The Internet Driver’s License

The Internet Driver’s License

I think you should be required to pass a test before being allowed to go on the Internet. What prompts this sentiment (today)?

I’m on a mail list from a particular pro-life organization. Unfortunately they have their list software misconfigured so that any emails back to the sender are repeated to every recipient. When they get this email it looks like it’s coming from the list owner. Thus someone writes “Unsubscribe me from this email list.” Clueless Person #1 writes back, “I didn’t subscribe you to anything.” Clueless Person #2 jumps in: “Don’t unsubscribe me!” CP #3 writes, “Why am I getting these emails!” Then comes the flood of copycat unsubscribers: “Stop sending me email,” “Unsub,” and so on. After about the 50th message someone tries to explain what’s going on: “This email is coming from a listserv [Oh yeah, like they’ll know what that is.] mail sent to it will be sent to everyone on the list. If we all stop sending the problem should go away.” By now you can predict what happens. Yup, another dozen emails ensue. Eventually we hope the list owner catches on and fixes things. This same scenario happens a few times a year on various mailing lists.

So I was thinking that maybe people should have a basic set of skills before being allowed online. Maybe they should be given a test somewhat along these lines:

  1. A friendly African fellow, perhaps the orphaned son of a deposed dictator, offers you millions of dollars. All you have to do is give them your bank account information so they can wire it you. Do you: (a) happily send a complete stranger in a foreign land your most confidential financial information or (b) trash the email?
  2. Your bank (or another bank you have never heard of) sends you an email that your confidential personal information has been compromised so click on this little link right here with the very strange address (pay no attention to it) and re-enter it. Do you: (a) Click on the link, (b) open your web browser and enter your bank’s web address by hand, or (c) delete the email?
  3. Someone you never heard of sends you an email with a file attached that they say is the funniest thing ever seen on the Internet, but they can’t tell you what it is. Just open the attachment. Go ahead. Don’t run the virus checker, just open it. Do you… you know the drill.
  4. You receive an unbelievable offer for that prescription medicine you pay scads of money for. Sure all the words are misspelled and the “pharmacy” is in Hong Kong, but it’s such a good deal. Blah, blah, what do you do?

What other questions should go on the Internet Driver’s License Test?

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