Celebrate Data Privacy Day by protecting yourself from email tracking

January 28, 2019 Comments Off on Celebrate Data Privacy Day by protecting yourself from email tracking

This year, instead of firing up the barbecue, putting on elaborate costumes, or singing carols, why not commemorate Data Privacy Day (January 29) by making it harder for external parties to track your email. If you’re interested, check out a very informative article from the Electronic Frontier Foundation on how to do that.

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Not scared of algorithms? Perhaps you should be.

August 27, 2015 Comments Off on Not scared of algorithms? Perhaps you should be.

A while back, I wrote about a run-in I had with a rental car company, or to put it more accurately: a rental car company’s algorithm. It’s quite frightening to think about the implications of “lights-out” algorithms making important decisions that can affect all aspects of your life. And as someone who witnesses – first hand – the often abysmal job that enterprises do when testing their APIs (which frequently have algorithms running beneath the covers), I’m particularly concerned about what this will spell for the future.

If you’d like to learn more about these possible repercussions, check out the extremely well written article by Frank Pasquale on aeon.co.

Cyberspace is no longer an escape from the ‘real world’. It is now a force governing it via algorithms: recipe-like sets of instructions to solve problems. From Google search to OkCupid matchmaking, software orders and weights hundreds of variables into clean, simple interfaces, taking us from query to solution. Complex mathematics govern such answers, but it is hidden from plain view, thanks either to secrecy imposed by law, or to complexity outsiders cannot unravel.

If you’d like to read more of my posts about Big Data, click here.

Excellent article on laptop encryption

April 28, 2015 Comments Off on Excellent article on laptop encryption

Did you know that you have very few privacy rights when you cross a border (into the US or anywhere else in the world, for that matter)? I blogged about the dangers of bringing a laptop through customs a while back. Naturally, it’s a good idea to remove any sensitive information from your laptop, especially when you’re traveling. For those situations that require you to keep important data on a computer that’s at risk of being inspected (or stolen), full-disk encryption can be a lifesaver.

Operating system vendors have been doing a great job at strengthening their products, so there’s really no excuse not to take advantage of encryption. Here’s a link to an excellent article from Micah Lee on The Intercept that explains how to do this on Windows, Mac, and Linux computers.

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With step-by-step instructions, it’s one of the best written tutorials I’ve seen about this topic. It’s well worth your time to make the effort, but remember: don’t lose your password!

Data never really disappears, particularly when it’s supposed to

May 9, 2013 Comments Off on Data never really disappears, particularly when it’s supposed to

If you have a teenage son or daughter, you may be familiar with an app called ‘Snapchat’. Its claim to fame – that is, until earlier today – is that it deletes all messages (text, photo, or otherwise) within a few seconds, thus keeping sensitive information safe from the prying eyes of parents, police, marketers, and all sorts of other nefarious characters.

But lo and behold, as it turns out, Snapchat actually doesn’t delete the data after all. Instead, it’s simply moved to a hidden directory, where with proper time and tooling, it can be recovered. You can read all about it here.

Whether or not you’re prone to sharing too much information, the takeaway from this little debacle is that data never really goes away, especially once a smartphone gets involved – not to mention the cloud. Keep that in mind the next time you’re tempted to use technology to record, say, or write something that you don’t want anyone else to see or hear. 

Facebook follows you into the drugstore

September 24, 2012 § 1 Comment

By now I think most people understand that everything they do or say on Facebook will be recorded. And I’ve already written about how banks are poking around your Facebook profile and activity. But there’s a new development underway that takes intrusive analytics to the next level: Facebook is now “partnering” with data aggregators such as Datalogix to link your offline purchases with your online profile.

Datalogix has purchasing data from about 70m American households largely drawn from loyalty cards and programmes at more than 1,000 retailers, including grocers and drug stores. By matching email addresses or other identifying information associated with those cards against emails or information used to establish Facebook accounts, Datalogix can track whether people bought a product in a store after seeing an ad on Facebook.

This is yet another reason to use a variety of different email addresses for your online and offline activities, and to only provide the bare minimum of requested information when registering for a site or offline program. While it’s not foolproof, it does help reduce the ease of the cross-system joins that are at the heart of many of these privacy-eroding analytic schemes.

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