A few weeks ago we discussed in Flat Chat in the Australian Financial Review whether or not it’s a good idea for your building to have some sort of internet platform where your ‘community’ can meet online.
I’m all for websites and Facebook pages – they’re great, but they do have a potential downside. Imagine all the anonymous trolling and flaming that you read about on Facebook and Twitter, with the added spice that the online combatants could bump into each other in the car park.
‘Aha! So you are Barbieburner105!’
‘OMG! You must be Carscratcher88, damn your emojis!’
Of course, this is less likely to happen if you use a password and login system to make sure the (ab)users are identifiable and responsible for their comments.
Passwords also protect the privacy of residents who don’t need the world to know that they’ve been caught hanging their smalls on an illegal balcony washing line.
More seriously, they are your first line of defence against legal action. Even heated discussions made within a strata community attract qualified exemption from defamation suits. But one condition is that they haven’t been published to the outside world.
Years ago when my own block launched its website, I suggested a residents-only password protection, but that was contemptuously dismissed with the airy comment that once something was on the internet it was ‘out there’.
This is, of course, poppycock. But then ANY idea promoted by yours truly had to be dismissed by the powers that be in case anyone in the building got the idea that they didn’t know what they were doing. Had I been a responsible strata citizen I would have just shut up and hoped they would have stumbled upon this glaring omission themselves.
Anyway, moving on, recently one of those weird coincidences that you wouldn’t believe in a detective novel (even one of mine) occurred.
A regular on the Flat Chat website, seeking a precedent in a common property issue, Googled some key words that led her to committee minutes from my block.
Completely unaware of the connection, she then provided a link that made the unprotected minutes publicly available. Not only were the owners in the specific legal wrangle identified, so were other residents involved in various disputes.
Luckily, I was on hand to take the Flat Chat link down almost immediately, and duly reported back to our committee about their interception. We are now getting a password protected firewall to keep prying eyes away from our secrets. Hurrah!
I mention this only because it shows how easy it is to be caught out when you ignore basic cyber security.
So what should they have done back at the beginning? And what should you do if you have a website for your block?
You could provide all your residents with passwords and usernames, or get them to register and create their own. Given the normal churn of owners and renters, you might issue new passwords every three months or so.
Or you could use a proprietary package like Stratabox to provide all the bells and whistles. Either way, it’s worth the effort. A website is a terrific way of bringing communities together.
But, if you don’t take sensible precautions, it’s also a highly efficient way of exposing your neighbours to all sorts of cyber abuse, legal dangers and privacy issues.