Tag Archives: privacy

How to stop Whatsapp from sharing information with Facebook 

Instructions are here as to how to stop Whatsapp from sharing information with Facebook.

Facebook owns Whatsapp. I expect this simple opt out may not be so simple in the months and years to come. You may have to make a harder choice then when it comes to privacy on Whatsapp. In the meantime, you can follow those instructions to maintain the separation between your Whatsapp data and your Facebook data.

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Personal drones are getting smaller and cheaper. What that leads to.

As you can see, this new drone (Micro Drone 3.0: Flight in the Palm of Your Hand,  Indiegogo) is really small. Also relatively cheap. Like other IT, I expect personal drones will only get smaller and cheaper. The only limit will likely be how big they have to be in order not to get blown away.

I have heard people come up with innovative ways of using personal drones. For example, some home inspectors are using them to check out hard to reach parts of people’s house in order to see if they are in good shape or not. That’s great.

But there are going to be lots of other ways that people use them which may not be so desirable. The most obvious one is invading people’s privacy. It is one thing to inspect a house when no one is in it: it’s another to do so when someone lives there. Instead of prank phone calls, we’ll have prank drone visits.

How people protect their rights in such cases will be difficult. Drones will raise a number of legal questions. For example, what is your recourse if someone has a drone follow you around? Or if someone has a drone hovering in a public place outside your home? Can you fly a drone above an outdoor concert so you can record it? Can you attack drones that fly into your personal airspace? Will there be security drones that keep other drones off people’s property? If you post a video of a drone visit to a property on YouTube and someone uses that video to help them rob that property, are you an accomplice?

There has been some good work on drones being done by government agencies like Transport Canada, but I think the technology is going to challenge governments and courts to keep up. Expect to see more and more debate on drones in the coming months and years.

As far as this particular drone, Mashable has more on it here.

Here comes Yik Yak: a mini primer (plus 2 or 3 — ok, 7– thoughts on it from me)

By now you have heard of Yik Yak (or were curious enough to click through). Here are three links that can tell you more about it:

  1. If you want to get the basics, check out this: You Asked: What Is Yik Yak? | TIME.
  2. If you are a big user of Yik Yak, you most likely are on campus. College students are where it is seems to be taking off. Like any platform, eventually you see people coming out with ways to take advantage of it. Here it was used to have a back channel for a speech Ted Cruz was giving: Ted Cruz Has Skeptics at Liberty, and They Use Yik Yak – Bloomberg Politics.
  3. And here it was used for cheating on exams! Another Use for Yik Yak on Campus? Cheating on Exams – Wired Campus – Blogs – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

My thoughts:

  1. Yik Yak is a platform. Like any platform, people using it will invent new uses for it. I expect to see Yik Yak used in all sorts of innovative ways, and I expect it will grow as a result.
  2. Yik Yak is big on college now. But it likely won’t be limited to that audience. Facebook was also once limited only to colleges. Look how that turned out.
  3. Yik Yak is partially a response to all those Privacy is Dead advocates and those saying young people don’t care about privacy. Yik Yak is anonymous, and I expect there will be more social media going this way. It’s hard to exploit users when your service does not depend so much on identities.
  4. Anonymous social media is also a dangerous thing in the wrong hands, as is illustrated in some of the examples.
  5. Social media needs to mature to a position that is not anonymous but also protects people privacy. Otherwise people will tire of being abused by one or the other and shy away from social media.
  6. I think social media and the people who create it are anywhere near that mature yet.
  7. Privacy lives. Privacy is all about control about information about your life. To say privacy is dead is to say no one has control over information about their life, which just isn’t true. What is true is that new technology will continue to come out and force you and everyone else to think about privacy and what you want to share and what you want to keep to yourself.

 

 

If you think it is alarming that Facebook also collects what you decide not to post, then I have some news for you

If you think this is alarming: Facebook also collects what you decide not to post, tech consultant warns – Technology & Science – CBC News, then I have more news for you.

Not only can Facebook do this, but they can do other things. For example, if they wanted to, they could track where you move your mouse, even if you don’t click on something, using technology like the kind mentioned here: web page mouse tracking – Google Search.

In fact, you don’t even have to go to Facebook to have them track you: Facebook Is Tracking Your Every Move on the Web; Here’s How to Stop It.

And if you use Facebook on your mobile phone, there’s potentially even more information they can track about you.

So, lots of reasons to be concerned. I all but avoid Facebook, but it is not an easy thing to do. In addition, I don’t think Facebook is the only one that does this. They seem to be just the most notorious.

 

 

How to prevent sites from tracking you – five good links

Do you find it weird when you search for something, then go to other sites, and it seems like the product is following you around? Do you worry that sites are tracking information about you and you want to stop it?

I’d like to say there is an easy way to put an end to such tracking, but it doesn’t seem to be so. If anything, companies like Facebook, Google and others have a big financial interest in tracking you, regardless of what you think, and they are going to make it hard for you to put an end to it all.

That said,  if you still want to take action, I recommend these links. They highlight tools you can use and steps you can take to limit tracking. You don’t have to be technical to read them, but you have to be comfortable making changes to your system.

  1. How to prevent Google from tracking you – CNET – this may be the best article that I read. Mostly focused on Google. There are useful links to tools in here and plugins you can use, like Disconnect and Ghostery. Somewhat technical.
  2. Facebook Is Tracking Your Every Move on the Web; Here’s How to Stop It – This Lifehacker article has more on how to deal with Facebook tracking you than Google, but it is also good.
  3. How to Stop Google, Facebook and Twitter From Tracking You – this piece from ReadWrite talks mostly about the Disconnect tool, but it does it in conjunction with discussion of some other tools. Seems less technical than the first two, if you found the first two links too hard to follow.
  4. How to Stop Google From Tracking You on the Web on NDTV Gadgets has tips that are more manual in nature, if you don’t want to download tools. Also some good information on how to deal with mobile phone tracking.
  5. Delete searches & browsing activity – Accounts Help via Google comes straight from the source of the tracking.

Some thoughts of my own:

  • Consider using two browsers: one for your Google use (e.g. Chrome) and one for other uses (e.g. Firefox or Safari). The non-Google browser you can lock down with blockers and other tools, while the Google oriented browser could be limited to just what you need to integrate with Google.
  • Avoid sites that track you, like Facebook.I know, it isn’t easy. If you have to go on Facebook — you get a call from a sibling asking why you haven’t commented on the new baby pictures there — limit yourself to a few thumbs up and leave it at that. (Knowing Facebook, they will still find a way to do something with even that data.)
  • If you are really concerned, avoid Google altogether and use other search engines, like DuckDuckGo, and other email services, such as Outlook.com. There can still be tracking, but in theory this should make it harder.
  • If you use any of tools, get into a habit of using them and keeping them up to date.
  • Don’t forget to do the same thing on your mobile devices. Facebook can track your activity on your mobile phone, regardless of what you may be doing on the web. You can be tracked via apps just as easily as you can be tracked from your browser.
  • If you do anything else, install the Disconnect plug in and then activate it and go to a newspaper site. You will be amazed just how much tracking is going on. (Also, you do NOT have to sign up for the premium version to get it working.)

Why I am backing the ‘1984’ Stealth Fashion for the Under-Surveillance Society by Zoltan Csaki on Kickstarter

Here are my reasons for (and why you might want to as well):

  • To reduce abuse of access to your data: There are more and more stories of organizations, government and other, using and abusing data given off from your cell phone (e.g. this story on location based marketing in Toronto being just one).  This product can help put a stop to that.
  • To increase the amount of control I have: I may not have an issue with others using this data and there may be times when I think there is a benefit to me to have this data accessible. Generally I don’t, but I like the option. This product helps with that.
  • To encourage more people to make such products: if this campaign is successful, I hope to see more businesses attempting similar but different and possibly better products, which is a benefit to me and people like me who values their privacy.

Reasons against:

  • it’s not foolproof. By that, I mean anyone with enough motivation could still use the data you inevitably will give off when you are using your phone to extrapolate things about you. As well, there are other ways you can be tracked (E.g., abusive apps).

In my case, I think the reasons for outweigh the reasons against, and that is why I have pledged to this Kickstarter campaign . I would encourage you to pledge as well.

Here’s a link to it: ‘1984’ Stealth Fashion for the Under-Surveillance Society by Zoltan Csaki — Kickstarter.

The problem with OKCupid and Facebook and their experiments is one of trust (and why that’s good)

Trust and mistrust is one thing that has not been explicitly mentioned in the many critical pieces about the experiments that Facebook and OKCupid have done with their users, but I think it is a key aspect of this that should be addressed.

When dealing with organizations, there is a degree of trust we put in them. Facebook has been eroding that trust for some time by evading it’s privacy settings. Now we find out that it is actively trying to see how effective it is at affecting people’s mood. It seems OKCupid is basically lying to you to see if it makes a difference.

However you feel about their actions, I think the common response is to trust these organizations less. I make an effort to avoid engaging with Facebook as much as I can. I haven’t used OKCupid, but I used to be interested in their data analysis:  now I no longer trust that analysis and I think it’s just as likely that they make up the data. I suspect others feel the same way,  and that can’t be good for either of them.

Furthermore, I am now distrustful of similar organizations that want to collect data on me. Two apps I downloaded recently, Happier and Unstuck, both looked appealing to me at first. However, after some thought, I stopped using them because I worried that they might misuse that data for their benefit and my detriment. I had no specific reason to believe they would misuse it, but Facebook has bred that mistrust, and that mistrust has spread.

Ultimately that mistrust is bad for organizations trying to build new technology, at least in the short term. However, in the longer term, I think this is a good thing. I think that mistrust and scepticism towards organizations will lead them (at least the smarter ones) to have more respect towards their users if they even want to have any users. Without that mistrust, organizations will continue to abuse their users in any way they seen fit. That abuse has to stop. This mistrust is a step towards stopping it.

P.S. This image…

… is from a great post on how Facebook has eroded privacy settings over time and is worth a look.