A cybersecurity expert says some social media features require a 21st century parenting approach after a 20-year-old New Brunswick man was charged with child luring and sexual assault using the popular Snapchat photo app.
New Brunswick RCMP have laid 19 charges against the man, including child luring, sexual assault and sexual exploitation.
Snapchat, which is used to send photos back and forth, has a feature called SnapMap where others can see your location if you have it enabled.
When you are near other people, you can add nearby people.
Police allege that is what the man did under two different usernames. In some cases, police say girls who were lured to the Fredericton and Oromocto areas met the 20-year-old and were sexually assaulted.
Cybersecurity expert David Shipley, who also founded and owns Beauceron Security, said tech companies don’t think through all the ways a feature can make their users – mostly people under the age of 18 – vulnerable to cybersecurity. exploitation.
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“I know parents are busy, I know they’re tired, I know they’re overwhelmed with all this technology that’s been thrown at them and their kids, especially in the last two years,” he said in an interview on Thursday. “But you have to protect your children because these companies are not. The government does not hold them to account. »
He added that it also requires having difficult conversations with children about what can happen with information shared on social media. Shipley said he understands wanting children and teens to have freedom and social connections, but being safe doesn’t mean taking that away from them.
“Turn off some features. As they get older and gain confidence, turn some features on,” he said. “You need to take a more active role.”
Shipley also said there hasn’t been a major privacy update in years, so opening certain apps has gone unchecked.
“That’s where we need to improve in those areas,” he said. “These companies are optimizing their app and experiences to get people hooked and so our kids are growing hooked on social media, to some degree, and some expert to addiction levels.”
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He said that in the United States there are conversations about how algorithms are driven and how mental health is affected by social media addiction – something that is not happening in Canada.
“They’re driving a Ferrari on the internet,” he said.
Shipley said parents can disable location services — even down to specific apps — and purchase and use protection software.
The New Brunswick RCMP said these cases are complex and are given the highest possible priority.
Cpl. Hans Ouellette said the suspect was targeting teenage girls near public schools. Police are looking for other possible victims related to the case, he said.
“As we get used to more and more functionality with our phones, with our different apps, and with technology, we really need to be more aware of what we’re doing online and what our kids are doing online,” did he declare.
One of the key elements in this case, explained Ouellette, is to ensure that children and young people who could be involved in this form of exploitation or any other form of exploitation feel comfortable manifest.
In the press release, the police specifically said “we want to speak to you to help our investigation. You are not in trouble. We want to support you.
Ouellette said these cases can be very difficult for victims.
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“The truth is that we are here to help, we are here to support and we are also here to bring to justice those people who commit these types of crimes,” he said.
While Ouellette couldn’t say how long the case has been going on, what resources the RCMP has devoted to the case, or whether Snapchat is cooperating with police, saying the case is before the courts, he pointed out that the crime of sexual exploitation statistics are publicly available.
In 2020, according to a report by the RCMP, it increased by approximately 6.4% compared to the previous year.
Police allege the suspect, 20-year-old Firas Alobaid, was using the usernames “M_vixin20” or “Abo_issauk”. It is alleged that the individual was driving a medium or dark gray 2013 Ford Focus four-door with license plate number JFU 475.
Anyone who may have information about the crimes committed in this case or who may be a victim is encouraged to contact the Oromocto RCMP at 506-357-3400.
If anyone has information about a crime, including Internet sexual exploitation, and wishes to remain anonymous, they can contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).
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