Tag privacy

Don’t Be Like Bill

be-like-jayneYesterday was International Data Privacy Day. Ironically, 1 in 10 people reading this post probably had their data stolen yesterday through a malicious Facebook app. Maybe this one, maybe not — depends on which source you believe — but data-stealing apps are out there and being used constantly by unaware, or unsavvy, FB users.

You should avoid those apps-of-the-month, but if abstinence from FB apps just isn’t something you can practice, here’s a good rule of thumb to identify the bad’uns: If you are ON Facebook, and click on an app or post that then asks you to log into Facebook before continuing, you can bet the mud farm that it’s about to record and misuse your login and personal info.

Depending on how enthusiastic you are in populating your Facebook profile with personal data about yourself, and/or how lax you are with passwords, that info can give the bad guys the ammunition they need to impersonate you on FB, steal your identity, even discover and access your financial accounts. Trust me, if they aim to misbehave, you would be very surprised at how easy it is to do so once you have clicked and given them permission.

Microsoft Loves You! (More Than You Know)

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Have you upgraded to Windows 10 yet?  By all accounts, it is leaps and bounds better than the universally-reviled Windows 8, and keeps alive Microsoft’s odd/even string of cursed/decent operating system releases.  The best part is that it is free (supposedly) to current Windows 7 and 8 users, though we have yet to test this out ourselves.

The less-than-wonderful part? Apparently the new OS is none too shy about spying on your activity — nothing new for Microsoft in terms of browser usage, but their data collection has now expanded to include the contents of messages and calendars, apps and networks, some purchases, what you upload to Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage, and use of the sparkly new Cortana search assistant.

Of course, you can opt out of all (?) of this stuff during installation, or afterwards if you’re the kind of person who never reads those Terms & Conditions screens (which means 99.5% of humanity). After all, Microsoft would never, ever want to know things about their customers without permission, right? As they have stated, “real transparency starts with straightforward terms and policies that people can clearly understand.”

Here’s the catch: that “transparency” comes in the form of 45 pages of service agreement documents. And you can believe those docs aren’t written in the King’s English, either, but rather in the kind of techno-legalese that pretty much guarantees you give up reading after three pages or so.  This comment from a terrific Rock Paper Shotgun article pretty much says it all:

There is no world in which 45 pages of policy documents and opt-out settings split across 13 different Settings screens and an external website constitutes “real transparency.”

Why all of this data collection? Two words: targeted ads.  No different than the practices of Facebook, Google, Twitter, or any other “free” online service whose end game is knowing as much as possible about you, and therefore about what you would like to buy. So, buyer-beware, and user-beware, when it comes to upgrading. Oh, and if you happen to currently use some other browser than Internet Explorer (and by all that’s holy, you should), be prepared to have that overridden by the upgrade, as well. But that’s an article for another day!

Let The “I Hereby Declare…” Nonsense Begin!

10734305nIf you are a Facebook user, you’ve probably experienced this more than once: Facebook announces they are making changes to (some/any) policy, and suddenly a spate of posts pop up everywhere with folks announcing that they hereby declare they aren’t putting up with this $#&%!  By God, Facebook can’t do this, and they can’t do that!  Well, guess what? Facebook is making another policy change, so you can expect yet another round of nonsense to begin.

Why do I call it “nonsense”? Well, firstly, to expect Facebook to make changes to anything that are not to Facebook’s advantage in some way, shape or form is just ridiculous.  Facebook is a business, not a gift from Mark Zuckerberg to all of us wonderful people out here, and as such, is in business to earn money. Every policy change they have ever made is a step towards making more money, and every change they ever will make will be the same.

Secondly, by signing up for an account on Facebook, you agree to their Terms & Conditions, and no amount of “I hereby declare…” legalese, no matter how many times you post it, is going to override the fact that you agreed to abide by their rules. Period.  Next time you’re in the grocery store, try this: Pick up a loaf of bread, state “I hereby declare that I will not pay for this bread!”, and walk out.  Okay, so it’s not a perfect metaphor, but the end result is the same — you’re wasting your time and breath.

You, and only you, are in charge of how much you share on Facebook, and with whom you share it. If you don’t like what Facebook does with your information/posts/photos/whatever, then don’t share that information! Again, you are given the tools by Facebook to be “social”, but only on their terms, whether you read them or not. In any case, I highly suggest that you carefully review all of your privacy and security settings. If you need more information, you can start here: Facebook Privacy Basics. Or, if you have specific questions, we are always glad to help!

Online Safety Tips for Your Family

sanford-lea-online-safetyThe latest issue of “In The Loop”, from Sanford, Lea & Associates, has a terrific article on tips for keeping your family safe online.  Everyone is a computer user these days, from your child playing online games to grandma learning to use Facebook.  There are security and privacy concerns with any type of online activity, so be sure to read up and familiarize yourself with what you can do to be more secure.  (And if you need accounting services, you can’t go wrong with Sanford, Lea & Associates!)

Read the entire article here.

Well, Facebook Is At It Again (Part One)…

Many of you may know (and just as many may not) that Facebook is once again updating its privacy policies. This time it’s the Data Use Policy, and the changes are scheduled to go into effect sometime around the end of this week. (What’s that, you say? You didn’t vote on any changes? Well, thanks to the apathetic response by users during the last update, Facebook has now successfully eliminated the need to put changes to a public vote, and thus eliminated the need to care about what the public thinks, as well.) The majority of the updates this time around focus on photo tagging and relevant ad placements. We’ll focus today on tagging, and save the ads for a later column.

Facebook’s Photo Tagging Example

So, what’s the story with this new update? Essentially, Facebook is advancing its “facial recognition” feature beyond where it currently stands, and plans to start adding your profile photo(s) to its facial recognition database, in order to make it easier for your friends to tag you whenever, and wherever, a photo of you might be uploaded to FB. That ability for friends to tag you has been in play for quite a while, as has the suggestion by Facebook of whom to tag in a photo. Where the big change is occurring is that previously, FB only scanned photos of you that were already tagged to add to its database. Now, FB says it “may” start scanning your profile photos, by which it means, of course, that it will.

Reading between the lines, what Facebook is really doing is adding another source of identification of you, yes you, to their database, which in turn will help them more easily identify who your friends are, where you go, what you do… and the end result of all of that identification helps them figure out what ads to show you (and therefore gives them additional selling power to the providers of those ads). Ultimately, it’s just the next logical step in Facebook’s facial recognition agenda, and not that shocking of a step at that, but it does bring to light once again the necessity for all FB users to learn, know, and control their privacy settings.

Facebook’s Tag Suggestion Example

In this case, there are two that are essential to visit, both found within the Account Settings / Timeline and Tagging header. (By the way, the information I’m dishing out here pertains specifically to accessing Facebook via your desktop computer. Things can, and almost certainly will, be slightly different when going through a smartphone or tablet app.) Look for the third section here, entitled “How can I manage tags people add and tagging suggestions?” Check, and change, the following two items to the settings you are comfortable with:

1) Who sees tag suggestions when photos that look like you are uploaded?

I would HIGHLY suggest you set this to “No One”. (This may say “Only Me” on a phone/tablet.) This won’t stop your friends from tagging you if/when they upload photos with you in them, but it will keep FB from suggesting to friends (or anyone else) that it might be you in a photo. To control tagging, go on to the next step.

2) Review tags people add to your own posts before the tags appear on Facebook?

If this isn’t already, you should strongly consider setting this to “On”, to allow you to review any and all photos that are tagged with your name, before they appear on Facebook. Unfortunately, this does not mean the photo can’t be added or seen by others, it just means that it can’t be tagged with your name, or added to your Timeline. You can always request your friend to take the photo down if you really don’t want it to be seen.

One final caveat: While these two settings will help you limit potentially unwanted photo-exposure on Facebook, they will NOT keep Facebook from scanning your profile photos to add to their facial recognition database. Profile photos (and cover photos) are always set to “public” viewability by default, and this cannot be changed. So, for the more paranoid of you out there, that leaves you with one option — not using a picture of yourself as your profile photo. (Keep in mind that by signing up for Facebook, you are voluntarily agreeing to allow all of your personal information to be seen and/or used; you always have the option to delete your account.)

I certainly hope that this information has proved useful to you! If you think it has, why not share this post with your friends, whether they are on Facebook or not. You might also suggest that they sign up on our blog for future updates, and Like our Facebook page, as well. Thank you!

Tracking Your Personal Data Online

EVERY website has the ability to track certain basic data about you when you visit, such as time and date, your IP address (and therefore general location), and third-party referrer data (meaning how you got there from here). For the majority of websites, this information is merely passively collected and rarely, if ever, used.

If you’ve ever had experience with Google Analytics, you know that this data-tracking can be expanded much further, to include your computer’s operating system, type of browser, what you looked at on the site, where you went when you left the site, and so on. Many businesses (ostensibly) use this expanded information set to improve your user experience when you visit their site.

But you might be surprised to learn exactly how MUCH data is collected about you when you go to the 5 biggest (and most-visited) technology company sites on the ‘Net: Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Yahoo. Check out the infographic below to see what’s collected, and what that information is actually being used for. And remember, in most cases you provide, or allow, this information to be collected…


Article source: VentureBeat Infographic source: Baynet

Oh, Go Google Yourself!

Seriously, go do it! You might be surprised about what you find, especially if you are someone concerned with your privacy. Or with your online reputation, which these days equates to your reputation, period. Remember to put your name in quotes for more accurate results, and log out of any Google account prior to searching.

Keep in mind that most of the information you find about yourself online was originally put there by Y-O-U, particularly if it was through one of the social media platforms like Facebook or LinkedIn. There are plenty of sites out there, though, that gather all that information together in one place for the entire world to see — Pipl, for example.

In any case, you do have some control over what is out there. You can change the privacy settings on your own social media accounts (or remove information entirely), though that won’t get rid of it elsewhere once it’s been collated. You may have to visit each “aggregate” site individually to request removal of unwanted public information.

If that seems like too big a chore, you can always hire someone proficient in online profile management (such as your friendly neighborhood web designer) to attempt a clean-up for you. And all of this holds true for businesses as well as for individuals. Check out this infographic from PR-Daily for some online reputation specifics.


Facebook, Privacy, and You (Part 3) — The REALLY Important Part!

Anyone who has used Facebook for any length of time at all has surely seen (and maybe even reposted) those legalese-blurbs that start out with “In response to the proposed changes to Facebook’s Privacy Policy, I hereby blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.”  Each and every time a rumor goes around that Facebook is making policy changes (whether or not the rumor is true), the same posts start popping up all over everyone’s Timelines — and they do not one bit of good. None. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

The fact is, when you signed up for an account on Facebook, you agreed to Facebook’s terms (as outlined in their Statement of Rights and Responsibilities and Data Use Policy), whether or not you actually read them.  By agreeing to these terms, you essentially signed a contract that will remain in force as long as you use your account, and be governed by whatever version of the SRR/DUP is currently in place. So, attempting to negate that contract by posting a dubious piece of verbiage* on your Timeline is akin to writing “I will no longer pay income taxes!” on a sticky note and plastering it to your forehead.  It doesn’t mean a thing and just makes you look silly. 🙂

That does NOT mean that you shouldn’t be aware of, and react accordingly to, changes that occur to Facebook’s policies.  Case in point: Facebook actually IS making changes to their existing SSR/DUP terms that WILL affect your rights, and these changes will take place on December 11,  2012.  Now, Facebook updates their policies all the time (the last major revision was this July), and the large majority of those changes are benign for their users.  And we don’t have the time nor space to go intent to the full extent of this particular set of revisions.

HOWEVER, there is one extremely important change that will occur as the result of this update: Facebook proposes to remove your right as a user to vote on future changes.**  Currently, the system in place allows for a vote, open to all Facebook users, on any proposed revisions to the SRR/DUP policies.  Should 30% or more users vote against any revisions, those changes will not go into affect.  Should LESS than 30% vote against, all Facebook has to do is consider the naysayers vote as advisory.  (Which means, in essence, nothing.)  With this change, your right to vote against future changes will be removed altogether, unless the proposed revisions are voted down.

Now, Facebook currently stands at approximately 1 BILLION users.  That means, to retain our right to vote on future changes, AT LEAST 300,000,000 people will need to vote AGAINST the current changes.  (Technically, you must vote to retain the current SRR/DUP policy, which translates to voting against accepting the proposed revised policy.)  I voted this morning — one of just under 65,000 who have done so since voting began yesterday, December 3rd.  Voting ENDS at midnight PST on December 10th.  That means 240,935,000 people still need to weigh in or the option TO vote will go away.  For good.

Here is where you need to go to vote:


Again, vote to retain the CURRENT policies.  And, please, share this with your Friends — the voting app will allow you to do this, so please don’t pass up the opportunity to retain our rights.

Thank you.




*For further information/explanation on this particular Facebook rumor, visit the Snopes website at www.snopes.com/computer/facebook/privacy.asp.  In fact, I would highly recommend that you check Snopes before believing (and definitely before passing along) ANY kind of online rumor, whether about social media, politics, or just about anything. They do a terrific job of separating the facts from the innuendo.

**Here is the actual text showing the current policy and proposed revision. Highlights are mine.

Current policy:

14.  Amendments

  1. We can change this Statement if we provide you notice (by posting the change on the Facebook Site Governance Page) and an opportunity to comment.  To get notice of any future changes to this Statement, visit our Facebook Site Governance Page and “like” the Page.
  2. For changes to sections 7, 8, 9, and 11 (sections relating to payments, application developers, website operators, and advertisers), we will give you a minimum of three days notice. For all other changes we will give you a minimum of seven days notice. Comments to proposed changes will be made on the Facebook Site Governance Page.
  3. If more than 7,000 users post a substantive comment on a particular proposed change, we will also give you the opportunity to participate in a vote in which you will be provided alternatives. The vote shall be binding on us if more than 30% of all active registered users as of the date of the notice vote.
  4. If we make changes to policies referenced in or incorporated by this Statement, we may provide notice on the Site Governance Page.
  5. We can make changes for legal or administrative reasons, or to correct an inaccurate statement, upon notice without opportunity to comment.
  6. Your continued use of Facebook following changes to our terms constitutes your acceptance of our amended terms.

Revised policy:

14. Amendments

  1. Unless we make a change for legal or administrative reasons, or to correct an inaccurate statement, we will provide you with seven (7) days notice (for example, by posting the change on the Facebook Site Governance Page) and an opportunity to comment on changes to this Statement.  You can also visit our Facebook Site Governance Page and “like” the Page to get updates about changes to this Statement.
  2. If we make changes to policies referenced in or incorporated by this Statement, we may provide notice on the Site Governance Page.
  3. Your continued use of Facebook following changes to our terms constitutes your acceptance of our amended terms.