Privacy

AT&T and Verizon say "No" to customer tracking

Verizon and AT&T deserve congratulations for endorsing an opt-in approach to tracking online behavior. This means they won't try to build dossiers of where you go online unless they get your permission. The online dossier information can be valuable, as data can be mined and sold to advertisers.

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Google lets everyone be Big Brother

Google is busying driving cars with cameras mounted on top all over England, taking pictures of every single house in the country. Google promises to obscure significant details, which has led to bizarre photos with people's faces blurred out. A lot of British citizens are outraged, since anyone with a Web browser will be able to snoop around the front of your home from a distance.

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Is Google Health healthy?

Google has announced its long promised Google Health service, which stores your medical and drug records on Google servers. You get to set your own userid and password, and Google makes a big deal about the high level of security on their servers. But I don't think the biggest privacy concern is from hackers--I think Google CAN keep the servers secure.

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"Whaling" is newest kind of spam attack

"Whaling" is a new form of phishing attacks. It is called whaling because the spam emails are carefully targeted towards big fish, or whales. Spammers have been sending carefully crafted emails that look like an official U.S. Federal Court sub poena. Clicking on the link embedded in the email secretly installs a keystroke logger on your computer which then sends userids, passwords, and credit card numbers to the spammer.

Where has our privacy gone?

This article highlights a dark side of the Web, where blogs, FaceBook, YouTube, and MySpace, among others, makes it easy for people to be cruel. It is becoming common for students to post cruel, slanderous, and/or profane online content about their teachers. And it is not just teachers that are are the object of this cruelty. Students are "cyberbullying" other students, and even some warped adults are posting cruel comments about students that are somehow competing with their own children.

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Wireless keyboards a security risk

Those handy wireless keyboards are a security risk. Researchers have discovered that they easily monitor every keystroke sent from a wireless keyboard to the computer. The keyboards use a very weak form of encryption that can be easily monitored using an inexpensive radio receiver from as much as thirty feet away, and the encryption algorithm is easy to crack using virtually any computer--no special supercomputer required.

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Corporate spam collusion

I have an American Express business card, and got an email to take part in an online survey. I spent ten minutes or so answering questions about my satisfaction with the company. Many of the questions were related to promotional offers and other solicitations the company sends out. Fine so far.

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The government can turn off your car

It must have been a slow news day yesterday. During a long drive, I heard a news story on the radio at least ten times. It was about a new capability added to GM cars and trucks equipped with Onstar. The vehicle can now be turned off remotely. The news story was all about what a boon this was going to be to law enforcement officials, who could request that the friendly Onstar person turn off the engine in a car being chased by the police.

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FaceBook turns search on

USA Today reports (page 3B) that FaceBook is planning to allow search engines to index the site. This means that what people thought was not searchable may become public, depending upon the rules FaceBook sets up for crawling by the search engines. At a minimum, FaceBook will allow indexing of names and photos unless users choose to opt out.

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Facebook easy pickings for identity theft

A study by research firm Sophos indicates that Facebook users are very willing to give personal information to complete strangers. The firm set up a fake Facebook entry and then made "friend" requests to hundreds of other Facebook users. Most of them happily revealed enough personal information (family names, photos, etc) to make it easy to steal that person's identity, according to Sophos.

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Congress wants to own our devices

Mark Pryor (D-Ark) has decided that Congress and the Federal government should decide what we can and cannot see on our TVs, cellphones, and portable media devices. Pryor is sponsoring a bill that would require the FCC to develop a "super V-chip" that would have to be installed in every device that connects to any third party network, including the network.

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Adware may be part of next Windows OS

This article suggests that Microsoft may be planning to build adware right into the Windows operating system. The software giant has filed a patent that would use the kinds of files you have stored on your hard drive to determine what kind of ads are displayed in your Web browser.

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Jumbo shrimp and "online privacy"

Privacy online is the same kind of oxymoron as "jumbo shrimp," meaning you should take the phrase with a grain of salt. The recent Miss America flap is a perfect illustration of the perils of taking online privacy for granted. Miss America had marked some photos on her Facebook page "private," but some people were able to access them anyway. The embarrassing pictures almost caused her to lose her crown.

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Google's total information obsession

Anyone who worries about government snooping has not been paying much attention to Google and it's long term goal of "total information" about every single person on the planet. The Google founders are becoming wierdly creepy with their happy talk discussions of wanting to tell people "what job to take" and "what to do tomorrow."

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Our Internet tracks can be erased

In a victory for personal privacy, a German court has ruled that if a customer requests it, an Internet Service Provider (ISP) must delete the IP log data that shows what a customer has been doing on the Internet and when. In the U.S., unfortunately, we are headed in the other direction, with the Federal government anxious to make ISPs responsible for retaining such information--forever!

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Technology leaves tracks

The recent uproars--one at Hewlett-Packard over obtaining phone records illegally and the other with the instant messaging Congressman--are a sober reminder that almost everything we do leaves tracks these days. In both of these cases, someone other than the intended recipient of the electronic records ended up with the information, legally or illegally.

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Mickey and Google would make a good pair

Disney intends to start fingerprinting inmates, er, I mean "guests" at Disneyworld. The company claims it needs to do this to prevent "ticket fraud," but this is rubbish. There are other ways to combat ticket fraud that don't include collecting biometric data. Biometric fingerprint data allows the company to uniquely identify everyone who visits, forever. It is the ultimate in marketing research and analysis, and don't think they won't try to sell it or use it for other purposes.

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Google may eavesdrop on your conversations

Just when you thought Google can't possibly get any creepier, they come up with something so far out there your jaw just drops open. According to the Register, Google's techies have been playing with the microphones on your computer. They have figured out how to turn them on and listen to the conversation in the room, and/or what you are watching on TV. Why would they want to do this? So they can better "understand" you and what kinds of advertisements to show you.

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Protect your privacy

This article demonstrates how easy it is for others to snoop around in your personal affairs if you like to use "free" services like Google Calendar. The author, simply by clicking on calendar items and using the information to dig up additional detail, was quickly able to identify where a woman lived and when she would be out of the house (handy for burglars).

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Searching is a Snap

If you have not tried the Snap search engine lately, you should take a look. Snap has added site preview screens, which will be familiar to those of you that use RSS readers, but may not be for others.

One of the most tedious parts of using a search engine is slogging through all the links that are not really what you want. Snap now puts up a preview of the site right in the browser window, so you can quickly see if it looks like what you are looking for. It is one more example of how far behind Google is falling in the search engine wars.

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