Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Voice-activated Device's Call To Police May Have Saved Woman's Life

A man beating and threatening his girlfriend was arrested after a voice-activated device, such as Amazon's Alexa, called the police, say authorities in New Mexico.

According to reports, during the assault, the man is said to have asked: “Did you call the sheriffs?” It is believed that the question was picked up by the smart speaker and the voice-powered virtual assistant recognized the phrase as a instruction causing it to call 911.

The woman under assault could be heard during the call yelling "Alexa, call 911."

Right now these devices have no capability to call 911, so it's a head-scratcher as how the emergency call was activated. While I still have privacy concerns about smart devices, not everything is all negative.

Amazon's Alexa credited with possibly lifesaving 911 call - CBS News

Amazon’s Alexa can’t call 911. But a sheriff claims it did - CNet

Friday, July 7, 2017

Prince Harry Warns Young People That Mobile Phones Affect Mental Health

Take a mental break and put down your phones, Prince Henry of Wales recently urged young people. He said he recently read that young people check their phones at least 150 times per day!

The Prince is a champion of mental health issues and believes more needs to be done to equip young people to deal with the modern world.  He believes that everyone would be “more effective and efficient” if they took more time to simply think.

According to a Gallup poll conducted back in 2012, by their own admission, many young Americans, aged 18 to 29, say they spend too much time using the Internet (59%), their cell phones or smartphones (58%), and social media sites such as Facebook (48%).

It's probably worse since the poll was taken...and not only for young adults!

Source: Prince Harry urges young people to put down their mobile phones and warns they affect mental health - The Telegraph

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Facebook Can Be Your Church According to Zuckerberg

At a recent Facebook event, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg commented on how "membership in all kinds of groups has declined," and says that Facebook communities can fill the gap left by diminishing religious participation. He said that by growing Facebook groups and communities it will “bring the world closer together.”

Kind of scary, especially considering the power of Facebook to censor and the ability to control a lot of who and what we see; learn your temperament; recognizes your face; developing technology to read your mind.

Are we alone or together?!

In 2011, MIT professor Sherry Turkle wrote an intriguing and insightful book, "Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other." The book describes the "new, unsettling relationships between friends, lovers, parents, and children, and new instabilities in how we understand privacy and community, intimacy and solitude. "

At her website, she crystallizes her findings and insights in these words:
"Technology has become the architect of our intimacies. Online, we face a moment of temptation. Drawn by the illusion of companionship without the demands of intimacy, we conduct “risk free” affairs on Second Life and confuse the scattershot postings on a Facebook wall with authentic communication."
She stated in a 2012 Ted Talk presentation, Connected, but alone!:
"And so from social networks to sociable robots, we're designing technologies that will give us the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship."

Technology is not going away but we do have the choice to control it rather than let it control us. Has Facebook become your place of worship?

Related reading:

Mark Zuckerberg: Facebook can be your church - Sky News

Mark Zuckerberg: Facebook can build communities — much as churches do - Market Watch

How Facebook censors your posts (FAQ) - CNet

Monday, June 12, 2017

Windows 10, Cortana Can Invade Privacy

Look at each Cortana setting, especially Permissions.
I recently bought a Windows 10 notebook and was shocked to discover how much personal information Microsoft extracts from us without our knowledge and consent. Microsoft sometimes doesn't let us opt-in. Most of the settings are on by default.

If you're concerned about personal privacy, you could...and probably should...opt-out of most of this stuff. The problem is that many people are unaware of their option to do this, or how.

The first place to look, if you're using Windows 10, is the Cortana settings. I've shut off just about everything I could. It wasn't fun and took a long time. The settings related to privacy must be unchecked individually.

According to the technology site CNet:
"Windows 10 is running on over 400 million devices, but it still has all sorts of privacy issues -- including mandatory diagnostic and usage data reporting to Microsoft, and a troubling amount of ads sprinkled throughout the platform. 
"Not all of Windows 10's problems can be fixed, but there are some things you can do to reclaim your privacy. Here are five privacy-related settings you can change for a less invasive and more secure Windows 10 experience."
I strongly recommend reading the CNet article 5 privacy settings to change in Windows 10. It helps you learn how to take back your OS...and your privacy. They recommend:

  • Stop Cortana from getting to know you.
  • Turn off your location.
  • Stop syncing.
  • Lock down your lock screen.
  • Turn off your advertising ID
Another extremely helpful site is fix10.isleaked, which also provides information about how to fix privacy settings in Windows 7 & 8.1.

As long as you and I use the internet, our privacy may be compromised. However, take the time and effort to minimize that invasion as much as you can.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Google Watches You Shop Online...and Offline

Google watches your online shopping and announced last month that it will be watching what people buy in brick and mortar stores. Why? Because it wants to sell more digital advertising.

Google's new tool can track how much money people spend in merchants' stores after clicking on their digital ads.

Google gathers the information using data from apps, such as Gmail, Google Maps and those downloaded from the Google Play Store. They combine this information with the records of countless credit-card transactions. The company claims to have access to about 70% of U.S. credit and debit card transactions.

According to the Los Angeles Times, "The analysis will be done by matching the combined ad clicks of people who are logged into Google services with their collective purchases on credit and debit cards. Google says it won't be able to examine the specific items bought or how much a specific individual spent."

Google claims to protect customer data and doesn't collect or give businesses any information that would identify shoppers. Not businesses, but what about hackers?!

Some concerned with privacy are insisting government regulators find out how Google and other tech companies are gathering and using data from those of us who use their services. Let's hope they act soon!

Related reading: Take control of Google's interest-based ads

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

WannaCry Ransomware and You

As I'm sure you've heard by now, at least 150 countries were hit by ransomware last week. The ransomware, called  WannaCry (also know as  WanaCrypt0r 2.0, WannaCry and WCry), is was one of the worst attacks on record.

Ransomware infects your computer by secretly installing malicious software that locks up your computer and encrypts you computer files. Money is demanded as a ransom. When paid, the files will be unlocked and unencrypted.

The WannaCry attack popped up a red screen with the words, “Oops, your files have been encrypted!” The hackers demanded money through online bitcoin payment - first $300 then rising to $600 before it destroys files hours later.

Ransomware warning
According to Kim Komando, "The attack has targeted private companies and public organizations, but it's spreading so fast no one is safe." She recommends three steps to take now:
1. Install Microsoft's patch
2. Backup your data
3. Install all Windows updates
The article is worth reading, because it includes a link to information about if patching is impossible by disabling your computer's Server Message Block (SMB) service.

Also use a trustworthy security software to protect yourself from future attacks.

In this day and age of heightened cyber-warfare, each of us should be diligent about protecting our electronic devices from ransomware and other malicious software.

Related reading:

Factbox: Don't click - What is the 'ransomware' WannaCry worm? - Reuters

AP Explains: What is ransomware?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Internet Cookies: Friend or Foe?

An internet cookie (also known as "cookie," "browser cookie," "web cookie" and similar names) is data sent from a website you visit that is stored on your computer, smartphone or other device you use to surf the web. Cookies keep track of a site visitors activities such as remembering what you've place in your shopping cart, your​ login information and your preferred language.

Sample cookies on a computer
For example, when you click "Remember me on this computer" logging into a website, a cookie is set to automatically log you in the next time you visit. When you log out, the cookie is removed.

A look inside a cookie text file

Tracking Cookies

Tracking cookies can be a pain in the neck, like when you visit an online store for a product and later an ad for the product appears on other sites you visit for who knows how long. Many believe, including me, this is an invasion of privacy.

According to the Tom's Guide website, tracking cookies are "specialized versions of cookies that record your entries and report them back to wherever the cookies' designer wants your data to go." Some cookies are designed to send specific user information, which can include names and addresses, back to the tracker host.

Why I Use Two Browsers

I use two browsers on my computer and Smartphone, one with cookies enabled and one with cookies disabled. Guess which one I use the most?!

My browser of choice for my Smartphone is Ghostery and I use the Ghostery Browser Extension for my computer. Both are free.

According to their site, "Ghostery offers a free browser extension and mobile browser that make browsing the internet cleaner, faster, and safer. Ghostery detects and blocks tracking technologies on the websites you visit to speed up page loads, eliminate clutter, and protect your data and privacy. It also keeps you informed on what companies are tracking you and gives you the tools you need to determine what to block and when."

Related reading:

What are browser cookies? - PC Tools by Symantec

wikiHow to Disable Cookies - wikiHow

Tracking Cookies: What They Are, and How They Threaten Your Privacy - Tom's Guide

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Social Media Can Be Worse Than Alcohol Or Drug Abuse

According to a BBC article, "The addiction that's 'worse than alcohol or drug abuse,'" there are social media users who find it impossible to keep off their devices.

Many are now seeking treatment and counselling from therapists and other professionals offering help to get individuals through the day without compulsive scrolling. Some individuals are even turning to online therapists, such as offered by Talkspace, to deal with their social media addiction.

The article points out that, according to Nathan Driskell, a therapist in Houston, Texas, social media addition is "worse than alcohol or drug abuse because it’s much more engaging and there’s no stigma behind it.”

Social Networking Engineered to be Habit Forming

According to an oped piece at the Computerworld website, "social networking is engineered to be as habit-forming as crack cocaine."

At this time, there is no official medical recognition of social media addiction as a disorder, but you only have to look around to see that excessive use of devices is very real. Perhaps you know others who are addicted, perhaps even yourself.

Related reading

What Is Social Networking Addiction?   Lifewire

Internet Addiction Test (IAT)  Net Addiction

How to Stop Internet Addiction   wikiHow

Monday, April 10, 2017

Don't Fall Prey to Online Rip-offs and Scams

According to an article in the April 2017, issue of the AARP Bulletin, "one in 10 Americans will fall prey to scams this year and millions will be ripped off online or in person." The article points out that, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center, data breaches hit an all-time high in 2016.

To help keep your identity safe, AARP advises to beware of these common scams:

A hacker infects your computer by secretly installing malicious software that encrypts you files. If you haven't made recent backups of your data, you can lose all of it and be faced with having to pay several hundred dollars to recover it. AARP advises not to click on any link or attachment in an email that you were not expecting.

Remote PC-Repair Plans
A scam artist calls saying he is a representative of a computer firm (it's fake) claiming your computer files have been infected with malware that will infect your files. The scammer will trick you into giving him full access (called remote access) to your files, look around your computer and steal your identity.

An unsolicited email looks like it comes from a reliable source. Do not click on any links within the email. If you have to change a password, say at your bank, go directly to the bank's website and make changes there. This is another method to steal information stored on your computer and elsewhere.

Spear Phishing
A highly targeted phishing attempt, the hacker finds out your personal information (now quite available on the web). The hacker sends you an email pretending to be a legitimate institution that you deal with, such as a bank, and a link sends to to a fake website that looks real (away check out the url in the web browser).

AARP recommends:
  1. Use a password manager to set up a master password
  2. Be careful with free WiFi (better to use your smartphone data, than free WiFi). Connect to a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service for a low monthly subscription fee.
  3. Secure your web searches with HTTPS Everywhere. It can be downloaded for free and encripts your data.
  4. Before wiring money, check the institutions credentials and the identity of the recipient.
Note: In addition to not clicking on links inside emails, and avoid suspicious websites.

Related reading:
VPN - Wikipedia
HTTPS Everywhere - Electronic Frontier Foundation

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

5 New Digital Age Brain Disorders

The Week has an interesting article by Tammy Kennon about five new brain disorders that are a result of the digital age in which we live. According to Cognitive Neuroscientists, all the time we spend in front of screens has changed the way we read and comprehend.

The five new disorder are:

1. Nomophobia
Also know as "No-Mobile Phobia," nomophobia is the fear of "being separated from one's phone or tablet." Feelings can range from panic to desperation.

2. Technoference
Tech devices can interrupt leisure time, conversations, and meals and intimacy with others. The researchers found the higher technoference the lower relationships and one's satisfaction with life.

3. The phantom ring
The terms refer to the perception that one's mobile device is ringing or vibrating when it is not.

4. Cyberchondria
Hypochondria is not a new disorder, but the internet has taken it to the next level. In the broadest definition, cyberchondria refers to people who research and diagnose their own illnesses online. Some take this to the extreme and the self-diagnosis may, in fact, be wrong.

5. Truman Show Delusion
Named after the 1998 move, The Truman Show, The Truman Show Delusion is the false perception that ones life is being broadcast, according to Colin Lecher at Popular Science. "The resulting delusions aren't real, but they certainly aren't random: They're a half-skip past reality, a snippet of the world taken and blown out of proportion." According to leading experts in the field of psychiatry, the disorder is not a new diagnosis but a fresh twist on persecutory and grandiose illusions.
Personal note: In the 19 years since The Truman Show, that fact that our lives are being broadcast is more fact than fiction (eg: Facebook live, snooping by The Internet of Things devices, online tracking).

Source: 5 new brain disorders that were born out of the digital age - The Week

Related reading: Internet addiction disorder Wikipedia

Monday, March 6, 2017

Your Smart TV May Be Spying On You

Your Smart TV may be going far beyond tracking the programs you watch. It may listen into to your conversations and even watch you from its built-in video camera.

Last month Vizio, maker of Smart TVs, agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle charges by the Federal Trade Commission after the company collected second-by-second viewing data from its customers and did so it without purchaser's consent. Until multiple new reports about this spying, many consumers did even know this was a possibility.

The data amassed by Vizio included customers’ sex, age, income, marital status, household size, education, and home ownership status. The data was sold to third parties.

Court Order Against Vizio
The stipulated federal court order:
"requires VIZIO to prominently disclose and obtain affirmative express consent for its data collection and sharing practices, and prohibits misrepresentations about the privacy, security, or confidentiality of consumer information they collect. It also requires the company to delete data collected before March 1, 2016, and to implement a comprehensive data privacy program and biennial assessments of that program."
Other Smart TV makers may be doing the same. For example, in their privacy notice (small print) Samsung says they: "capture voice commands and associated texts so that we can provide you with Voice Recognition features and evaluate and improve the features."

If you have a Smart TV, read this WIRED article How To Stop Your Smart TV From Spying on You. It includes tips such as disconnecting from your internet or Ethernet connection. If you can't, they advise that you reset the TV to its factory default setting, and don't give it your W-Fi password during the set up process.

Any device connected to the internet has the capability of tracking you. In addition, it can be a target of hackers.

If you don't have a Smart TV, don't buy one. In fact, think before you purchase any internet connected home device.

FCC press release - Vizio collected viewing histories on 11 million smart televisions without users’ consent

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Facebook Cookie Tracking May Continue After Deleting Your Account

According to an article at the Gizmodo website, citing an article by Bloomberg, there is a "suspicion" that "Facebook's cookies will still actively track your online activity even if you've cancelled your account." According the Facebook, they delete user specific cookies but leave some for security purposes.

Gizmodo asks if Facebook be doing this without people knowing? Their answer "probably not."

Justifying their wisdom

They justify their conclusion by stating that this is no different that what any other website is doing, though they admit that Facebook has data about us that is much more specific and focused.

They recommend clearing out your browser cookies. Yes, do it regularly.

Instead of justifying the continuing collection of data by Facebook and other websites, they (and others like them), should be leading the fight to see that this activity is stopped.

Just because everyone else does it, doesn't make it right!

Do you care? In my opinion, you should!

Read the Gizmodo article

Friday, February 3, 2017

IRS Issues Urgent W-2 Phishing Scam Alert

The IRS recently warned of a dangerous W-2 Phising Scam. Don't be taken in!

According to an IRS spokesperson, it is not an IRS impersonation, but scammers are looking for tax information and using it within the tax system. The Form W-2 email phishing scam involves the corporate world and is spreading to other sectors, including school districts, tribal casinos, chain restaurants, temporary staffing agencies, healthcare and shipping and freight.

One of the Most Dangerous Email Phishing Scams

“This is one of the most dangerous email phishing scams we’ve seen in a long time. It can result in the large-scale theft of sensitive data that criminals can use to commit various crimes, including filing fraudulent tax returns. We need everyone’s help to turn the tide against this scheme,’’ said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

Organizations receiving a W-2 scam email should forward it to phishing@irs.gov and place “W2 Scam” in the subject line.

This is a very serious issue, so please visit the IRS site to fully educate yourself about this scam:

Dangerous W-2 Phishing Scam Evolving; Targeting Schools, Restaurants, Hospitals, Tribal Groups and Others   Feb. 2, 2017

Thursday, February 2, 2017

SpyNote RAT Masquerades as Netflix App and Steals Personal Data

According to several news reports, a fake Netflix app created by cyber criminals may be infected with something called the SpyNote RAT (Remote Access Trojan). Android devices are especially vulnerable because the code is open source.

SpyNote RAT Gets Administrative Control of your Device

SpyNote RAT can read text messages, view contacts, turn on your devices microphone, record your screen and take screenshots. and listen in to your personal conversations. They can also send user files to sites set-up by cyber criminals. In other words, they gain administrative control of your device.

To keep your device free from malicious spyware like SpyNote RAT never download any apps from a third-party website or store! Never, no never!

Key Search Word: SpyNote RAT

Related Reading: Watch Out For SpyNote RAT, Poses As Netflix App To Steal Your Data

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

I Deleted My Facebook Account

Today I deleted my Facebook account for reasons I've already stated elsewhere in this blog.

I sat in front of my computer staring at the OK button for a while and asked myself if I really wanted to do this, or should I simply deactivate my account?! Then I clicked the OK button.

I became sick and tired of Facebook, offended by it's constant tracking, always shoving some ad or something in my face. I plan to once again experience keeping in touch with friends, real friends, like I did before the advent of Facebook.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Facebook Accounts Being Spied On

According to an article at komando.com, 1 in 5 Facebook accounts are being spied on! The reason will shock you, someone you know and trust may be accessing you Facebook accounts without your permission!

According to a recent study, conducted by a grad student at the University of British Columbia, 24 percent...one in five...of people surveyed admitted to secretly accessing the Facebook account of someone they know.

How did they access accounts? When you or I leave our computer or smartphone open for viewing it makes it easy for someone to gain access.

Preventing Facebook Snoopers

The ways to prevent this should be, but aren't always, obvious:

  • Don't leave your device unattended when other people are around.
  • Log out of your Facebook or other account whenever you are done using them.
  • Change passwords on a regular basis
  • Lock the home screen with a passcode
Facebook Activity Log
Facebook Activity Log

It wouldn't hurt to check your Facebook Activity Log. The Activity Log contains a listing of all your posts and activity, from the day you started using Facebook. It includes stories and photos you've been tagged in, and connections you've made with others by friending them or liking their page. Are all those activities yours? If not, someone may have snooped.  

Read study: Characterizing Social Insider Attacks on Facebook

Study excerpt:
"Facebook accounts are secured against unauthorized access
through passwords and device-level security. Those defenses,
however, may not be sufficient to prevent social insider attacks,
where attackers know their victims, and gain access to
a victim’s account by interacting directly with their device."

Monday, January 23, 2017

Bye, Bye Facebook: Part 2

I'm about a week away from pulling the plug on Facebook! As I wrote in Part 1 regarding my departure:
"I'm deleting my account because of Facebook itself. It's become intrusive, forces information on me that I don't want...at least not from Facebook. There are too many in your face ads and notices; and Facebook follows your every move on the web. Facebook is not the only company that does this but, in my experience and understanding, it is the most egregious."

Deactivate or Delete Your Facebook Account?

You can "Deactivate Your Account" by going to Settings > Security > Deactivate Your Account. Basically, you're just putting your Facebook activity on hold, not pulling the plug. You can reactivate it whenever you want. Many people do this to take a breather from Facebook.

Unlike deactivating an account, when you delete it you will not be able to reactivate it or retrieve any of the content or information you added. Facebook delays the deletion for 14 days after your request. If you log in during this time, the deletion is canceled.

You can download a copy of your Facebook information prior to deleting your account. You can always open a new account in the future, but you must start totally from scratch, including refriending people.

Think long and hard before deleting your account. If you do, you won't be the first...nor the last!

How to permanently delete a Facebook account

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Online Pricing Discrimination

Companies track virtually everything you do online and they are changing prices based on your web browsing history. In other words, you could pay a different amount than I do for the exact same product.

There have been many reports about Pricing Discrimination. According to a recent one by CBS news, Online Pricing Discrimination, your internet search history can impact how much you pay for a product. Companies can track just about everything you do online including the websites you visit, what items you've purchased, your location or the type of computer or device you use. As a result, you may get different search results and even prices.

Companies have been gathering data on you for years. They call this "interest based information," Many call it discrimination.

How to stop companies from tracking you

To stop companies from tracking you use a device such as eblocker, use separate computers or browsers to shop, price-shop in “incognito” mode or, the easiest, clear your browser cache each time you shop online.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Smartphone Photos Can Pose Security Risks

When taking photos with a smartphone and some digital cameras, information may be embedded in photos that you might not want to share with anyone. It's called geotagging, and geotagging can compromise your security and privacy!

Many mobile phones and digital cameras have built-in GPS receivers. When enabled, these receivers embed information about the precise location where a photo was taken. There are some things you should not geotag such as private places: your home, your place of business, or your children’s schools and playgrounds. And by all means, never geotag photos of children.

Geotagging can tell others your whereabouts

Smartphone photo "details"
I inadvertently stumbled upon geotag information when checking the “details” in photo taken with my smartphone. I was shocked to see the exact address, state and country of the home where we were visiting, as you can see from the screenshot at the left (the street and city have been blurred out)!

The implications of photo geotagging can potentially have negative consequences when you upload images online. For example, if you post a photo of your children or your home, do you really want others to know the precise location and time?

According to the Snopes website, “When such photographs are shared with others (by posting them on the Internet, for example), it is possible that viewers can examine the Exif metadata stored with those images to find out information such as where the pictures were taken, and use tools that map the stored GPS information to specific locations (such as a particular house or school). This poses potential privacy and security issues, especially since some users may be completely unaware that their cameras are set up to store location information by default.”

Geotagging turned on by default

Geotagging is often automatically enabled on smartphones and smartphone apps. You can opt-out by shutting it off. You can view location and other information by selecting "Details" from the menu setting when viewing a photo on a Smartphone.

Digital camera GPS Settings can be accessed through the camera settings menu. Location and other information can be found embedded in images in what's known as EXIF data. Check your camera manual for details

Shutting off Geotagging

All location data unchecked in Smartphone camera app settings
I’ve turned geotagging off for most purposes and will only enable it, perhaps, if I take a a trip and won’t be uploading images until a later date. Taking photos at special venues, and uploading them while still there, not only tells others where you are but that you are not home.

You can shut off geotagging in the settings menu of your camera, smartphone and smartphone apps. In many cases, geotagging and location settings are turned on by default, so do make a point to check settings.

Some photo sharing and social websites, such as Facebook, automatically remove partial or all stored EXIF data and geotagging to help protect the privacy of users. Other sites offer privacy settings so you can opt-in or opt-out of letting EXIF and Geotag data be revealed to others. Check those settings!

 Removing Geotag Information

If you want to remove embedded geotagging information from photos, search online for free EXIF editors and apps. If you edit your photos in programs such as Photoshop, be sure to use the "Save for Web & Devices" (not "Save AS") menu usually found in the File menu. This will strip an image of the EXIF data. Check your software Help files for more information.

You don't have to worry about removing geotag information in photos if it's not there is the first place. Enjoy taking photos but, when you do, make sure you are not unwittingly compromising your security and privacy.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Intrusive Ads Killing Online Experience

I'm not against internet advertising, only the aggressively intrusive kind (see important note at the end of this article).

Ads popping up in your face after the article you're reading grays out! Sometimes the ads cover an entire page. Banal ads, some so outlandish and obnoxious turn they your stomach. The veracity of some of the information provided is suspect. Pop-up, pop-under, moving, following you up and down a page as you scroll; they flash, vibrate, rotate, make acrobatic movements, video audio going on automatically...even ad blockers don't seem to work like they used to.

And let's not forget malvertising - malicious advertising that delivers malicious code. According to the Malwarebytes Lab website, malware " hits you without your knowledge, often lives on reputable sites, and most of the time, delivers one of the most dangerous forms of malware today. Practice safe Internetting, and you could still be vulnerable."

Below are just a few random examples of internet ads. At the end of this article is information about the Acceptable Ads initiative, which "seeks to create sustainable middle ground between the user’s choice to use ad blockers and the continued need to support free online content with advertisements." There is some hope!

Important Note: Not all internet advertising is intrusive. Certainly website owners need advertising revenue to pay the expenses of their site. But you can gain control. For example, the Adblock Browser lets you choose whether or not you want to see ads when you surf. It allows you to block all ads but also gives you the option to see Acceptable Ads, straightforward, nonintrusive advertisements.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Bye, Bye Facebook: Part 1

It is after much thought and with ambivalent feelings that I've decided to delete my Facebook account.

I will do so by the end of this month (January 2017) so it gives Facebook friends time to download any photos I may have taken of them or for their business, should they wish to do so. Once I delete my account, all my photos will be gone, including any of mine that appear on a friend's Facebook page via tagging.

I'm deleting my account because of Facebook itself. It's become intrusive, forces information on me that I don't want...at least not from Facebook. There are too many in your face ads and notices; and Facebook follows your every move on the web. Facebook is not the only company that does this but, in my experience and understanding, it is the most egregious.

Does this mean I'll be totally disconnecting with friends? Of course, not!  I will continue to stay connected through the more traditional and less imposing, ways: phone, email, writing, etc. These are the methods I've used long before the advent of Facebook, and plan to use long after my parting with Facebook.

I will be sharing more of my thoughts at a later time about why I consider Facebook so odious.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Keep Google Allo From Ease-dropping

According to Edward Snowden, the NSA-contractor-turned-whistleblower, considered one of the worlds foremost experts on privacy, the Google Allo chatting app, “records every message you ever send and makes it available to police upon request.” Authorities would need a search warrant.

Allo does support end-to-end encryption, however Google was criticized by Snowden and other privacy advocates for setting it as off by default. According to Wikipedia, "end-to-end encryption (E2EE) is a system of communication where only the communicating users can read the messages. ... The systems are designed to defeat any attempts at surveillance and/or tampering because no third parties can decipher the data being communicated or stored."

Unless you use "incognito" mode, messages sent back and forth with the app will be encrypted between it and Google. That means Google has access to what is said in those conversations. Using "incognito" mode means that only you and your message's recipient will see the text.