Posts tagged "online privacy"
What makes a privacy expert nervous? Glimpsing the size of the iceberg under the surface. When National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden became a whistle blower earlier this year, I think we all knew we were really just seeing the tip of the iceberg about exactly how much information the NSA was gathering on the average American citizen. And it was a pretty large tip to start with.
Here’s a reminder of what started the whole thing. Snowden provided reporters at The Guardian and The Washington Post with top-secret documents detailing two NSA surveillance programs being carried out by the U.S. Government, all without the average voter’s knowledge. One gathers hundreds of millions of U.S. phone records and the second allows the government to access nine U.S. Internet companies to gather all domestic Internet usage (so they are tapping pieces of your phone calls and emails, in other words). The intent of each program respectively is to use meta-data (information about the numbers being called, length of call, etc., but not the conversation itself, as far as we know) to detect links to known terrorist targets abroad and to detect suspicious behavior (by monitoring emails, texts, social media posts, instant messaging, chat rooms, etc.) that begins overseas. As a privacy expert, I understand the need to detect connections among terrorists; the troubling part is the scope of the information being gathered.
Does your digital footprint expose your secrets to the wrong people?
National Public Radio and the Center for Investigative Reporting recently presented a four part series about privacy (online and off) called, Your Digital Trail. To get the gist of how little privacy you have as a result of the social media, credit cards and mobile technology you use, watch this accurate and eye-opening explanation of how you are constantly being tracked.
Marketers, data aggregators, advertisers, the government and even criminals have access to a vivid picture of who you are. NPR calls it your digital trail; for years, I’ve referred to it as your digital footprint. Let’s take quick look of what makes up your digital footprint.
I was asked recently by someone, “How do I delete my Facebook account?” Why would anyone want to do that? Perhaps because Facebook has announced that they are making more changes to their data use policy. This time, they are trying a trick that they have tried before and simply by using their software, you are agreeing to it.
Here’s what it is. They can take any of your photos- say a profile photo or pictures of your kids, and when you “like” a product, they can advertise your photo next to that product. In essence, this means you are endorsing those things you have liked in an advertisement.
So imagine your teenage daughter has a giggly sleepover with friends. They’re on Facebook and they see a Bacardi ad and to be cool your daughter “likes” it and then she likes the movie Magic Mike (even though she hasn’t even seen it), but now her name and her photos are associated with those two likes and is shared across her entire network.
So, why do people want to delete their Facebook accounts? Maybe because they’re tired of giving their privacy away, they’re tired of the arrogance of Facebook obviously making these changes for commercial profit purposes and they try to sell it to us as if it’s for the greater good of the user.
There is so much of our information out there that is not under our control. But social networks such as Facebook are under our control, so people want to take back control of the little privacy they have.
Now, I don’t want you to go out and take an emotional response and just cancel your Facebook account. As you will see in this episode, there is a right way to delete your account, and a wrong way. Choose wisely. I want you to think about it and take four steps:
- Backup your data.
- Deactivate your account for a week or two first to see if you really want to live without it.
- Alert your friends if you do decide to permanently delete your account. The intention is to protect your privacy, not anger your friends!
- Delete your account.
(Watch the video to see exactly how to do all of these steps.)
Before you read this article, stop and picture yourself as a 16 year old. Now that you’ve recovered from the trauma of that, think about this question: what thoughts consumed your time – your favorite band, your first car, your first love, your first job, your first password? Certainly not the latter, and you most likely weren’t thinking about online privacy issues.
It’s no surprise then that today’s teens don’t think about them much either, although they do more than most of us ever had to. The Pew Research Center recently conducted a survey entitled Teens, Social Media, and Privacy and found a variety of interesting statistics.
Teens share more about themselves on social media sites than they did according to the previous survey from 2006. A few of the more significant ones:
- 91% post a photo of themselves (up from 79%)
- 71% post their school name (up from 49%)
School is out for the summer and the tasks that often fall upon the shoulders of your local schools are now sitting squarely on yours. In addition to making sure your kids practice their math facts, read regularly and get plenty of exercise, you’ll want to watch out for how they spend their free time when it comes to using Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and other sites that can expose their social media privacy.
Social Media refers to web-based and mobile applications that allow individuals and organizations to create, engage, and share new user-generated or existing content in digital environments through multi-way communication. Okay, that’s too technical. Social media is the use of Internet tools to communicate with a broader group. Some of the most common examples are listed above. If you have elementary aged children, they may use more secure, school-controlled forms such as Schoology, Edmodo or Club Penguin, but if your kids are older, I can almost guarantee they’re into Social Media sites whether you know if or not.
Skype is often praised for being free to use, but your online data security may be the real price you pay.
“All Skype-to-Skype voice, video, and instant message conversations are encrypted. This protects you from potential eavesdropping by malicious users.”
I guess they consider themselves exempt. Of course, Skype reserves the right to see personal details in order to delete viruses and protect against fraud. In other words, they intend to use this ability for your own good.
If you’re the head of a company, it’s your duty to be no less than a privacy expert. Cyber criminals are betting on the fact that you aren’t one, and your whole company could suffer if you don’t take action to become one.
We’ve discussed before the necessity of keeping employees well-trained against cyber attacker’s tricks, such as spear-phishing. Well, it turns out that the big bosses are actually even more likely to fall for social engineering attacks according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal.
The article quoted a study by Verizon that indicates these executives are often exempt from company-wide security rules and are more likely to open email or click on links that expose their company’s secure information. Especially at a time when so many are hit with phony emails, no one can afford to be lax on cyber security. CEOs and other high-level bosses are usually highly visible, public-facing, have access to proprietary information, and are often disengaged from the online security process: in other words, they are the perfect target.
We trust our information with companies every day, but online privacy protection may not be their highest priority.
Some of the most widely-used tech companies in the world do a miserable job of protecting users’ online privacy. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has gathered data on the privacy protection efforts practiced by organizations like WordPress, Apple, Comcast and others (many of whom have also been victims of data security breaches recently) for its annual “report card.” Then it awarded stars to the companies as if they were hotels.
The results are abysmal for anyone who still thinks that corporate behemoths have their users’ best interests at heart.
Stars were given based on how well a company performed in various categories. Out of 18 companies measured, only two passed with flying colors in all six categories: Twitter and internet service provider Sonic.net. The rest scored poorly. Facebook earned 3 out of 6 stars, Apple and AT&T scored one star and Verizon struck out with zeroes across the board. If this were a real report card, most of these companies would have been expelled.
Do you know your social media privacy rights as they pertain to your workplace?
They will be different depending on where you live because the laws vary from state to state. Utah recently became the fifth state to put into effect such a law that governs the rights of both employees and employers. Legislation has also been introduced or is pending at the Federal level and in 35 states.
This has become a hot topic because more than 90 percent of employers use social media sites to help screen applicants. Since applicants have the ability to determine their online privacy settings to decide what is out there for public viewing, some employers have asked for access to their private social media content to get the real picture.