Tag Archives: Privacy

My system crash revealed the one piece left in the Google ads puzzle



For the most part I don’t find that Google ads are such a bad thing. They are relatively unobtrusive and they are generally based on such information as location and web history. Let’s leave alone the privacy implications of those two facts and look more at where I recently noticed that it falls short – although, I confess that this will lead to even more of a privacy nightmare for those who are a part of the tinfoil hat brigade.

It all begins with a sad story. You see, although I have purchased Windows 8, I have procrastinated about installing it and have stubbornly continued to run the Release Preview. Well, last night Microsoft reached out and touched my trusty laptop with an update that rendered the system unbootable. Despite several different approaches to fixing this I came up with no solution other than a re-install.

Don’t cry for me – everything is backed up with redundancy. This is more hassle than anything else.

A reinstall was the approach I took this morning, although it did provide me with the chance to finally move to the RTM. After finishing the setup I moved on to installing my usual apps like Chrome, Firefox, Office, 7-zip and a couple of others. The final step was my document backup which is stored on CrashPlan servers.

After visiting the CrashPlan site and initiating the restore I began browsing the web. What I found was that every site I visited that utilized Google Adsense was now displaying an ad for CrashPlan. Yes, they know my location and my browsing history, but what they don’t know, yet at least, is what services with which I already have an account.

That is the missing piece in this whole puzzle. Google earns nothing by displaying an ad that is rendered irrelevant because, already having the product or service, you have no reason to click.

So, how long before the search and advertising giant finds a way pull in this information as well? It’s certainly in their interest to display ads that make you want to click. It will happen at some point and it will certainly set off alarms with privacy advocates everywhere, but is it really such a bad thing to see something that is more relevant to you? That is the real question that needs to be debated here.

Image: Computer Security by BigStock


Privacy Extinction Event!



Imagine that you visited a porn site, and when you did your user profile was immediately posted to the site, and every umm article you viewed. While this is extreme, we now have a website doing exactly that. Will the World Wide Web become a place of absolutely no privacy and your every action bared to the world to see.

To date you have been able to visit sites, and the only way people would know you had visited that site or web page, is if you liked the page or something similar!

Privacy on the net is officially extinct. The idiots over at Quora.com have decided that every time a registered Quora.com user visits a page on their site, that they are going to display directly on that very page that you have viewed the page, and exactly how you got there! It shocks me to the core that Quora.com would violate users privacy to this extent!

The simple action of lurking / visiting a web page on Quora is going to get broadcast to everyone in your social circle and the world.

From this day forward, I will never ever visit Quora.com again. Their actions have went to far. I am not surprised that they have stooped to this level of desperation, in their attempt to build greater social interaction on their website. Drastic actions like these makes me wonder what else they have been doing with personal identifiable information.

Industrial Spy Photo courtesy of BigStockPhoto.com


Ever Get That Feeling You’re Being Followed (On The Internet)? Check This Out.



You don’t have to click around too much to find advice on how to protect your anonymity on the Internet. Finding good advice that isn’t simply fear-laden jibber-jabber or link bait designed to get you to pay for an identity protection service is a bit more difficult.

Slashgeek.net posted a brief, but realistic and practical, piece on maintaining anonymity while navigating the Internet. The true sign that this post is a collection of actionable advice and not a panicked plea to save your identity?

Two things – 1. They admit that some people might not mind being tracked across the Internet by websites, ad networks and search engines – it does help those folks deliver more relevant ads to you and, like it or not, advertising makes the web go ‘round. 2. The post tells you the easiest and best ways to protect your anonymity – one of which takes about 5 minutes to accomplish (caveat – you’d have to use Firefox exclusively).

Check out the post from Slashgeek.net. It might be old news for some, but there are a lot of great tips in the comment section, as well. Share any additions you might have to these suggestions.


Siri Storage Habits Have Privacy Advocates Buzzing



Image Courtesy Apple

The Internets are quietly humming with the recent realization that Apple is, uh, absorbing your “personal” data if you use Siri – the voice-activated personal assistant (of sorts) that lives in the iPhone 4S (launched in October 2011).

What does that mean, precisely? Well, according to information disseminated by the ACLU, Apple’s privacy policy in relation to the Siri software allows the tech mammoth to harvest, send and stockpile “Voice Input Data” (what you say to Siri) and “User Data” (personal information on your phone, like contacts and associated nicknames; e-mail account labels; and names and playlists of songs on your phone).

This information is sent and stored at a data center in Maiden, North Carolina. From there, it remains murky what happens with your personal data. What does Apple actually do (or intend to do) with this data? No one seems to know, other than “generally to improve the overall accuracy and performance of Siri and other Apple products and services.” (again, according to the ACLU citing the Siri privacy policy, which is damn near impossible to actually find online). How long is it stored? Who actually looks at it and who is it shared with? Shoulder shrugs all around.

So murky is the status of stored Siri data, that IBM recently barred employees from using Siri on its networks – for fear of sensitive data and spoken information might be obtained by Apple. IBM CIO Jeanette Horan told MIT’s Technology Review that employees could still bring iPhones to work, but using the Siri technology would no longer be allowed. To be fair, IBM has also banned other apps, like Dropbox, for fear of information leaking out through file-sharing gaps in security.

This new wave of Siri-related negative news for Apple comes on the heels of a class action lawsuit filed against Apple claiming that they falsely advertised Siri’s capabilities and news that the Samsung Galaxy S3 has become the most pre-ordered device in gadget history with 9 million pre-orders (compared to 4 million for the iPhone 4S last year).

If you’d rather not have Siri enabled on your phone, it’s pretty easy to shut it off. Tap “Settings,”  then “General,” then Siri. Switch the Siri option to “Off.”


GNC-2012-03-26 #753 Privacy Soapbox Time!



Feeling a 100% better and it is time to have a serious discussion about privacy and actions in the internet and public space. Looking for your feedback in a big way on these issues. Lots of great tech stories to share with you tonight as well.

Support my Show Sponsor:
30% off on New GoDaddy Orders cjcgnc30
$.99 for a New or Transferred .com cjcgnc99 @ GoDaddy.com
$1.00 / mo Economy Hosting with a free domain. Promo Code: cjcgnc1hs
$1.00 / mo Managed WordPress Hosting with free Domain. Promo Code: cjcgncwp1

Download the Audio Show File

Links to all the articles talked about in this Podcast are on the GNC Show Notes Page [Click Here]


PrivacyStar Blocks Unwanted Smartphone Calls



PrivacyStar LogoAs on-line marketers transfer their cold-calling attention away from land-lines to cell and mobile phones, their calls are becoming increasingly an annoyance when you are out-and-about. PrivacyStar offers a multilayered solution for Android and Blackberry to cut unwanted calls. Andy finds out more.

PrivacyStar is a smartphone app to block unwanted calls and SMS texts. At its simplest, user-specified phone numbers can be blocked to prevent calls or texts coming through and bothering you. The app also features SmartBlocking which blocks the top 25 numbers blocked by other users in the past week, so if there’s a major calling campaign on, those numbers pretty quickly get blocked.

Other features include CallerID lookup, where if the phone doesn’t know who is calling, the app consults with an on-line directory and displays the caller. For really persistent callers, complaints can be filed directly with the FTC.

The app is currently only available for Android and Blackberry, an iPhone version will be released before the summer. The app is free for a week and then $2.99 per month after that.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and RV News Net.

Support my CES 2017 Sponsor:
30% off on New GoDaddy Orders cjcgnc30
$.99 for a New or Transferred .com cjcgnc99 @ GoDaddy.com
$1.00 / mo Economy Hosting with a free domain. Promo Code: cjcgnc1hs
$1.00 / mo Managed WordPress Hosting with free Domain. Promo Code: cjcgncwp1


If You Live In or Visit Hawaii Your Rights are Being Threatened



  The Bill of Rights The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized”– 4th Amendment, Bill of Rights, U.S. Constitution

What would you say if your state decided that your ISP had to keep records of all the Web sites you went too? That they had to keep records of both Internet protocol address and domain names of all sites that you visited and they had to keep them for a minimum of two years. That is what is being proposed in the Hawaiian State Legislation under H.B. 2288, which states that Internet destination history information and the subscriber’s information, such as name and address must be saved for no less than two years. I know what some of you are saying I don’t care if the government knows what Web sites I visit I have nothing to hide, or if you aren’t doing anything wrong what’s the problem.

Do you currently belong to any political or social organization like the Tea Party  and do you visit supporting Web sites a lot.  How would you feel if the government started investigating the Tea Party and started looking for information on its members. Now how do you feel about the legislation. Let’s take this to the real world, what if the government required the local retail stores to keep a record of every book you bought, every magazine article you read, the talk radio you listen too, the clubs you joined, the people you associated with, now how do you feel. If you are like me you are saying to yourself that’s none of the government business, well this legislation does exactly that only in the virtual world.

Rep. John Mizuno of Oahu is a lead sponsor of the bill and a similar bill is being introduced in the Hawaii Senate. The bills are being introduced at the behest of Representative Kimberly Marcos Pine, who is in the middle of a dispute with a web designer Eric Ryan, who launched KymPineLsACrook.com and who says she owes him money. Her email was also hacked last summer, at the same time an article was written in the Hawaii Reporter about the dispute.  Because of these incidents Rep Pine has advocated tougher cyber laws. Those who support the legislation say that this type of law is necessary to “to protect people of Hawaii from these attacks and give prosecutors the tools to ensure justice is served for victims.” Unfortunately for the supporters of this bill, that is not how the law works in the United States, you can’t gather information on a large group of people in hopes that you may capture a few bad apples.

If the constitutionality of the bill is not enough there is also the question of what the Internet Provider can do with the information while they hold it. The bill says nothing about how the data should be stored or if it needs to be encrypted. There is no prohibition against the Internet Companies selling the information to anyone including advertiser or insurance agencies. So if you don’t care about the government having the information, how about your insurance company. The police aren’t even required to get a court order to view the information of anyone who uses a computer in Hawaii. This legislation would not only apply to Hawaiian residents but it would also apply to the 6 million tourist who visit the state each year. Which mean coffee shops, hotels, bookstore or anyone else with a public wi-fi would have sweeping requirements and cost put upon them.

We all want the bad guy to be caught and stopped, but not if it means giving up our rights and freedoms. Although SOPA and PIPA were stopped last week in the U.S. Congress, the fight over our rights and freedoms on the Internet is on going, it has simply moved to state legislation, we all need to remain vigilant.


Malls Will Not Track You For Now



This is an update to the article I wrote on the 26th of November Malls Maybe Tracking Your Cellphone. A brief background, two malls in the United States, the Promenade Temecula in Southern California and the Short Pump Town Center in Richmond, Va, where planning to test Footpath by Path Intelligence, a technology which allows malls to track the path of their costumers. One of the concerns that I and others brought up was the issue of privacy. The fact that in order to opt out of the tracking you had to turn off your cellphone, which isn’t realistic in today’s world. This issue was also brought up in a letter by Senator Charles Schumer of New York. In a press conference and also in a letter to the mall and the FTC, Senator Schumer stated “A shopper’s personal cell phone should not be used by a third party as a tracking device by retailers,” Schumer said in a press conference on Sunday. “Personal cell phones are just that—personal. If retailers want to tap into your phone to see what your shopping patterns are, they can ask you for your permission to do so.” He especially had an issue with the idea that a consumer had to opt out of the tracking by turning their cellphone off. He stated this should be something consumers opt into and not opt out. Forest City which owns both the malls has not abandoned the plan entirely, but is trying to find a way to make it opt in. Path Intelligence the maker of Footpath, insist that this method of tracking is no different than cookies on the Internet. This maybe true, but I can manage online cookies, while this is an opt in or opt out period. I don’t expect this technology to go away, but it does need to be updated to be opt in.


Malls Maybe Tracking Your Cellphone



http://www.pathintelligence.com/templates/joomla_template_inner/images/path_logo.pngRetailers are constantly trying to track shoppers activities, to try to attract more consumers to their stores and improve their sales. They use various methods to do this including shopper cards and newspaper inserts just to name a few. A couple of malls are testing a new technology called Footpath by Path Intelligence. Footpath tracks the movement of consumers by their cellphone. It has the ability to track the consumer to within a few meters of where they are. The information is then feed to a central processing center, where it is audited and studied to create a continual updated report on the flow of shoppers throughout a store or mall. It can be used to better place stores in a mall and merchandise within a store.

According to the Path website, it works by tracking random signals from mobile phones. The system does not collect or view phone numbers, SMS messages, or listen to calls. The information it collects can not identify an individual caller. The detector units can only be accessed by trained personal, mall employees do not have access to the tracking device. So the tracking devices can not be combined with other information by mall employees to get more detailed and individual information. It is aggregated information and not real-time that is provided to client. Path also has agreed not to access any third-party information that could in combination with Footpath identify individuals. Despite these promises some privacy experts are concerned about the misuse of the technology by both Path and their clients. Mark Rasch, the director of cyber security at CSC stated.

“Although this mall technology might not identify specific individuals, it raises a bunch of privacy red flags,” he wrote. “First, the instant the consumer identifies himself or herself anywhere in the mall (say, by using a credit or debit card to buy something), it is a trivial task to cross reference the cell phone data with the payment data and realize that the person hanging around outside the Victoria’s Secret dressing room was your 70-year-old neighbor.”(via We’re watching: malls track shopper’s cell phone signals to gather marketing data)

At this point only two malls in the United States are testing the technology, the Promenade Temecula in Southern California and the Short Pump Town Center in Richmond, Va. They will be testing it thru New Year’s Day. Both malls have signs throughout their location telling shoppers that their cellphones are being tracked and they can opt out of the system by turning their phones off. In today’s world where most people are never without their phones, this seems an unlikely choice. The system is also being tested in some malls in Europe and Australia. It wouldn’t be surprising to see this technology and it’s uses being tested in court by privacy advocates. However since malls are private properties courts tend to give them a lot of leeway.


Cloud Storage and the Law



As a business or an individual if you store your data in the cloud, you are probably concerned with security and the ability to get your data back. The one issues you may not have thought about is where it is being stored, well maybe you should be according to Technology Review. The term cloud storage is misleading, it makes it seem as if the data is out there some where. The truth is data that is stored in the cloud is being stored in a data center which maybe be located anywhere in the world. The problem is who can get access to the data is unclear. Do the laws in the country where the data is being stored determine who can have access to the data or is it where it originated or maybe even where the company who owns the data center is incorporated. This maybe become an issue between Europe and the U.S if strict European privacy laws start to block U.S. attempts to access information it deems vital to national security. Many European countries have stricter privacy laws then the U.S. In the U.S. the Patriot Act which was passed after 9-11 enhanced the ability of law enforcement to intercept and read email and other records. If a European stores their data with a cloud company whose data center is in the United States would the stricter European privacy laws still apply or would U.S laws. The United States insist that it’s laws reign supreme even if the data is stored in another country if the company that owns the data center is incorporated in the United States. This was what Google and Microsoft both told European courts when they indicated they would have to abide by U.S law no matter where the data is stored. Not only is privacy an issue but also how long data must be kept is becoming an issue. Some country’s laws are based on how long the data must be kept, others are based on when the data must be deleted. These two viewpoints can collide and often do.

Because of this type of uncertainty, both companies and public institutions are starting to rethinking where their data can be stored. Some like the Canadian providence of British Columbia insist that all public healthcare records must be stored within the providence. Swiss financial institutions also say that any of their banking data must be stored in data centers located in Switzerland. As more and more sensitive data is being stored in the cloud these issues are going to continue to come up. This is another area where technology has clearly outpaced the law.