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  • Geebo 8:00 am on September 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , eavesdropping, privacy, ,   

    Is your phone really eavesdropping on you? 

    Is your phone really eavesdropping on you?

    Has this ever happened to you? You’re just innocently talking with your friends or family about something you normally don’t talk about. Then you see an ad on your phone for the very thing you were talking about. There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence out there to suggest that companies like Facebook and Google are eavesdropping on your private conversations so they can serve you more targeted ads. It’s compounded by the fact that companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon have admitted that human contractors listen in on conversations heard by digital assistants. However, at least one study says that the eavesdropping phone is largely a myth.

    A mobile security company called Wandera has said that they’ve conducted research which they say shows that tech companies are not listening to your conversations. They placed an iPhone and an Android phone in a chamber where pet food advertisements continuously played. Both phones were running Facebook, Instagram, Chrome, SnapChat, YouTube, and Amazon in the background. However, the researchers did not witness any related ads on the devices in question. The researchers also say that the data used by both devices indicate that conversations are not being sent to the major tech companies. That’s not to say that tech companies aren’t tracking us in other ways.

    Other things like location data and browsing histories are said to be more effective in serving us targeted ads. Also, if you use a loyalty card at any store, advertising companies buy that information from the store and can match it with your social media accounts. Supposedly, there are sett9ngs on your phone where you can limit such targeting, however, we’ve either not been able to find these settings or they’re buried so deep in the app’s settings that it makes it difficult to escape targeting.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on July 18, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: #FaceAppChallenge, FaceApp, privacy,   

    Is the #FaceAppChallenge invading your privacy? 

    Is the #FaceAppChallenge invading your privacy?

    The Jonas Brothers aged using FaceApp

    Every few months or so, a photo app takes social media by storm. In the past, there was the craze where you could post gender-swapped photos of yourself. Snapchat previously had a filter that made you look like a baby. Now, the most recent trend is people posting pictures of themselves that have been artificially aged through an app called FaceApp. It seemed like everyone was having a good time with the app before it was reported that FaceApp may be committing a major breach of privacy. However, is it really that bad?

    According to reports, FaceApp is developed by a company in Saint Petersburg, Russia. This has led some to speculate whether or not FaceApp is a tool of the Russian government. FaceApp is also said to have an atrocious privacy policy. If you agree to their terms, FaceApp will have access to all the photos on your phone that have faces and could not only potentially be used in advertising but could be sold to third-parties. FaceApp claims that they are honoring all requests to have photos removed from their service and supposedly none of the data is actually sent to Russia.

    However, these kinds of privacy policies aren’t unique to FaceApp. Many apps that are based in the US have equally bad terms of service when it comes to your privacy. Even the most mundane apps such as weather or fitness apps sell your information to advertisers so they can show you ads tailored to your interests. So more than likely if you’ve taken place in the FaceApp Challenge you’re not being spied on by the Russian government. However, if you start seeing ads that are eerily specific to you, you’ll know why.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 20, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Firefox, Google Calendar, Nest Cameras, privacy,   

    Tech Security news to protect your privacy! 

    Tech Security news to protect your privacy!

    Today we have a handful of stories that could potentially affect your privacy and we start off with Google Calendar. You may not realize that you even use Google Calendar but if you use Gmail to make any kind of appointments, the odds are you’ll receive a reminder from your Google Calendar. Now, reports are being circulated the Google Calendars are being used for phishing attacks. Reports say that you’ll receive a Google Calendar notification that says things like that you’ve received a cash reward or asking you to take a survey. Attached will be a link the phishers will want you to click on to try to glean your personal or financial information. Mental Floss has some tips on how to block these annoying invitations in Calendar, but as always you should never click on strange links from correspondents that you don’t know.

    If you’ve recently purchased a used Nest cam for your home you may want to know that in some instances the previous owners could still access the cameras. While that does sound scary it does not apply to all previously owned Nest cameras. The cameras must have previously been connected to a Wink branded home hub then the previous owners could still access the cameras through the Wink app. If you own a Nest camera and you feel it could be potentially compromised you may want to consider purchasing a new set of cameras as so far there has yet to be a fix for the issue. According to The Wirecutter, even a factory reset won’t help.

    Lastly, if you use the Firefox web browser you’ll want to perform an update as soon as possible. Mozilla, the company behind Firefox, recently issued a statement asking users to update their browsers after an exploit was found that could compromise user security. Mozilla didn’t go into detail about what the exploit was except to say that there have been documented accounts of attacks against the exploit. It’s relatively easy to perform an update on Firefox. All you need to is click on the open menu icon on the upper right of the browser. Scroll down the menu to the help option, click on help, then click on About Firefox. Then a prompt should come up asking you to update Firefox. Click on the update button and Firefox will update and your browser will be more secure.

    Hopefully, these tips will keep your privacy and security a little more private and secure.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 4, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , privacy, quest diagnostics   

    Giant medical lab bleeds patient information! 

    Medical lab bleeds patient information!

    If you’ve ever had a blood test at your doctor’s office that they had to send to a lab, chances are that they may have sent it to Quest Diagnostics. Quest is one of if not the largest medical testing corporation in the country. Due to the sheer amount of testing and processing that Quest does, they must have their logistics down to a T to be able to handle so many patients. However, recent events have shown that even a well-oiled machine is vulnerable to breakdown.

    Within the past few days, it’s been reported that Quest has had a patient data breach on a massive scale. According to reports, close to 12 million patients have had their personal data exposed due to a billing vendor giving unauthorized access to an unidentified person. This information is said to have included financial information such as credit card numbers, medical information, and personal information. Quest claims that the results of any testing have not been exposed but they have also notified law enforcement of the breach.

    Besides being a PR nightmare for Quest, this could end up being very costly for them as well. Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA as it’s better known as the government could levy hefty fines against both Quest and their billing vendor for compromising such information. So far the largest HIPAA violation fine has been $5.5 million levied against a hospital that allegedly exposed over 100,000 patients’ information. With Quest and its vendor reportedly exposing the information of 12 million patients we could sadly see a new record being set.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on May 24, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , privacy,   

    Is public social media dying? 

    Is public social media dying?

    When social media first became a part of our culture back in the mid-2000s it seemed mostly fun and harmless. It became an easy way for us to either reconnect with old friends or stay in better contact with our family. While platforms like MySpace were not without its problems it was largely just for fun. But when MySpace became too ostentatious some social media users longed for a cleaner appearing network and that’s when Facebook started to become the juggernaut that it is today. However, on most current social networks, the climate has become toxic. Many social network users seem to have lost that filter that they would use in everyday life when talking to other people in their lives.

    It also doesn’t help that many of these platforms don’t do enough to discourage the bad behavior of its users. Just recently, Facebook deleted billions of fake and abusive accounts. A number which rivals its actual userbase. To make matters worse, Snapchat employees were recently accused of spying on users.

    Now, because of many of these factors, a number of social media users are turning to more private methods of keeping in touch. According to The Metro, more users are turning to niche networks like Nextdoor or starting private message groups within apps like Slack and Telegram.

    As long as there are brands, content creators or someone with a story to tell, there will always be a place for public social media. But as those platforms become more difficult to enjoy there may come a day where we branch off into our own little corners of the internet where the signal could be better separated from the noise.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on May 2, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , privacy   

    Data breach exposed most American families 

    Data breach exposed most American families

    This past week, a data breach was discovered that could have put the personal information of 80 million American families at risk. Internet security experts discovered an unprotected database that was hosted in the cloud included names, ages, and genders as well as income levels and marital status. What’s even more concerning is that it’s unknown who the database belongs to. It’s been theorized that it may belong to an insurance or mortgage company.

    Every person in the database is said to be over the age of 40 which could potentially put seniors at risk not only for identity theft but phishing scams as well. There’s no evidence to suggest that cybercriminals accessed the database. However, the information could have been publicly accessible for months. Experts believe that the information provided in the database could also be used to launch ransomware attacks against people listed in the database.

    The server that the database was stored on was a Microsoft cloud server but it’s up to the database’s owner to make sure the database is encrypted. Microsoft has contacted the owner of the database and it has since been removed from public access. With the number of data breaches becoming more frequent every day have we reached a point where we should just expect our data to become exposed?

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on April 18, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , minimum wage, Notre Dame Cathedral, privacy   

    Hold off on Notre Dame donations, Facebook’s latest privacy accident, and an Amazon employee puts Bezos’ boast into perspective 

    Hold off on Notre Dame donations, Facebook's latest privacy accident, and an Amazon employee puts Bezos' boast into persepctive

    By now, we’re all familiar with the events that took place in Paris where fire ravaged the famous Notre Dame Cathedral. While multitudes across the globe were moved to the point where they were willing to dedicate money you may want to wait on doing so. The BBB of Canada is warning consumers there to beware of phony donation scams on social media and crowdfunding sites. The BBB suggests that you wait until there is an official Notre Dame rebuilding fund donation program if you’re so inclined.

    ***

    Facebook is finding itself in yet another privacy kerfuffle as they claim that they ‘unintentionally’ harvested the email contacts of about 1.5 million of its users during the past three years. When new users would sign up for a Facebook account, Facebook would ask for your email password. Anybody who gave that information to Facebook would have their entire contacts list harvested. Facebook says this practice, which has since ended, was used to “help build Facebook’s web of social connections and recommend other users to add as friends.” If your contacts were harvested, Facebook will reportedly contact you.

    ***

    Last week, we posted about how Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos taunted WalMart on Twitter for not paying their employees $15/hr. WalMart fired back asking when Amazon was going to pay its fair share in taxes. More recently, the news blog Splinter has received an email from an anonymous Amazon employee who works as a customer service agent. It seems that the wage increase may have come at the expense of other benefits. According to the anonymous employee, Amazon took away incentive bonuses and stock grants leaving the bottom rung of Amazon’s corporate ladder basically in the same place they were when they started.

     
  • Geebo 10:00 am on February 8, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Germany, privacy   

    Germany puts the brakes on Facebook data collection 

    Germany puts the brakes on Facebook data collection

    Modern day Germany is very sensitive about the privacy of its citizens. You can hardly blame them after dealing with oppressive regimes from the 1930s to the 1990s where spying on the citizens was the norm and citizens were expected to report their fellow countrymen for ‘crimes’ against the state. Germany is not only the country where the concept of the ‘right to be forgotten’ was made famous but also where Google Street View was found to be too invasive. So it should come as no surprise that the German government recently severely limited Facebook’s data collection of its German users.

    The antitrust arm of Germany’s government, the Federal Cartel Office, ruled that Facebook was exploiting its users by collecting excessive amounts of data and tying the information to a user’s Facebook account. The FCO ruled that Facebook could continue to collect data from WhatsApp and Instagram but could not tie that information to a specific Facebook account and banned the Facebook collection of data from third-party websites unless a user has given Facebook informed consent. So in essence, Germany has basically banned Facebook’s entire business model in their country.

    Facebook has publicly stated that they will appeal the FCO’s decision but if history is any indicator they probably won’t be successful. Facebook defended its data collection policies by claiming that not only does it show more relevant ads to consumers, which really doesn’t help their case, and that it helps combat terrorism. In the past, laws designed to combat some type of subversive threat has led to some of the greatest atrocities in history not just in Germany but in America as well. So for Facebook to make such a claim trying to appeal to nationalist tendencies seems like they’ve taken a page out of the dictator’s playbook. One has to wonder if Facebook has now instituted a policy of “today Germany, tomorrow the world.”

     
  • Geebo 10:13 am on February 1, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , privacy   

    Apple/Facebook privacy dispute drags Google into the fray 

    Apple/Facebook privacy dispute drags Google into the fray

    Earlier this week, Facebook was caught paying users including teens for complete access to their phones. Unhappy with this, Apple struck back by not only banning the app from iOS devices but also revoked Facebook’s enterprise access which hamstrung a number of internal apps that Facebook employees needed to use just to do their daily jobs. At least one report states that some Facebook employees were considering quitting their jobs if Apple did not restore Facebook’s enterprise certificate because they couldn’t do their jobs. However, since the original kerfuffle over user privacy, Apple has restored Facebook’s enterprise access. Facebook didn’t seem to learn their lesson though as Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has allegedly defended Facebook’s paid marketing research by claiming that its users consented to the program. But again, the question of consent needs to be reframed when it comes to paying minors.

    Facebook wasn’t the only tech company who felt Apple’s wrath this week as Google admitted that they had a similar research program that was also being used on Apple devices. Google came clean about their program during the initial dust-up between Apple and Facebook, however, that didn’t stop Apple from temporarily revoking Google’s enterprise access as well. While you may think that Google would be an Android-only workplace they do have to develop their most popular apps for Apple’s iOS operating system as well. Without that access, Google could have potentially lost out on having their apps on Apple devices. However, Apple has since restored Google’s enterprise access as well.

    With two of the top tech companies in the country being severely admonished by another one of the top tech companies in the country, will this be a turning point in the fight for user privacy? Unfortunately, it’s doubtful that it will be. Facebook has shown time and time again that they follow their own path when it comes to user privacy as they have continued to forge ahead with questionable privacy practices even in the face of past controversies. Meanwhile, Google has their own Android operating system that outnumbers Apple’s iOS. Consumers still demand products from Facebook and Google on their devices no matter which platform they use as there aren’t many alternatives to their services. So it still may be a while before we see Google or Facebook stop treating consumers as the actual product.

     
  • Geebo 10:00 am on January 31, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , privacy   

    Apple flexes its muscle and disables part of Facebook’s internal infrastructure 

    Apple flexes its muscle and disables part of Facebook's internal infrastructure

    Yesterday’s news story about how Facebook was paying some of its users to have complete access to their phones has had more far-reaching implications than some had previously thought. If you’ll recall, when the news of Facebook’s marketing app broke, Facebook pulled the app from the iOS App Store. Apparently, that wasn’t enough for Apple as they have taken what some may call drastic measures against the social media titans.

    Apple has now taken steps to revoke Facebook’s developer certificates on iOS devices. While this will mean little to the average Facebook user, internally it has struck a blow against Facebook developers using Apple products. Apple’s certificate revocation has disabled many of the intraoffice Facebook apps that Facebook employees use to do business including such things as communication apps, lunch menus, and bus schedules some employees use to get to and from work. Apple released a statement saying…

    “Any developer using their enterprise certificates to distribute apps to consumers will have their certificates revoked, which is what we did in this case to protect our users and their data.”

    Will this be the straw that breaks the camel’s back when it comes to Facebook and user privacy? Considering that not only are iPhones one of the most popular consumer electronic devices, but the fact that Facebook employees rely on them internally could cause a major backlash against Facebook both internally and externally. Would Apple even go as far as to ban the Facebook app from its app store? Apple has such a devout following among its user base it could potentially start its own social network if it wanted to and would probably draw a large chunk of Facebook’s younger demographic away from Facebook’s plateauing userbase. Or will Facebook just make the switch to Android devices for all its employees? Either way, this is a story that could have rippling effects that we will be seeing for years.

     
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