-savvy city. But you might think again if you'd watched the city council's technology committee earlier this week, where council members learned about mysterious concepts like "cookies,"  "evildoers who want to know about your life," and "the virus sites." (No, they weren't talking about

For example: Unless we've time-transported back to 1999, it's hard to explain this exchange between Department of Information Technology deputy director David Matthews and committee chair Bruce Harrell:

Harrell: "How do we avoid hackers and other computerists penetrating our computers through social media sites?"

Matthews: "Breaking news is one of the most risky things to click on. Don't do that. Go to the CNN. That's what I click on. ...Be suspicious of anything you read online, especially news items that come out. … If it looks too good to be true it probably is. If it's some new media thing that's just happened there's a pretty good chance it's trying to catch you."

Some other "tips to think about" from Matthews:

- "Don't post anything on Facebook that you wouldn't want your grandmother to see."
- Don't post your vacation plans.
- Don't post your daily routines.
- Don't friend anyone you "haven't touched personally."

To summarize: Don't use Facebook as it was intended.

And then there was just plain bad advice: Like Matthews' suggestion that you "use a passcode, like the name of a song," as a password. Using a song title as your bank password is about as secure as using your date of birth. (Don't do that either).

Also, confidential to Harrell: Emoticons don't actually "have certain viruses embedded in them too." So you have one less thing to worry about when going on The Facebooks or clicking on The CNN.
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