Tag Archives: privacy policy

Messenger says your shit is not secure. Now what?

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Today the interwebs were all a twitter over the fact that Facebook was requiring users, who wanted to message each other via the Facebook app, to download Messenger.

The issue with Messenger, is the fact that by installing the app onto your mobile device, you’re giving Facebook the right to do things that many consider a violation of basic privacy rights.

By way of example, installing the Messenger app allows Facebook to collect data on who you call and the length of the call, the other apps you use and how frequently you use them, the content of text messages and various other on-device activities that have nothing to do with Facebook Messenger interactions.

Among the more draconian things that Messenger will purportedly be able to do, is access your camera and microphone, essentially turning your device into a surreptitious spying device. To spy on you!

I find it humorous that folks are all up in arms over Facebook’s attempts to track it’s users, as if it’s a case of first impression.

The truth of the matter is we’ve long since given up any reasonable expectation of privacy.

The day you visited your first website, you allowed cookies into your life.

Cookies promised faster load times, the instant recall of previously identified preferences, and a host of behind the scenes functions to take place, all to make your browsing experience better – and to know where you browsed (and what you did when you got there).

When you got your first cell phone, you agreed to be tracked.

All those cell towers helped to ensure call quality wherever you went – and kept track of wherever you went.

Today, when you install apps, you agree to let them access you contacts or calendar or Facebook profile, or whatever innocuous piece of information they request.

We think nothing of letting some application vendor post on our behalf, or access the data on our devices.

Instinctively, we click “Accept” and happily tap away on our devices like assimilated members of the Borg.

The outrage we feel about today’s Facebook Messenger revelation is feigned.

Can’t believe Facebook is mining your personal data?

So what do you do?

Update your Facebook status and let all your friends know.

You’re an ass.

If you’re really not trying to have Big Brother in your business, stay off of everything.

No internet.

No cell phone.

No wifi.

No Facebook.

Nothing digital at all.

If you’re not prepared to do that, then STFU about Facebook’s (or any other technology provider’s) invasion of your privacy.

Because privacy in the digital age is a fallacy.

You’re either on the grid, and none of your shit is private.

Or you’re off, and all the privacy in the world is yours.

And “off-the-grid” is relative.

Once you leave your house, you’re subject to the constant glare of the innumerable cameras dotting our city streets, stores, office buildings, gas stations, buses, trains and cabs.

As well as your YouTube crazed citizen i-reporters with camera phones on the ready looking for their 15 minutes of viral fame at the expense of some unsuspecting fool’s gaffe.

Unless you’re prepared to live like someone the run, with burners and throw-away phones, or a hacker, with fake online aliases, and constant IP-masking, accept that cats are collecting data on you constantly – and be good with it.

Today’s takeaway?

If you were among those alarmed by the recent Facebook Messenger revelation, the choice of what to do is really quite simple: red pill or blue?

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Filed under apps, iPhone, mobile, technology

Techno zombies beware! You will be assimilated!

Walking down the street.

Waiting for the train.

Standing in line at Starbucks (or Dumb Starbucks).

You’ll see them.

Disembodied.

Half-human.

Staring bleakly.

Wide-eyed.

Faces illuminated.

Tapping furiously.

Oblivious to the world around them.

You know what I’m talking about. Don’t you?

You’re probably not even aware that you may one of them.

Zombies.

Techno-zombies to be exact.

What’s a techno zombie?

I thought I made it up, but the Urban Dictionary describes them as follows:

A person or persons who walk through public areas (shopping malls, sidewalks, etc) text messaging on their cellphones, not paying attention to their surroundings.

My definition is a little more expansive.

In my universe, a techno zombie is anyone whose life revolves around their device. Their every waking hour is devoted to an absolute (or near absolute) obsession with their device.

How do you know whether you’re a techno zombie or not?

Simple: answer the following questions.

When you get up in the morning, do you automatically check your phone or tablet?

When you head out the door, do you reflexively check your phone?

When you’re walking to the train or subway, do you frequently check your phone?

When you’re riding the train or  subway, are you checking your phone?

When you’re sitting in a meeting or on a conference call at your job, do you find yourself checking your phone?

At various points throughout the day, do you find yourself checking your phone?

Do you find yourself checking your phone even when you haven’t received an alert, buzz or notification prompt?

Have you ever experienced the ‘phantom vibration’?

If you answered “yes” to four or more of the questions above, you’re a techno zombie.

And I don’t want to hear that you’re always checking for missed calls.

You’re not that important and who actually calls anyone anymore?

You’re checking for a response to that last text message.

Or the latest Facebook post in your feed.

Maybe you just got an alert from the NY Times.

Or someone invited you to play Words with Friends.

Perhaps it was a notification that someone started following you on Twitter.

Whatever the reason, we have become a people inextricably tied to our devices.

Somehow, insidiously, we have slid from a people who thrive on physical interaction to ones who subsist virtually.

We have become the Borg.

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Oh, I’m exaggerating, am I?

Check it.

The next time you leave your office, count the number of people walking down the block with their faces buried in their phones.

Walking and texting is so commonplace that one can navigate an entire city block without ever looking up.

Instead of bumping, pinball like, off other people, eliciting “Hey! Watch where you’re going!s” in your wake, people part like the Red Sea, allowing you to pass unaccosted.

Because no one wants to disturb you mid-text.

The next time you’re on the train, observe how many people whip out their devices and remain glued to them the entire ride.

Gone is the polite banter among riders, replaced by mutes, immersed in tiny screens.

The walking dead.

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Zombie-like we wander, shunning human interaction for virtual pleasure.

Seeking validation in likes, retweets and shares, instead of in the company of other people.

We have lost our individuality.

Subsisting instead, as part of a large undifferentiated mass of eyeballs, to be sold to the highest bidder.

And what is this collective to which we belong?

Who profits from our lack of individuality?

Facebook? The Government? Microsoft? Google? Apple?

Who knows?

We certainly don’t. Nor do we care.

Today, February 11th, is a rally to protest data collection by the NSA.

How many of us will be there?

How many of us are even aware of the data collection practices of the numerous carriers, apps, websites, and online service we happily sign up for?

Which of us actually takes the time to read the Terms and Conditions associated with using Gmail, or Facebook, or Instagram?

When was the last time you opted out of a request by a third-party app to “post on your behalf” when “signing up using Facebook?”

When was the last time you actually turned your phone off or (even more daring) left your phone at home? On purpose?

With all the data collection being done, hackers lurking around every public wi-fi spot, and swiss cheese privacy policies making your every keystroke fodder for marketers, I’m surprised that more of us are not alarmed at our steady decline into digital complacency.

Rather than fighting to ensure that we safeguard ourselves against the insipid practices of Big Brother, we’re checkboxing our way to our own demise.

And we’re taking our kids down with us too.

We happily hand our children Nintendo DSIs, Kindle Fires, PlayStations and Xboxes and wonder why they’re fat, lazy, with ADHD, short attention spans and don’t know how to socialize with their peers.

While my rant today may seem random, it was inspired by my own personal descent into digital oblivion.

The other day, I found myself staring downward, at my iPhone, as I made my way towards the train.

I had become that which I abhorred!

How often had I cursed the wayward walker ahead of me, bobbing and weaving, oblivious to all else but their precious device?

Imagine my shock to find myself the wayward walker.

When I got home, I took and hid all the kids’ electronic devices in the house, and none too soon.

I realized that my children were being assimilated and I was contributing to the their social demise.

Who knew how much longer I had before I was LOLing with my kids via text and ‘liking’ on Facebook instead of hugging and playing with them in real life?

Take this as a cautionary tale, my friends, before you too end up assimilated…

…or crumpled under the bumper of a car.

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Filed under advocacy, mobile

The Facebook privacy issue…that wasn’t.

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It seems like we barely go a week without hearing about some hack, security breach or online dissemination of private information.

And despite the PR and social media maelstrom that inevitably follows each of these breaches of public trust, the offending corporations never seem to get the message.

It’s even worse with repeat offenders.

Case in point: today TechCrunch reported that Facebook had allegedly released the private messages of certain users, and published that information on users’ timelines.

The released messages apparently spanned the years 2006 through 2009.

Some surmise that what most likely happened is that Facebook (once again) changed their privacy policies, and as a result, those who had not opted out of some draconian setting, found their (once thought private) messages very publicly displayed in their timelines.

Facebook immediately denied that any user’s private conversation had been compromised.

They explained that today was the global rollout of Timeline, and that with the various iterations of Facebook’s UI, conversations that used to occur on folks’ walls (when Facebook was a tighter more closed universe), were now appearing in users’ Timelines.

Despite the fears that were first raised by Facebook users in France, Facebook confirmed that they had never, in fact, released the private conversations of any of it’s users.

I, for one, remain skeptical.

If users’ messages, wall posts, or what have you were always ‘public’ why weren’t they on their respective Timelines before?

And if they were there before, why the brouhaha over them now?

Clearly folks are feeling away about the sudden appearance of content in their accounts that weren’t there before.

They were tucked away in some other non-public, less visible place, making their sudden reappearance unnerving to many.

Facebook needs to stop changing shit on folks so much.

Their constantly changing interface and privacy policies makes it difficult for the average user to keep up with.

Who knows if we’ve seen the end of this issue.

But I know that folks are going to be a lot more careful of what they say (and send) via Facebook from now on!

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Filed under digital advocacy, social media

Google sucks balls (and steals Safari user’s information)

I’m sure you’ve heard about the $22.5 million settlement between Google and the FTC to resolve Google’s theft of information by users of the Apple Safari browser.

Apparently, Google pimped a loophole in Safari’s privacy settings designed to prevent third-party cookies.

Employing what was essentially a hack, Google fooled Safari into thinking that a user had interacted with a Google ad.

Once Safari was tricked, cookies were placed on the device, unbeknown to the user.

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The Wall Street Journal summarized Google’s trickery quite succinctly.

For a company whose motto is ‘Don’t Be Evil’, Google seems to be pretty rotten pretty often.

Wasn’t there a dust up not too long ago about Google surreptitiously mining its users’ data in ways violative of their own privacy policy?

Mind you, Google was already in hot water for its previous naughty behavior.

This settlement comes in the wake of another 2011 settlement, in which Google was found to have engaged in questionable practices.

Of course, Google has admitted no wrongdoing.

Every time they get caught with their pants down, they do a Sandusky a proclaim their innocence.

“It wasn’t me.”

“It was an accident.”

“They wanted me to stick my cookies in there.”

Lies. Lies. Lies.

And we all know they’re lying.

Google didn’t become the search giant they are by accident.

I mean seriously?

Google employs some of the most sophisticated search algorithms known to man.

They have thousands of Ivy League engineers and computer scientists on staff.

Everything they do is calculated.

So you’ll pardon me if I find it a tad implausible that “an accident” caused them to circumvent the privacy protocols on the browser of its principal rival.

Me thinks not.

More likely, this was a carefully crafted strategy to make more money at the expense of unwitting Safari users.

At the end of the day, as many observers have noted, $22.5M is a drop in the bucket to Google.

They’ll make that shit back in a day.

Since this settlement didn’t include an admission of guilt on Google’s part, it’s business as usual.

We’ll all soon forget and forgive.

Google will get back to playing Big Brother to the unsuspecting masses, all the while flashing innocent doe eyes.

But I’ll not be lulled into a false sense of security.

And know this, Google: you suck balls and one day your evil ways shall be your undoing.

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Filed under digital advocacy, opinion, privacy, technology