I Surf, Therefore I am Vulnerable
I recently watched a 60 Minutes report called The Data Brokers, about companies that gather our personal information from the net and sell it. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth your time. I spent the next several minutes thinking about the information I share, and the trade-offs I know I make. I have two Google Mail accounts, for example. I consciously work to limit its access to all of me, using different browsers for the different Gmail accounts. Read more
I’ve Got The Facebook Social Plug-In Blues...
What happens when I like something on Facebook? What is triggered by expressing an ostensibly innocuous opinion about something, or expressing interest in a movement or event? Liking a comment just provides a labeled count. Liking a site like Huff Post or Newsweek (rather than a particular article on the site) means I am permitting that entity not only the count, but also delivery, along with their content, my face, name and any information I’ve made public. You wouldn’t necessarily know what content your face is presented with... Read more
Can Collectors And Cloud Computing Co-exist?
I love looking at my books and records. (If that statement dates me, eh, kiss my AARP card.) I’m often a completist. If I really like something or someone, say David McCallum – I gotta check out the music he created as well. I like to display my stuff, share it with like-minded others. A neighbor once asked why I had so many movies, hadn’t I seen them already? My rejoinder: “why do you have so many books, haven’t you read them already?” She smiled broadly in understanding, and... Read more
Keep Casual Strangers Out of Your Digital Life
So you’re really tired of everyone encouraging password use. Tens of articles, on this site alone... But (let the rationalizations begin) you need so many PWs! And everyone wants 8+ digits now, with symbols and stuff! And you live in complete and round-the-clock harmony with your significant other/roommate (and their SOs, family and friends). You’ve never left your laptop/smartphone/tablet unattended, right? (Or outright lost it?...) And you secure your phone/tablet when service people are in your home. And those 50 people you had at your house party... Read more
When Software Fairies Solve Debit Card Problems
You may recall Caren, the subject of my last post. Her employer provided United Healthcare Consumer Account Card for Flexible Spending Account purchases failed to function as expected, and she lost money. She has taken advice from our blog host and many of his readers. (My thanks, BTW, to all those who responded!) Unexpected news: Caren may not have lost money after all. Yay for her, right? Patience, Gentle Reader. Read more
A Debit Card Cautionary Tale
At a business conference I attended, the topic turned to health care insurance administration. Some of the attendees now have new debit cards they didn’t ask for. Their employers gave them debit cards for their health care expenses (to access their Flexible Spending Accounts). Instead of having to submit receipts, employees offer the card at the point of sale. If s/he tries to charge more than allowed, or tries to charge things that are not acceptable, the card is rejected. Easily fits into the distributor’s payment systems (cash credit debit), no paperwork for the employee, less evaluative work for the FSA provider. Everyone wins, right? Not everyone. Read more
Hotels' Warped View Of The (TV) World
What used to be the relaxing part of an evening away from home in a hotel has become a teeth-gritting, fingernails-on-chalkboard experience for me. Hotels currently force you to look at warped images on TV. This used to be a big deal only for cineastes and directors (well said, Mr. Spock), when small television sets could not do justice to widescreen movies. Several examples of television screen aspect ratios Now, any image is in jeopardy. Read more
Wanting, Waiting -- For Facebook To Justify My Love
On Facebook (FB), I have 150 friends (like Dunbar, I think more than that is just not manageable, maybe even absurd). That’s above FB’s quoted avg of 130 friends, (likely higher now since I quoted that same stat last December, and anecdotally but obviously, that number differs by age). I embraced some of the early FB tools, like Groups, to manage multiple and disparate friend networks. But Facebook’s tools aren’t cutting it for me. I’m not happy. Read more
The Digital Divide: It -- Just -- Won't -- DIE
When I began studying technology and social policy, I wanted to know how the willingness to embrace technology affected people’s lives, personally and professionally. I worried that the digital divide that I observed in 1999 (when many of my friends didn’t even have email addresses, and I had for years) would disproportionately affect the social, economic and career outcomes for minorities, for the disadvantaged, and for low income Americans. I wasn’t the only one concerned. Read more
When Anonymous Is Synonymous With You
I recently wrote a blog post about information available from your smartphone. It described how different their data transmission is from that of computers. Whereas some tools exist on computers to manage various types of cookies (thus allowing the user management of information flow), those tools are absent for smartphones. But it’s all anonymized, right, so who cares? Not so fast! Read more
Your Smartphone's Got a Big Mouth
I’m thinking about buying a smartphone. Yeah, I know. The 12 pound cell phone I got in the late 70s still works, so why should I get rid of it... Kidding! I kid, I’m a kidder... In my heart I’m an early adopter, but I behave more like late majority. Part of it is, I want to know the pros and the cons of a tool before I buy it. So of course a blog post titled, "Is your smartphone spying on you?” caught my eye. Read more
Is Facebook Censoring Your Online Conversations?
Tired of hearing about Facebook Privacy and Security? Are you just happy to post to Facebook, let your friends know what you’re thinking, and see what your friends are talking about? What if I told you there’s no guarantee that anyone sees what you post? The hell you say?? Oh yeah -- the Top News feed is clearly edited. But Most Recent will show everything right? Nope. Read more
The Strong Password Conundrum – Usability vs. Security
There are several lovely columns online reviewing password management programs. This post is not one of them. This is about the journey: deciding whether you need a password program. In 2005, I read Smart Computing’s article about password algorithms until my eyes glazed over about halfway through. I like codes and math, and even I didn’t want to do what they suggested. Read more
Holy Terminator, Batman -- Google is Skynet!
Have you ever had the experience of wiping up a spill and then realizing the clean spot makes the rest of the table look bad, so now you have to wash the whole table? That’s the way I feel about my recent blog posts. I’ve been looking at more and more things that infringe on our privacy, and now I just have to keep pulling at that thread, even if it unravels my whole sweater... Read more
Are Flash Privacy Vulnerabilities Important to the Average Online User?
I read this post about Flash cookies with the “Get right out of town!” look all over my face. Even just going to Adobe’s site and seeing the statement “always ask/deny access to my camera or microphone” was a trippy feeling. If you think too consciously about the dangers of the modern world, you’ll never get out of bed. Hey, driving may be dangerous but I’m not hanging up my keys. Instead, I want to be the best driver I can be. Online, that means being informed and prepared. Read more
Facebook And Your Afterlife...
No one wants to think about death. I know from personal experience it can be sudden, random, and inexplicable. There’s law and precedent to guide what happens to your estate upon death, but what happens to the things you leave behind online? Facebook says you own all the data you post on their site. Does that ownership and control transfer to your heirs as physical property would? In a word – No. Of course, it’s not that simple. Read more
Just How Helpful Can Facebook Be?
I wanted a new purse recently, and did some online searches. Days later, I’m still getting ads for purses even though my searches have moved on to nature documentaries. Why is it still focused on purses? Is my laptop trying to encourage me to be more fashion forward? Or is it behavioral advertising, in the context of the Social Graph? Read more
Dump The Porn! Spokeo Has Blown Your Cover
A friend was incensed and frightened to discover that Spokeo.com knew where he lived. Maybe it was the picture of his front door that really freaked him out. Welcome to the 21st century. Ain’t data mining a bitch? Spokeo says it’s not your grandma’s phone book. With Spokeo, you can find... Read more
What Would Thomas Jefferson Do With Facebook?
While pundits and politicos often mention Thomas Jefferson’s contributions to politics (or to Hemmings), I had to see the HBO series on John Adams to learn that he was an avid correspondent. More than 150 letters between the two presidents have provided historians with fascinating insight into life and politics during America’s infancy. Read more