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by msmolly

Over Easy: …one more thing

6:45 am in Uncategorized by msmolly

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A certain Over Easy crew member and commenter (ahem, BoxTurtle, ahem) likes to remind us that “If you’re getting it for free, YOU are the product.” That has never been more true than with Facebook.

Where Does Facebook Stop and the NSA Begin?

Facebook’s business model’s governing premise is that our personal information does not actually belong to us. No matter how often the company is told (including by the FTC) to stop using our personal information in ways we didn’t authorize, it keeps coming up with new ways to do just that.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg asserted back in 2010 that people have become more comfortable sharing private information online and no longer have an expectation of privacy.

People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people. That social norm is just something that has evolved over time.

We now know that by 2010, Facebook (along with Google, Microsoft, Apple, and others) was collaborating with the NSA’s PRISM program that swept up personal data on vast numbers of internet users. Had we all known, would we have “really gotten comfortable” with that?

Then not long after Zuckerberg declared that we don’t care about our privacy any more, Facebook had to promise it would stop putting our picture in ads targeted at our “friends.” But in August that promise evaporated when Facebook “clarified” its right to do with your photos (and those of your family) whatever it wants (or finds profitable) to do.

The company has a long track record of failing to keep their promises about your privacy.

Facebook Settles FTC Charges That It Deceived Consumers By Failing To Keep Privacy Promises

The social networking service Facebook has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it deceived consumers by telling them they could keep their information on Facebook private, and then repeatedly allowing it to be shared and made public.

The 2011 settlement barred Facebook from making additional deceptive privacy claims, required it to obtain consumers’ approval before it changes the way it shares their data, and required it to obtain periodic assessments of its privacy practices by independent, third-party auditors for the next 20 years.

Where Facebook Went Wrong

The agency’s 8-count complaint boils down to this: Facebook’s privacy practices often flew in the face of its stated policies and, as one count alleges, the company made significant retroactive changes to its privacy practices, without getting users’ consent.

Now comes the latest: in the last couple of weeks, Facebook analytics chief Ken Rudin told the Wall Street Journal that the company is experimenting with new ways to suck up your data, such as “how long a user’s cursor hovers over a certain part of its website, or whether a user’s news feed is visible at a given moment on the screen of his or her mobile phone.”

I am increasingly disenchanted with Facebook. My son told me if I wanted to keep up with my grandkids, that’s where they are. But the college kid posts almost nothing but stuff about his “metalcore” band, the HS senior almost never posts anything, and my freshman granddaughter either has her settings such that I don’t see posts (for awhile they were frequent and inane), or she’s grown bored with Facebook. The 5 younger grandkids don’t have Facebook (yet). From friends I see lots of political stuff and photos of fingernails with Halloween designs and rarely anything worth seeing. I get into arguments (that I can’t win) with right-wing friends who rant about Obama and the ACA. This latest revelation tempts me to just abandon Facebook altogether. I’m not sure I’d miss anything.

by msmolly

Over Easy: …one more thing

7:45 am in Uncategorized by msmolly

Cat peeking from couch

Watching you…

Actually, a couple of “more things” today. I won’t be here to host this morning, since I am visiting old friends in Grand Rapids, MI, and touring ArtPrize.

For 19 days, three square miles of downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan become an open playing field where anyone can find a voice in the conversation about what is art and why it matters. Art from around the world pops up in every inch of downtown, and it’s all free and open to the public. ArtPrize® is a radically open, independently organized international art competition with an unprecedented $200,000 top prize decided entirely by public vote. Every year, ArtPrize distributes $560,000 in total cash prizes—$360,000 awarded by public vote and $200,000 awarded by jury—making the competition the world’s largest ArtPrize.

It turns out, however, that the government shutdown has affected ArtPrize, too. (Grand Rapids is very conservative and very Republican, by the way…) The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum is a key partner of ArtPrize, and houses 25 ArtPrize installations this year, including four Top Ten entries. It is closed because of the shutdown. They’ve made special arrangements to allow the public to see those four art pieces by moving two from the lobby to a tent on the grounds, and providing security for the two sculptures already located on the grounds. We won’t be able to see the others on this last weekend of ArtPrize. (Thanks, GOP!)

Moving right along, I’m hoping to give everyone a springboard for discussion in my absence, so here are a few thoughts on privacy. Since the Edward Snowden revelations broke in June, we’ve all heard and read, “Why should I care? I have nothing to hide.” I’ve heard it from a friend, followed by the “keeping us safe” trope.

But even those who have “nothing” to hide — and every one of us has something we’d prefer to keep private — shouldn’t want the government snooping through our lives. Privacy doesn’t need any justification. We (and our ancestors) have worked hard to build a civilized society and one of its rewards is the ability to be our private selves. We should resist anyone who wants to take that away.

Public servants (and that means they serve the public, which is us) doing this watching are mostly honorable and honest. It is likely these people are convinced that they’re working to protect everyone’s safety. However, history shows that they often err on the side of intrusiveness and suspicion of anyone with opinions outside the mainstream. History further shows that governments sometimes go seriously off the rails, and that when this occurs, reasonable-sounding public safety measures are misused as instruments of oppression. In my opinion, we’re watching this happen right now, today. I can think of many examples, and I’m sure you can think of many more.

It is just fine to say that you don’t want to be watched, and that the default should be privacy. But if only the “controversial” communications are private, then a desire for privacy itself becomes suspicious. We shouldn’t need to justify a desire for privacy to anyone. We must fight back against those who want to commandeer the Internet and destroy our ability to encrypt our communications and take other measures to keep them private. We must use political pressure to make those charged with regulating the NSA, CIA, etc., at least as frightened of the wrath of “we the people” as they are of some nebulous enemy.

by msmolly

Over Easy: Friday Free for All

7:45 am in Uncategorized by msmolly

Facebook Cat How many of you use the same logon ID and password for more than one online account? Do you working folks have your password written on a sticky note inside your desk drawer or taped to your monitor? Who uses a password that’s a word in the dictionary, your birthday month, a favorite sports team, a spouse’s or child’s name, your street name, your family pet? If you’ve switched email providers (for example, from Hotmail to Gmail), did you simply abandon your old account without deleting it? And don’t even get me started on what people do on Facebook!

I do so much electronically that last winter when I lost connectivity for a few days, I was nearly frantic thinking of what I couldn’t get at. I do all of my banking online, receive and pay all of my bills, prepare and file my income tax returns, keep my appointment calendar, make many purchases on Amazon or eBay, pay for them with PayPal, and communicate with friends and family via email or Facebook. I wouldn’t have it any other way now, but it requires a higher level of cyber-awareness and personal protection.

Although my career was in information technology, I confess I was, until recently, guilty of some of the things I asked about in the intro. A couple of hacking incidents last summer, affecting Wired’s Mat Honan and The Atlantic’s James Fallows, with devastating results that received a fair amount of publicity, made me wake up to how exposed I was. I promptly took precautions to make my online activities much more safe. It is impossible to be totally safe online, but we can make it considerably more difficult for someone to gain access to our personal information, just by investing a bit of time and effort. Here are some Web sites with good information (and I hope your eyes don’t glaze over with too much geekspeak).

Protect Your Privacy Online has definitions of common cyber security terms, and lists several suggestions for protecting yourself (and your children) from online predators.

Follow some simple guidelines for creating and managing your passwords. We have finite brain cells to keep track of multiple logon IDs and passwords, so consider using a password manager like LastPass (free and very secure) to generate complex passwords and keep track of them for you. And then protect your LastPass “vault” with a complex password/passphrase. I’ve used a memorable (to me) four-word phrase, substituted numbers and symbols for many letters and used a combination of lower and upper case to “spell out” the phrase. It’s probably not hack-proof, but it’s pretty darned secure.

Two-factor authentication provides an extra level of security, because it requires two different means of identifying you before permitting access to your accounts. It uses both something you know, like a password or PIN, combined with something you possess, like your cell phone. After you enter your password, you’ll receive a code on your phone via text message, and only after you enter the code will you get into your account. You can now use two-factor authentication to protect your password manager software, your Facebook and Google/Gmail accounts, and several other places you’re vulnerable.

If you use Facebook, “like” Facecrooks and you’ll be kept current on Facebook scams, privacy concerns, etc. One of their best posts recently is How to Lock Down Your Facebook Account for Maximum Privacy and Security. Since Facebook seems to tweak things regularly that affect your privacy, it’s a good idea to check your settings frequently. And if your offspring are teens who use Facebook, make sure they have their accounts protected, and do insist that they give you full privileges to see what they’re posting! I discovered that my college-freshman grandson had a very naive understanding of what can happen to his Facebook posts! (“But Grandma, only my FRIENDS could see that!”)

Get Safe Online has a wealth of information (do hover your cursor over the topics across the top of the page).

Hopefully if you’ve followed even a few of the links, you’re prepared to tackle making your cyber life more secure. And feel free to ask questions or share experiences in the comments. This is, after all, Friday Free for All!

Photo: Wikimedia Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Author: olga.palma