#MSFTCOSO POV: A year of progress as Microsoft’s chief online safety officer

The following post is from Jacqueline Beauchere, Chief Online Safety Officer at Microsoft. Once a month on The Fire Hose, Beauchere gives her point of view on topics related to the global consumer online safety, privacy and security landscape. Follow the conversation on Twitter at #MSFTCOSO.

One year ago, Microsoft began to chart a bolder course in its long-standing commitment to online safety. Since my appointment as both the company’s and the tech industry’s first Chief Online Safety Officer in March 2013, I’ve seen the industry as a whole re-up in consumer security, privacy and online safety, especially as these topics relate to children.

For Microsoft, this heightened degree of focus has helped to amplify much of our ongoing work. This includes creating a stronger holistic technical vision within our devices and services, as well as implementing a new Online Safety Policy, Standards and Procedures that now formally codifies work that has been taking place for the past two decades.

Yet, while progress is being made, of course, more can always be done. And, given the vast expanse that is the discipline of Online Safety, progress on one issue can sometimes mean another topical area may be languishing. It’s when the technology industry comes together that real progress is made. I’ve always been a fan of banding together and combining resources for maximum appeal and impact, particularly when it comes to strategies for reaching young people. In today’s “always-on” world, it’s no longer sufficient for parents, caregivers and others to set out to protect children from others. We also need compelling strategies to help protect kids from themselves.

There’s a spectrum of negative behaviors and experiences that children can both exhibit and encounter online. I call them: from “selfies to CSAM (Child Sexual Abuse Material)” – and meanness, teasing, taunting, bullying, and over-exposure all rest somewhere in between. Youth don’t always realize just where their questionable behavior can lead. For example, in 2012, the United Kingdom’s Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) analyzed more than 12,000 “selfie” images and videos of young people in various stages of undress. Findings showed that 88.15 percent of those images and videos made their way to so-called “parasite websites,” where they were downloaded over and over again, some for a fee.

To help guard against this type of behavior, we need to continue to stress the importance of understanding how to use technology safely, appropriately and responsibly – what we call fostering “good digital citizenship.” The biggest challenge will be ensuring that people of all ages and abilities have access to the tools, resources and educational guidance to help them stay safer online.

Given that the Internet is a shared domain, the conversation about online safety must include a broad set of stakeholders. That is why I believe that all companies, especially tech companies, need to come to the table to have a conversation about how we will help chart the course to a “better” and safer Internet. We must also continue to work with governments and law enforcement to help address more serious online crime. Together, through vigilance and collaboration, we can help ensure that everyone, especially children, reach their full potential employing the power of the Internet.

For more information about our work in Internet safety and protecting young people online, visit our Safety & Security Center; “like” us on Facebook; follow us on Twitter, and look for my “point of view” following the #MSFTCOSO hashtag.