Tag Archives: personal privacy

The Stigma of Being a Private Person – The Ad Industry Is Losing The Battle

imageTry as they might – apologists for the Internet’s ad industry push to overwhelm common sense in the creation of a bizarre concept – personal openness – appear to be losing. Despite an invasive and manipulative strategy, which has led to a manic drive to strip consumers of any semblance of privacy, it seems we just aren’t buying it.

Contrary to the claims by pseudo social scientists, supported by far to many tech pundits (who, in the real world, wouldn’t know their ass from a hole in the ground), that personal privacy is dead – that consumers don’t care about personal privacy – uncomfortable facts (uncomfortable for the ad industry, that is), appear to tell a different tale.

Hardly surprising, given that these pundits and social scientists deal in “bought and paid for” points of view. Manipulation and deception – by any other name – propaganda – has lost its luster. It’s been recognized for what it is – bullshit.

We are not as complacent, when it comes to personal privacy, as we have been led to believe. More users than ever, have come to the realization that the price of admission to active interaction with the Internet, should not be the complete stripping of the right to personal privacy. Consumers are advancing the notion that the right to privacy is a “natural right”, and should be recognized as such.

Better yet, consumers are pushing back against privacy predators who continuously boost the “creep factor”. In a just released survey from TRUSTe – one more in a long line of recent surveys which refutes the bought and paid for assertions of the ad industry’s propaganda merchants – it’s clearly apparent that these “lie merchants” are taking it on the chin.

Survey highlights:

94 percent think privacy is an important issue, with 55 percent saying that online privacy is a really important issue they think of often.

69 percent say that they trust themselves most when it comes to protecting their own personal information online (up sharply from 45 percent in 2011).

40 percent say a targeted advertisement has made them feel uncomfortable.

53 percent (52 percent in 2011) believe personally identifiable information is attached to browsing behavior.

Consumers take a variety of precautions to protect their privacy online, such as:

76 percent do not allow companies to share their personal information with a third party (up from 67 percent in 2011).

35 percent say that they have stopped doing business with a company or using their website because of privacy concerns.

90 percent say they use browser controls to protect privacy, including deleting cookies (up from 84 percent in 2011).

40 percent say a targeted advertisement has made them feel uncomfortable.

53 percent (52 percent in 2011) believe personally identifiable information is attached to browsing behavior.

For far too long, the Internet’s ad industry (and, the bad actors who support it), have gotten away with their attempts to stigmatize those of us who believe in the concept of the “private person”  – those of us who have sought a balance between the public and private. I’m hopeful, that we may have reached a stage where consumer action will result in tighter controls being implemented against what has turned out to be, a largely unethical Internet ad industry.


Filed under Point of View, Privacy

The Paralegal in You: Protecting Your Privacy from Social Media

imageMore than 800 million people around the world share their photos, their latest activities and their innermost thoughts on Facebook on a daily basis and Twitter has more than 100 million active users. While no one can deny the power of social media to connect people with friends and family and to advance political causes, individuals still need to be wary of their personal privacy when using social media.

The obvious concern for many people is that employers and potential employers can gather information that could hurt their careers. Since employers even tend to discredit applicants with online paralegal certification versus an applicant with certification obtained through a more traditional means, there is no telling how having privy to your social media persona could hurt your chances of securing a job.  Not only should individuals be careful of posting inappropriate party photos online, but they may also need to remember not to post their golf score from the day they called in sick to work.

More troubling for many people is that Facebook and other Internet sites use their searches and posts to create a profile that can then be used by advertisers to direct their appeals to their interests. According to a New York Times article, Facebook says they do not share personal data with advertisers. The Federal Trade Commission, in a settlement in November 2011 with Facebook, now requires Facebook to subject itself to regular privacy audits for the next two decades. Facebook will also need to keep its users informed about how their personal information is shared.

While Facebook says it does not share personal information with them, advertisers have embraced social media as a prime method of reaching potential customers. According to The Washington Post, Facebook earned a profit of $668 million in 2011 and had revenue of $3.7 billion, most of it from ads that target users based on their personal data.

In addition to advertisers and employers, other organizations may be trolling Facebook and Twitter for unprotected information. Police departments and detectives have found suspects through their use of social media. Some experts believe life insurance companies may begin searching social media for information about the habits of insurance applicants to be sure they are not lying about avocations such as sky diving.

Consumers of social media can take steps to protect their privacy, but these steps will not necessarily prevent the storage of personal information about individual’s search habits, online shopping or shared photos. In an article in PC World, several steps are recommended for social media users to protect their privacy. First and foremost, everyone needs to think carefully about the information they share in the context of who may be reading it. Even with privacy settings, it is best to assume that anyone can read anything posted in social media and that the information will stay available forever. Avoiding embarrassing or obnoxious comments should be rule number one for every social media user.

Some users assume that when they post something on Facebook, only their friends will see it. However, if a friend comments on your post, a friend of that friend can often trace back the conversation to the original post. Reviewing and frequently updating the privacy settings on a Facebook account provides a barrier to others easily accessing information, but will not prevent information from leaking out to those who are determined to see it.

Guest Author Bio:

Fiona Causer is currently a student pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Legal Studies.  She enjoys writing and seeks to use it as a vehicle to convey ideas and engage others in discussing relevant issues of our day.

1 Comment

Filed under FaceBook, Guest Writers, Privacy, Twitter

Canada’s Proposed Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act – Open Season For Police To Spy On Canadians Online

imageIn 2005, Canada’s current Prime Minister Steven Harper made the comment – “You won’t recognize Canada when I’m done with it.”   He was right – the values that have defined Canada are gradually being replaced by values more appropriate to those of a quasi-fascist state. To those of my generation, Canada is indeed, becoming unrecognizable.

Canadians, much like their American cousins, post 9/11; continue to be coerced by government’s trump card – the war on terrorism. As a result, Canadians blindly continue to accept the invasion of their personal lives and, infringements on their right to privacy.

In a statement reminiscent of George Bush’s – “you’re with us or you’re with the terrorists”, Canada’s Minister of Public Safety, in an overreaching attempt to squash dissent on the recently introduced Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act – let loose with an outrageous slogan meant to vilify opponents – “stand with us or with the child pornographers”.

In other words, anyone who dares to oppose the Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act – which, will allow carte blanche government spying on Canadians’ Internet activities – without judicial oversight – is supportive of child pornography.

Those of us who disagree with the need for this legislation which would, in effect, place Canada in the same company as China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria – who subject their citizens to Internet surveillance – run the risk of being classified as criminals, perverts, and low life’s. As  Cicero, the Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, orator, and political theorist reportedly said – “When you have no basis for an argument, abuse the plaintiff.”

This attack on reasonable and responsible discourse is hardly surprising, coming from a government intent on stripping away, layer by layer, the fundamental freedoms fought for, and won, by generations of Canadians.

To the historically challenged, and those that are less technology savvy, an intrusion into the sacrosanct ground of personal privacy – to protect children – may appear to be both reasonable, and prudent. After all, society’s protection of children must be part of the driving philosophy of any mature civilization.

But the curtailment of personal liberty – ostensibly for the common good – as this legislation supposedly is – has a rather unpleasant history. A history worth considering.


“The state must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people. As long as the government is perceived as working for the benefit of the children, the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation.”

–  Adolf Hitler (Mein Kampf)

More appropriate perhaps –

“Necessity is the plea of every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants. It is the creed of slaves.”

–  William Pitt (British Prime Minister, 1783)

Equally as appropriate –

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies.

The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated. But those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their consciences.”

–  C.S. Lewis


Just one of the many corrosive  provisions included in this legislation, would require Internet service providers to hand over subscriber data to the Police –  without a warrant. The familiar argument often pushed forward by supporters of this type of regressive legislation – if you have nothing to hide….. – simply doesn’t hold water.

Resistance to this legislation is not about being law abiding, it’s not about protecting children from the .0000001 %.

It is about not having every aspect of one’s life subject to close examination.

It is about not allowing Big Brother to spy on one’s Internet activities.

It is about a disturbing tendency of this particular government’s interest in knowing – and controlling – the Internet activities of Canadian citizens.

Thankfully, privacy and consumer advocates – including Federal, Provincial, and Territorial privacy commissioners – have taken a hard line and, have been speaking out against this proposed thugary. Even so, given the unyielding positions previously taken by this current regressive government – the consensus of opinion seems to indicate; this nonsense will pass into law. Ensuring that Canadians, will get a taste of what was once East German life under the Stasi (The Ministry for State Security).

The sad part of this whole exercise in repression is – it’s pointless as a control against child pornographers. Since the minds behind this abomination appear to be barely computer literate, they seem to be unaware of the following –

VPN applications (Secure Virtual Private Network Connection), commonly used in repressive countries such as Iran, China, and so on – which allow untraceable encrypted data (preventing disclosure of private information), are readily available for download on the Internet. Once connected to a VPN, an ISP no longer has the ability to follow.

I suspect that child pornographers are generally computer literate and, are well aware of the practical methods that can be used to avoid detection. VPN applications are just one such method.

The unpleasant reality is simple – unfettered government surveillance directed at Canadian Internet users.

If you are a Canadian, and you believe that it’s time to fight back against unreasonable control of your rights to access the Internet without censorship, and surveillance, you might consider joining OpenMedia.ca, which describes itself as “a grassroots organization that safeguards the possibilities of the open and affordable Internet.”

Finally, let me say – I considered long and hard as to whether I should post my opinion on this issue. The number of comments on the Net (and, in more than one national newspaper), in which personal fear of this government’s response to criticism was mentioned, weighed on my mind.

I find it stunning, that I’m living in a time in which some Canadians are fearful of their own government. The unfortunate reality is – they may have ample justification for those feelings.


Filed under Opinion, Point of View

Internet Dangers – Real Life Stories

image Many of my friends think that I lean towards a “scare them to death” philosophy, when it comes to the Internet. I often get badgered with “friendly” questions such as – “Don’t you ever see anything good about the Internet?” Or, “Don’t you get tired of scaring people with all your talk of the dangers on the Internet?”

Frankly, I find it enormously depressing writing on malware, scareware, Browser exploits, and all the other exploits that continue to threaten our enjoyment of the Internet. Testing and recommending new software, is much more appealing.

But, when all is said and done, I’m left with this question – if I don’t educate my friends, and by extension, my readers, who will?

Just to be clear – there is no doubt that the Internet can provide a rich educational and cultural experience, at a minimum, but at the same time, it is virtually impossible for users not to be exposed to the underbelly of the Internet.

The sad reality is, the majority of computer users are undereducated when it comes to recognizing the dangers, and threats, that the Internet poses to their computers and to their personal privacy. This is a case where, what you don’t know can hurt you – big time!

For this article, rather than me get up on my “the Internet can be a dangerous place” soapbox, one more time, let me offer you two edited comments from readers following recent articles.

The question that arises from both these comments might be – if a technically sophisticated computer user finds navigating the Internet hazardous then, is an average user now essentially at the mercy of cybercriminals?

The first comment is from Mark Schneider, a high level “super user”, who occasionally guest writes on this Blog.

I agree with you about personal responsibility being paramount; even the careful user can get into trouble. My daughter borrowed my old ThinkPad recently – she needed it for doing research for the colleges she’s applying to. Everything seemed fine when I used the machine again.

I did a routine scan and MalwareBytes found 15 Trojans and at least one rootkit. I was not amused, and when I checked the browsing history, virtually every site (she visited), had been an .edu site. I looked into it and found out many .gov and .edu sites have been compromised.

I’ve gone to using “No-scripts” extension with Firefox as well as the usual tools. And frankly, outside an enterprise firewall I’m beginning to question running XP at all anymore. Many applications don’t work well when running as a limited user so, you end up running as admin.

With the number zero day exploits these days, and the state of the Internet, (with the use of JavaScript everywhere), it’s getting tough to stay safe even when following decent security protocols.

I’ve begun test running Open Solaris, in a virtual machine, to do online banking and going to my eBay account. I don’t want to sound paranoid but, Windows users are at risk every time they go online. I think Vista and Windows 7 are more secure than XP if you turn the (much hated) User Account Control to maximum protection, but then people complain about convenience.

Unfortunately convenience and security are two diametrically opposite realities – it’s very difficult to have both while running Windows online in 2009.

Sorry about the rant but I guess I’m a little frustrated as well.

The second comment is from reader RHH who occasionally comments here.

As a recent victim of an infected link on Goggle, and having previously installed the new Panda Cloud anti-malware service, I wonder why Panda could not stop the auto loader malware as the malware certainly was in circulation longer than the 6 minutes Panda touts as their ability to mark a malware and neutralize it. I would add that not even the WOT had marked the infected link as unsafe.

Also, I hope Firefox can give us a way to selectively stop the browser from restoring a session and restarting an infected web site after having shut down a computer.

I also wonder why Goggle cannot get the links in their system screened to prevent, or at least minimize, malware from being passed forward to the users. If Cyveillance Blog can screen and find 250,000+ problem sites, cannot Google do the same and counter attack somehow?

It honestly seems like major players like Google, and others, also have a stake and responsibility to work at getting the malware out of their links before we run into them – no matter how hard we work at avoiding problems.

So what do you think? Has the Internet now reached a critical mass in terms of cybercrime?

If you enjoyed this article, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.


Filed under Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Interconnectivity, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, Personal Perspective, Safe Surfing, Windows Tips and Tools