You! Fearless on the net! What does that mean? What is this all about?
In a nut shell it is about Internet know-how. And how to use it to gain a high level of confidence online. UFearless.net is a new web site that is dedicated to helping ordinary people thrive on the net.
To me thriving on the net means staying connected, enabled, and secure while enjoying to the max what the net has to offer. And accomplishing everything you want and need to do with it.
By "ordinary people" I mean people who are not necessarily geeks. That is, people who might have varying levels of technical expertise all the way from none up to significant but with no assumption being made of special technical skill. That does not mean it is not for those with more technical skill also. It is! The technically skilled will already know much more of what it offers yet they too will find valuable content.
It is basically about thriving on the net for "the rest of us". It is about building Internet know-how to help you thrive.
Isn't the net a pretty scary place sometimes? It is, after all, the electronic presence of the world in our lives. And the world is not always a safe place.
There are hackers, trolls, trackers, stalkers, malware, false information, identity theft, online abuse, privacy violation, doxing, and any number of other bad things lurking on the net.
It can even bring the bad things right into to our homes and sometimes bring about physical danger.
Does it make any sense to be "fearless" in the face of such things? Well, for me the fearlessness has to do with being as prepared as possible to deal with all of that. It means being able to make full use of the net with confidence born of knowing the ropes.
Internet Know-How to Counter Risk
This is where Internet know-how really comes to your aid.
When you know the risks, when you know how to deal with them, when you know how to find and use the resources that are available to you, then you are the ninja of the net with confidence that you can go everywhere it can take you without getting thrown.
And if you were to get thrown you would know how pick yourself up and strive on.
Never feeling alarmed in the face of real and present danger is not fearlessness as I see it. That is just stupidity.
And that is not what UFearless is about. Exactly to the contrary, UFearless is about knowing the ropes so that you can avoid real and present danger or best deal with it when you cannot avoid it.
Fearlessness is an attitude toward life that refuses domination by fear. But that does not come about in a vacuum. It requires support and learning. It requires Internet know-how.
Internet Know-How to Help You Thrive
If there is one key factor in being able to thrive on the net it is having Internet know-how.
You need to know how to do things. How to detect when something is not right. Knowledge of the sites and methods that get you the things you want and need. Ability to make full use of the devices you have. And so many more things.
UFearless aims to be your best resource for this kind of thing. Developing Internet know-how, if you do not already have a lot of it, takes some time and effort. But it can be a lot of fun also. Especially if you have good support and a community to work with.
UFearless will help you develop Internet know-how and web literacy through articles, courses, community forums, videos, podcasts, and more.
Internet Know-How to Keep You Connected, Enabled, and Secure
Three core objectives of UFearless is to keep you connected, enabled, and secure.
When you are connected you have the access you need when and where you need it.
You can get to the sites that have the information you care about. There is better assurance that you can communicate with the people that you want to. Accessing and sending information as you see fit is natural and easy. That is connected!
Having robust connection means both physical connection and access to the things you want once you are physically connected. Neither one works without the other!
UFearless helps you develop Internet know-how that assists you to make both kinds of connection. You get information, courses, and community help with problems related to them.
Enabled means that you can do what you want and need to do.
Having the ability means three things. It means that you have everything that you need. That what you have works correctly. And that you know how to use what you have.
UFearless helps you build technical and Internet know-how and provides support with all three of these.
You can find out what you have to have in order to do what you want and need to do. What if what you are using or doing does not work for you? You will have resources to help you find solutions. Don’t know how to accomplish needed tasks or how to use what you have? You can get up to speed with information and training that will build the Internet know-how you need.
Secure means that your activity on-line will not cause any harm to you or to those you care about.
Such harm might come from the actions of others or possibly due to unintentional actions of your own. There is nothing that can completely guarantee your security on-line. But there is plenty that you can do to become more secure than you are now.
Here is where you must make a choice between security and freedom.
To have a maximum of security (safety) there are freedoms (things you can do) that you must give up or limit.
Having a maximum of freedom and thus of the things you can do means that you will have to accept less safety in some regards.
It can be difficult to figure this all out. UFearless helps you find the balance between security and safety that is right for you.
Figuring Out a Security Posture
A security posture is your personal policy on dealing with security issues.
What factors influence this choice? How the heck do you make it? How do you identify the risks? What do you have to sacrifice in each case? Can you obtain a maximum of freedom with a minimum of risk?
The only way to make good decisions in this is to have a good understanding of the factors involved and to have some help figuring it out. It can get quite complex and technical.
Most people really do not know how to deal with it well. And the great majority of us do not really want to have to do so.
UFearless helps you in sorting all of this out. It helps you understand what you really need to know and do about it. And this without having to become a security expert! As you build Internet know-how you become more expert in finding your right balance with a well thought out security posture.
What the Site Will Offer
The site has just opened its doors and only an initial part of its projected offerings are currently available.
This will grow continually until we manage to deploy everything listed below. UFearless is a long term project dedicated to helping you build Internet know-how so you get the most out of the online experience. Everything described below will help you do that. The roll out should occur in the order given.
The initial core offering consists of articles aimed at keeping you informed about online issues and helping you build internet know-how.
The articles will have the following categories. Note that some articles will have more than one category.
For example, an article about children's online safety would have both KidBits and RiskyBits categories.
There are a few more categories under consideration also. If you participate in the project you will have a voice in which ones are used.
ConnectBits articles are about getting and staying connected. These will address both physical connection such as Internet, fiber, wifi, etc. and "soft" connection such as the ability to access (connect to) information that is of interest to you.
KnowBits articles focus strongly on building Internet know-how that keeps you enabled. The things that are important to know in order to be able to do the things you want and need to do online. Although I say "online" this includes basic support things like keeping your devices running well. After all, you can't get online without them!
RiskyBits articles deal with the risk factors that you should know about. The approach is generally very practical so there is lots of "how to" and tips as well as knowledge.
KidBits articles focus on keeping children safe online. Taking care of the kids is so very, very important that it needs its own category.
MoneyBits articles deal with making and protecting money online. There can be some great opportunities to earn money online that you might like to know about. It is also important to know how to protect your self from scams and hacks that would steal your money. Everyone is concerned about money so it needs its own category.
PrivacyBits articles focus on protecting your online privacy. This is such a big problem these days. The attacks on our privacy are constant and it is getting worse, not better. It is a very good idea to build internet know-how to make yourself better able to protect your privacy.
SocialBits articles focus on social media related issues. Social media has become massively important in today's online world. There are both wonderful opportunities in it and some serious problems. Unless you completely shun social media (people do exist who want noting to do with it) then you would do well to gain Internet know-how in this area.
The concept of building community is fundamental for UFearless.
We are not alone in this! Sharing ideas, experiences, problems, insights, and so on creates strength.
The UFearless forums will be opening shortly after the site goes live. We still need to iron out a few details but that hopefully will not take very long.
Participation in the forums will require UFearless membership which will allow you to login to the site. Membership will be a requirement for some other offerings as well. I look forward to having the opportunity to talk all these things over with you in the forums. And to see the sense of community grow!
Community and Freedom of Speech
One thing I need to clarify regarding those community building factors that involve people posting content on the site such as comments, open forum posts, and class forum posts:
I am a strong believer in freedom of speech. I regard it as fundamental to the existence of a robust democratic society. But freedom of speech is not absolute. It does not mean that anyone can express or publish anything at all that they want to. There are things that are unacceptable and also things that are illegal to post on an Internet site.
Site administration reserves the right to remove anything at all that it regards as offensive, inappropriate, abusive, or illegal without any notification or requirement to provide any explanation.
When reasonably possible the site will provide both notification and explanation but that is not guaranteed.
Among the kinds of things, although not a complete list, that will not be tolerated are online abuse, racial, gender, religious, and cultural attacks, anything that might be interpreted as sex trafficking, child pornography, terrorism, trolling, stalking, etc. Exactly what "etc." might include is a site decision we will make when anything that seems harmful is detected.
UFearless also reserves the right to delete a membership as a result of unacceptable posting.
A Reasonable Posture?
Does that seem like a reasonable posture?
I hope that it does. We do not want anyone in the community who is there to do harm to others.
Unfortunately that requires some kind of policing and some will regard it as a limitation to freedom of speech.
We really do not want to have to do that but in today's Internet there are lots of bad people who are there to harm others. UFearless will have none of that.
To accomplish this UFearless uses a combination of manual review of posted content and automated filtering that blocks content or triggers a requirement for approval. I do not think that a strong, robust community can exist where people, often unidentifiable, can attack others with impunity.
We encourage you to report anything you regard as abusive or unacceptable. Site administration will evaluate it and decide if it in fact meets criteria for deletion. Building the ability to fight online abuse is part of the Internet know-how we want to foster.
Courses: UFearless.Net Learning Center (UFNLC)
UFNLC courses will be one of your best ways to build Internet know-how.
Some courses will directly reflect the content of an article but will present it in a "how to" focused, guided format. Others will cover broader subjects that might relate to several articles or to one of the categories or possibly to a bigger issue.
Certificates of course completion will be available.
Many courses will be free and will require nothing but a UFearless membership login to take them. Some of the more extensive courses and those that are fully instructor lead will not be free but will be very affordable.
Courses will also be one way of participating in the community. Students and instructors will have course-specific forums inside the UFNLC site. You can use these forums for discussion of the course material. That gives them a natural focus but allows for open discussion.
You can get more details about UFNLC here: Free Online Courses to Keep You Connected, Enabled, and Secure.
In addition to products and services that we advertise for other companies UFearless will develop a line of products that we think are of exceptional quality and value.
These will be offered for sale on the site. These will be products that we stand behind in the sense that we have evaluated them and concluded that they are worthy of special consideration by our visitors and members.
A UFearless branded line of products will eventually be available.
A number of additional services that UFearless will offer are under consideration. More information will be provided about these at a later date. Services will be available to members only.
UFearless.net is a commercial, for-profit site.
It does display advertisements. Just like any other business, if it cannot make a profit it will cease to exist.
It costs a lot of money to maintain a site like this and a huge amount of hard work goes into it. Those costs must be covered and that work must be economically rewarded. Nothing new! We have been doing things that way for thousands of years.
But, there are a lot of concerns about advertising on the Internet and many of them are valid issues that can impact your privacy and the safety of your information. That, clearly, includes personal and financial information.
We must protect that information. (This is NOT Facebook!) And advertisements definitely can impact the quality of your experience on a site also.
Is Advertising a Bad Thing?
My basic view of advertising is that is an important and necessary part of any viable economy.
For an economy to function products and services must be sold. For products and services to be sold they must be advertised or many (sometimes most) potential buyers will not know about them. In essence this is natural and healthy. We all want a robust economy because it generates employment and gives us access to so many things.
Where I see the problems come up is when advertising is dishonest or excessively invasive.
Dishonest advertising is way too common. UFearless does its best to avoid dishonest advertising.
We do not have complete control over companies advertising on the site but there is a constant vigilance to detect dishonesty and eliminate such advertisements. If you discover dishonest advertising on the site please report it to site management. We cannot fix what we do not know about and despite efforts to avoid it in the first place it is not possible to know about all the problems to begin with.
The second issue of excessively invasive advertising is one of the major irritations on the Internet.
UFearless attempts to get advertisements to you with out with out being excessive or invasive. This is a very subjective thing, however!
To some people seeing a single advertisement is excessive. Other people, most people really, have a considerably more moderate view. But everyone has a tolerance limit!
UFearless attempts to strike a middle ground, hopefully tending toward the non-invasive side. If you think the site is being too invasive report it to site administration. I cannot guarantee that we will agree but it is still important for us to know so that we can make adjustments if possible.
One aspect of invasive advertising is tracking.
No UFearless ads popping up all over the place as you surf from site to site. However, note that it is possible that a company placing advertisements on the site might be tracking you. So you could see some of those pervasive ads show up on the site.
We cannot directly control any tracking that might occur on an advertiser's site even though the advertisement was placed on UFearless. However, we want to reduce that kind of thing so, again, if it happens and it bothers you, let us know. And, as discussed below in Protecting Your Privacy you get a lot of control over what information is collected and what is done with it.
Note that UFearless may at times advertise on other sites. But at no time will any tracking be used in those advertisements.
Yep! You guessed it. We're going to bring in less income due to taking the position that we do. But I think it is important and necessary.
Protecting Your Privacy
UFearless promises to do everything it reasonably can to protect your privacy.
After all, much of the Internet know-how we want you have is about knowing how to protect your privacy.
It is my view that the Internet is in a state of crisis regarding privacy protection. I think that Internet sites need to be changing the way they do many things in this regard. It would be hypocritical if I were to make that statement and then not follow through by doing the right things on my own site. I am not a hypocrite.
Compliance With the GDPR
One thing UFearless promises to do is to offer all protections required by the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to all site visitors regardless of being a European resident/citizen or not.
The GDPR legally applies only to residents and citizens of European Union (EU) countries. There is no legal requirement to provide these protections to non-EU people unless they happen to overlap with some other applicable law.
But my view is that what the GDPR is requiring is just the right thing to do. I think that it is right for the whole Internet even if it does not have that much legal reach.
Work is currently under way on the site to ensure GDPR compliance which became effective on 25 May 2018. I think we have most of it in place at the most essential level but we still have work to do.
Protecting Your Data
UFearless will never provide any personal information it has collected about you to any other party (short of possibly authorized law enforcement or other legally required disclosure) without your explicit permission.
There are no default "I agree" traps anywhere on the site that would get your "consent" without you explicitly checking the box that says you agree. You have probably seen those pre-checked boxes thousands of times.
Rest assured that you will be informed of any data collection about you so you know what, if anything, will be collected. It is always your right to say "no" to either the collection or the use of the data if it is in fact personal data.
The Right to Be Forgotten and to Get Copy of Your Data
As per the GDPR you also have the right to be forgotten.
That is, you can ask to have all information about you deleted and it will be. Keep in mind, however, that in some cases refusal to provide some information or requesting that the information be deleted will prevent you from having access to some products and services provided by the site.
The GDPR also gives you the right to download a copy of all the data that has been collected about you. Thus you can know exactly what has been collected. You can request correction of incorrect information.
Advantages of Providing Data
Note that there are some real advantages in providing some data to the site.
As just stated some of the value offered by the site will not be available to you if you decide to not provide needed data. The site also attempts to tailor its communication and interaction with you based on what it knows about you. If it does not know much of anything it cannot do that.
Maybe I'm Crazy!
My view is that treating my readers, students, and customers with respect and honesty will, in the long run, build trust. That trust is as good as gold.
But it has to be earned. UFearless is a long term project that cannot succeed without that trust. It is my intent to build it the hard way over time. Real trust takes real work to earn.
Those who recognize the fundamental value being offered will stay. And the ability to recognize that value is part of the Internet know-how I want to offer. I think that as long as I can build that trust in the long run the project will go far and accomplish very good things.
But I Sure Hope Not!
I cannot say for sure if the project can be made economically viable following the concepts I have expressed here and in the section on advertising.
If it were to turn out that it cannot be made to work this way I would have to make some hard decisions. If I were to ever make changes in regard to any of this my readers, students, and customers would be informed before any changes were made and could opt out, choose to be forgotten, or what ever if they were to find those changes unacceptable.
I hope to never have to go there!
Who the Heck Am I, Anyway?
My name is Cameron Bunch. I have a long background in computers and the Internet. I love the Internet and want it to be a good place for us all.
Internet and Computer Experience
Beginning in 1988 I was actually a participant in the MILNET which was the military part of the ARPANET. ARPANET was the experimental network created cooperatively by the US government, contractors, and universities for the purpose of connecting government, contractors, and educational institutions. It was the predecessor of the current day Internet. Learning and growing with the Internet has been part of my life ever since.
I have been programming computers and developing web applications for close to 40 years. At one point my application development efforts were rewarded by the US Navy with a Superior Civilian Service award, the second highest award the US Navy gives to civilians.
Hardware experience has been a big thing for me also having built many computers over the years and having acted as system administrator for both Windows and Linux servers.
Ten years of military experience as a US Navy Electronics Technician gave me quite a good foundation in electronic hardware.
Privacy and Security Background
I am a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certified by the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium ((ISC)2 ). You can see my Acclaim badge here. I have applied those skills helping to keep information systems secure in a US Naval Hospital and a US Navy Calibration facility.
I have taught computer and information system courses for many years. Although not actively teaching in the university at this time I spent many years teaching as an adjunct professor for the University of Maryland University College and for Chicago City Colleges. Educating has been an important and very satisfactory part of my life.
A Guy With a Vision
But beyond all that I am a guy who has a vision.
I "retired" from my government/military career a few years back. But I am not the kind of guy who can just sit around and vegetate!
I began to observe and think more and more about the difficulties that the majority of people seem to face when dealing with the Internet and computing devices in general. It was obvious that although big organizations can afford to have expensive professionals like CISSPs to deal with information security problems, the majority of people really have no one to help them. I began to wonder "What if there were a way to bring some of that help to the people who are not getting it? That would be great!"
So, I thought to myself, what do people need most to thrive on the Internet? Internet know-how! Knowledge is power. That is possibly more true on the Internet than anywhere else. Got to get a whole lot more Internet know-how into the minds of those who need it!
And so, the idea of UFearless was born.
Discipline and TLC For the Internet
I love the Internet but I am afraid that it is going through a serious crisis right now.
We are not giving it the discipline and tender loving care that it needs to be the wonderful thing that it can be. It is today wonderful in so many ways but is also a mechanism used to do terrible harm. I am convinced that the only way we can fix it is by developing a very broad base of Internet know-how that helps the masses understand what needs to be done to cure its ills. Knowing all of that the masses can change the Internet directly and can influence political and institutional decisions regarding it.
A Personal Note
On a more personal note, I am also a husband and the father of three wonderful daughters. And I share my life and space with two awesome dogs. Additionally I am happy to say that I am carefully nurturing a little avocado tree in hopes that it, like UFearless, will one day bear nourishing fruit.
Something More... The Core
It is important to me that UFearless be something more than just another Internet site.
In many ways it is a vision for me. It is my attempt to help create the Internet that I have always hoped would come to be but seems so far away.
It is also a business venture. I firmly believe that an honest business venture is completely compatible with a widely beneficial vision. The key is honesty and trust.
So, I like to think that UFearless has "something more". If there is a core of honesty and trust working within a community then everything can be made to work to the benefit of all who are involved. This is the human factor.
That core is what UFearless is really all about.
I hope that you find UFearless to be an interesting project and that you will want to participate in it. It will be growing a lot over the coming year. I invite you to participate and grow with us!
I would love to hear your thoughts on it. Please post a comment so we can start a discussion.