Horror stories about social networks are legion. From teenagers who announce house parties online only for hundreds of gatecrashers to show up and wreck the place to people who've been fired over pictures they posted or Facebook status updates when they're supposed to be ill... and far worse things can and do happen too. But online social networking isn't going away and age restrictions don't really keep young teenagers off websites, so Channel 4 has come up with Smokescreen, a game that teaches players about the potential pitfalls of posting their every thought and action online...
The game, created by Six to Start, uses familiar-looking social networks to tell a story. Players interact with characters in the game to solve a mystery, and while the problematic aspects of social networks are highlighted along the way, it's fun rather than didactic. So in one mission, you use 'Gaggle' search to find the 'Fakebook' and 'Tweetr' accounts of a girl your friend fancies, then dig around to see where she's going out that night, what she'll be wearing, and what her interests are, so that your friend can better chat her up. Each piece of information that she shared seemed totally innocuous until you put it all together and use it to stalk her: it's scary how easy it is, and how totally plausible.
(Disclosure: My wife, Alice Taylor, commissioned Smokescreen for Channel 4)
I write books. My latest is a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). More books: Rapture of the Nerds (a novel, with Charlie Stross); With a Little Help (short stories); and The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (novella and nonfic). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.