Thursday, February 27, 2014

Parents, do you believe in invading your children’s privacy?

I do, to an extent at least. I recall the motto, “give’em enough rope to hang themselves” because it allows them to learn from their mistakes.  So how about using nanny-cams and key loggers?
A nanny cam is a hidden camera in a common area of your home used to observe your children and babysitter. Some argue that if you even think about installing a nanny cam, you shouldn’t have the babysitter. You’ve got to have trust foremost. And then why not have some inside information also.
A key logger is software that tracks computer usage as precise to sites visited, username and passwords entered, screenshots of what is being viewed, and it logs it in a file accessible remotely or locally. I want to talk about key loggers.
Although it is prohibited to install key logging software on medical, government, or educational computers, it is perfectly legal to use such technology on your own personal laptop or desktop. If you own a law firm for example, as long as your employees receive notification upon logon that they are being monitored, then your firm can use key loggers as well.  Here is what a key logger can do for you:
1.       If your laptop is stolen, you can view the thief’s activity remotely and facilitate with the police report or homeowner’s insurance claim filing.
2.       If you want to keep tabs on your child, you can attain their passwords to their social networking sites, email inboxes, and see what videos they watch and when.  “Keylogger is your litmus test as a caring parent.” (
3.       For security on your personal computer to covertly monitor unauthorized activity for purposes of identifying download locations for virus protection.
When selecting a key logger, free is usually attractive, but there are privacy issues to be aware of for yourself.  Free software often earns its value for the author via either advertisements or data collection. I warn you about the latter regarding some free key logging software. When selecting a key logger, make sure that it does not do the very same thing to you that you intend to use it for. By that, I mean be sure that it does not open ports on your firewall, collect info about your data usage and pass it from your computer through the firewall back to the author of the free software.  You should be the only one accessing your logs, not the owners of the software. ( I find key loggers (and software that does not compromise your privacy in general) useful even if not used for invading your children’s privacy. Maybe it is a question of trust over transparency?
From a legal perspective, should any party other than yourself have any reasonable expectation of data privacy when accessing the internet from your computer? Maybe the next time you borrow a friend’s laptop to conduct a quick check of your bank account balance or respond to an urgent email, you might inquire if they use a key logger.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

How much of your information are you willing to share? 

It’s really a question of convenience versus security.  One thing is for sure, Google is undoubtedly the most prolific and advanced search engine on the web. Their services like Gmail and YouTube are revolutionary and are used by millions around the world. Would you be willing to sacrifice a measure of your privacy in order to reap the benefits of these services? It’s your decision to make. You should know what’s at stake if you choose continue enjoying Google.,14358

In an effort to streamline and simplify its services, Google has recently announced its plans to combine the privacy policies from over 60 products into one unified and surprisingly short privacy policy. The new policy, taking effect March 1st, clearly outlines what kind of information the company collects from its users, how they obtain it, and what they use it for. Google also announced that the new policy will allow them to seamlessly share this information across their wide array of services, creating a smarter and more efficient browsing experience. Many seem to think that the search giant is being too careless with their personal information, however, and are subsequently facing strong opposition from not only users, but Congress as well.
A few members of Congress are concerned and wondering if this new policy is simply a strategy to create more finely tuned online advertisements. Last week they asked the FTC to investigate the matter, citing that this new practice may violate a settlement reached last year over Google’s (now defunct) Buzz social network. Investigations are still pending.
Google was quick to point out that it’s not changing what kind information it collects, but rather how they use that information; “With these changes, the privacy policy will be easier to read, and will help us create one beautifully simple, intuitive user experience across Google products and services. The new privacy policy makes it clear that if you’re signed in, we may combine information you’ve provided from one service with information from other services — helping us treat you as a single user across all our products.” Notice the demographical web-building theme that I've blogged about?

In their promotional video, they explained how this new system would benefit an individual in the real world. For example, say you have an appointment scheduled in Google Calendar. Based on the GPS location of your mobile phone and the current traffic conditions in your area, Google may send you a reminder, warning you that you are running late.

Although tailoring search results based on your personal interests sounds convenient, there are some that warn about the effects of such a system. Eli Pariser, author of “The Filter Bubble,” believes that there is a fundamental switch in how information flows online. He states that companies such as Google and Facebook are using your private information to only show you information that they think is relevant to you, or the info that the highest paying public interest group wants you to see. Imagine political campaigns abusing this.
“[Filter bubbles] are the gates we erect through which information about the world comes,” he said. “With Facebook, Google and personalized news services weighting search results according to our interests, we are living more within filter bubbles than ever before.”
So for example, a conservative political activist may only receive search results and news articles pertaining to their political party of choice, and nothing about the other. This, in effect, creates a filter bubble for that individual, limiting the visible information to only a single point of view.
Disclose your information to the public using an unencrypted public medium. Reveal your location, employer, educational background and demonstrate your current events with up to date photos. Indicate to others who you associate with and conduct conversations with said people in open forums. Endorse Facebook (and endorse sarcasm).

Privacy for sale!

Facebook, twitter, and the other ones have successfully publicized the largest and most successful Intelligence Collection System in the world. Each of us now willingly contribute without compensation to an intelligence database that can be used for causes that you may or may not agree with. In exchange for your services of building a web of demographic and socioeconomic information about yourself ...and others around you, you get to use free services of exchanging pictures and keeping in touch; The smartest bargain the since the Louisiana purchase. But we don't sell our land or our freedom, just our rights to privacy.
Remember when water was from the tap and we used to joke about how someday, what if water was for sale by private companies? And we decided that was ridiculous because who would ever bottle up something that is free and sell it for a price? Well, after law school, I might begin selling "privacy" to those who can afford it. I might even do a lil pro bono work.

Who are you more afraid of being in possession on your private information, large corporations or the government?

What do you think each of the two parties do with the data they collect from you; Companies refining their direct targeted advertising to you personally, or government monitoring you in case of criminal activity or conspiracy (like Minority Report movie)?

Don't they both seem to improve your life actually, by removing non-relevant ads that wont interest you and by catching possible terrorists/criminals more sooner than later?
What's your take on this? Email me at

Is your password the same for everything?

When your password for your "Gmail" account is compromised, that person can also access your "Facebook" profile.

Try incorporating a 3 part password that is easy to remember but unique for each web site you authenticate to. For example, if your password is "goraiders" then consider adding a special character, upper case letter, and number according to sites you visit such as "GoRaiders$12345" for a banking site. Or "GoRaiders@1234" for your email inbox.

This is not a best practice within an agency or corporation. This is simply a reasonable thing to do for the type of person who refuses to complicate passwords to the extent which they can no longer remember their own password themselves, but still want to maintain the integrity of their banking even when their social networking site is hacked.

Identity theft protection tip against trending activity:

In this economy, be wary of invitations to submit your resume to new job opportunities.
Your resume and cover letter tell about yourself. You have personally identifiable information in the contents. Additionally, companies often ask you to register to create a local profile on their site with a username and password. DON'T USE THE SAME USERNAME AND PASSWORD AS YOUR EMAIL, BANK, OR SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS.

Verify not only that the company is legit, but also that the job opening advertised to you is consistent with a job opening on their website. Verify that the link sent to you is not a spoofed URL to an imitation site that will coax info from you and steal your identity.