online safety internet safety

The Sharon Herald: Sharing Kids Personal Information Online

The Sharon Herald is a small newspaper in a small town in Pennsylvania.

And yet, their power to have a positive OR negative impact on their community is profound.

Recently, Hueya noticed The Herald was sharing (we’ve left the article out of this blog to protect those exposed) very detailed personal and private information about local kids: pictures, ages, names, schools.

The type of information that can be used to steal kids identities or by predators putting their physical safety at-risk.

Concerned, Hueya responded:

What we received very quickly after our initial email was this response from the Herald’s newsroom (personal info has been blurred out):

To be transparent, we were blown away by this response. More than anything, our surprise came from the sheer lack of concern for the physical safety of local kids! Not to mention the seeming lack of concern for their privacy.

In response, Hueya chose to push further. Why? Because even though we’ve never met the kids covered in the Herald’s article, their privacy MATTERS TO US.

Here is the text from our Letter to the Editor:

“We ran across your recent article ‘Proud parents capture return to class’.

While we understand the desire to build community through your online publication–you are exposing these kids to identity theft, fraud, and abuse.

All of us have a moral obligation to protect our youth and publishing personally identifying data about them online for the world to see is simply irresponsible.

Predators use this information to target our young people and cause them harm.

In response to this article, we wrote to your News Room and received the following from <your newsroom>,

‘Unfortunately, everyone is susceptible to identity theft, fraud and abuse, regardless of age. Our community is very close knit. We also publish birth announcements on Facebook along with the names of all the children who play sports. But in Pennsylvania, Indiana and several other states across the nation, if someone really wants to steal a person’s identity, all they have to do is look up our public court records which publish names, addresses and dates of birth for people with minor infractions such as a speeding ticket.’

Our concern is that The Sharon Herald are missing the point. Yes, we’re all susceptible to identity theft, however, posting this type of personally identifiable information about our youth puts them at an added risk to predators who might use this information to harm them.

We are highly concerned by this practice and look forward to chatting further about ways The Herald could better protect local youth.”

To be clear, our desire is not to embarrass The Sharon Herald. But we do want to call them out.

Why? Because these privacy issues matter, and we can’t just give up. We must keep pushing to protect our privacy. We can’t accept the oversharing status quo.

More than anything, we must protect our children.