NEWS

FBI Says It's Not Storing Information on New Site Geared Toward Middle School Students

By Carlton Purvis

The FBI says that it is not collecting private information of children who log on to its new site that lets schools compete against each other in online safety competitions.

“The FBI is not collecting student names, ages, or other identifying information through the website,” according to a press release announcing the launch of the new site, Safe Online Surfing (SOS).

SOS launched this week as a tool for teachers to provide online safety instruction to middle school students. The site features six grade-specific portals covering topics like protection of personal information, password strength, cell phone safety, social networking, and online gaming safety. Teachers can sign up entire classes for the site and receive a ready-made curriculum and a teacher’s guide.

Classes can then participate online in knowledge based competitions with other schools. “During each rating period, top scoring schools in each category nationwide are awarded an FBI-SOS trophy and, when possible, receive a visit from a local FBI agent,” says the release (see the current leaderboard here).

Students can sign up on their own or with their parents, but the competitions are limited to classes who have been registered by teachers. Homeschool and private school students are eligible to participate.

To participate in competitions teachers must provide their name, their school, and their school e-mail address. No identifying student information is needed. “Students are identified only by number when taking the exams; their teachers alone know which number matches which student,” says the release.

SOS is part of a continual effort of the FBI to develop new media tools to help protect children. Last year, it released the Child ID app, an app that lets parents store information on their kids in case they go missing. The FBI says it does not store any photos or information saved in the app.

Facebook last year also released an online security resource for teachers. Own Your Space: A Guide to Facebook Security for Young Adults, Parents, and Educators, outlines little known tips and instructions to help its 800 million users navigate the social networking site safely.

Visit the FBI Web site for more information on SOS.


photo by Enokson/flickr

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