Internet Safety Month – Exploring Internet Privacy and Security with Theresa Payton

ASKfm has spent the month of June celebrating Internet Safety Month with our Q&A series offering different perspectives on some of the most-talked about issues relating to teens being smart and safe online. Privacy and security are key to any discussions around Internet Safety. Here, leading authority on the subject, CEO of Fortalice Solutions LLC, and former White House Chief Information Officer Theresa Payton shares her thoughts on what parents and teens need to keep in mind regarding Internet privacy and security to ensure safer experiences online.

What should teens keep in mind when it comes to keeping their online identity safe?

I always say follow three simple rules, and you will protect your identity and your reputation:

Rule 1: Take advantage of ALL privacy settings on social media platforms, your smart phone, and your web browser. Some examples include: Don’t share your home address or cell phone number on social media accounts. Turn geo codes off so you can’t be tracked by photos or location.

Rule 2: The “Bad Guy Rule” – Could a bad guy use this information to hurt you? Think before you post.

Rule 3: The “Grandmom Rule” – Would your Grandmom approve of your post? Keep your posts upbeat, classy and kind.

How important is it to read social networks’ privacy policies? What should teens pay particular attention to?

It’s important for teens to read privacy policies on all the apps they use. Working with the Federal Trade Commission, Carnegie Mellon conducted a study in 2014 that looked at over one million apps to evaluate user privacy. They found that some of the fun games like Fruit Ninja or Angry Birds were some of the bigger offenders of collecting user information, while Facebook and some Google apps actually did a better job guarding privacy. There are three steps you can take:

  1. Read the privacy policy on the app;
  2. Assume you are always for sale, social networking sites are “free” to you but you and your data are the product for sale;
  3. Check out CATSMI.CAor the new Privacy Grade database at for more information on Internet privacy policies.

Should you just always keep social media posts private or is there a case and/or benefit for keeping posts public?

Social media posts that talk about where you will be are best left as private. If you’re posting something positive and upbeat, for example, an inspiring quote by a leader, those are okay to be marked as public.

How does anonymity impact privacy and security on social networks?

You should never assume that you are truly anonymous on the internet, ever. And again, remember the three rules when posting anything online.

How can parents address social network privacy and security issues with their teens?

Show, don’t tell! Parents should use social networks and set the example. A great way to share privacy and security concerns with each other is to talk with each other. Share news headlines of both positive and negative stories about social media. You can also play internet safety games together to make sure everyone is up to speed on latest threats. Some of my favorites are at and

Who’s your favorite person or organization to follow on social media?

@pontifex or Pope Francis, also known as Jorge Mario Bergogio. He posts daily messages of love, hope, and joy. Here is a recent post from Twitter: “@Pontifex  Jun 19 Let us sing as we go. May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope.”