internet privacy


Frightening site shows everything a hacker can learn about you just from Facebook

A new, eerie web project called Digital Shadow combs through your Facebook profile and pulls together enough of your information to create a dossier creepy enough to make you want to quit social networking altogether. 

Once you login and grant the site access to your Facebook profile, the system simulates a hacker attack and creates a list of “pawns” (friends who can betray you), “obsessions” (people you creep on the most) and “scapegoats” (people you would be willing to sacrifice), as well as photos of your favorite places and an analysis of your posting habits.

And if you thought that wasn’t enough to give you nightmares, it gets worse. Pulling together your education and information history, the website takes a crack at guessing your salary level and net worth. Additionally, based on your interests and activity, the site can generate a list of potential passwords, your personality and your likely locations.

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FRONTLINE: With or Without the Patriot Act, Here’s How the NSA Can Still Spy on Americans

While it may only be temporary, the National Security Agency on Monday lost its authority to collect Americans’ phone records in bulk after the Senate failed to extend provisions of the Patriot Act authorizing the controversial domestic surveillance program.

But these Patriot Act provisions represent just one component of the NSA surveillance capabilities exposed in 2013 by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Under an entirely separate law, the 2008 FISA Amendments Act, the government still has the authority to access the communications of users of popular Internet sites such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo. Section 702 of the law, which does not expire until 2017, gives the government the ability to collect the content of an Internet user’s actual communications — not just metadata.

An even older and more obscure Reagan-era law, Executive Order No. 12333, provides U.S. intelligence with nearly identical surveillance capabilities to intercept overseas communications.

Also unaffected by the sunset of Section 215 is the use of National Security Letters, which since 9/11 have helped to dramatically expand the government’s ability to collect information about Americans directly from phone companies and Internet providers. Any FBI office can issue one, without a court’s review and with a gag order. In the past 10 years, more than 300,000 National Security Letters have been issued, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and until 2013, no major Internet or phone company is known to have questioned the constitutionality of one.

To learn more, check out recent FRONTLINE doc United States of Secrets

The two-part documentary follows how the U.S. government came to monitor and collect the communications of millions of people around the world — and here at home — and the lengths to which officials tried hide the massive surveillance from the public.
Canada Just Took a Huge Leap Forward in Protecting Internet Privacy

The Supreme Court of Canada unanimously ruled on June 13 that police will now need a warrant before asking an Internet provider to give up information about its users. This is a bombshell decision: It will protect Canadian citizens against potentially undue searches by law enforcement, while allowing them to retain the anonymity — even online — that’s afforded to them by their constitution.

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I don’t always post TED talks on my tumblr blog, but when I do, they have Edward Snowden speaking from a remote controlled robot. 

Mozilla LightBeam

This tool has been around for years under various names but, I can not fault people for not knowing; the web is a huge place after all.

This (LightBeam) tool does absolutely nothing to protect your privacy. It simply shows you that every page you visit is completely covered with third party tracking tools that build detailed and personal profiles of you as an individual for “advertising” purposes. What happens on the backend with this data after its collected is that its sold to insurance companies, Data Brokers (who service background checks, private investigators, among others) banks, political campaigns and even government themselves.

It is useful to show you who is tracking your browsing behavior but, it does nothing to protect you. The cheerleading in this regard is absurd.

If you would like to not be tracked in the first place by these corporations using these methods, use the addons called “NoScript” and one called “RequestPolicy” as well as disable third party cookies (or at least have third party cookies be for ‘session only’ so they are removed when the browser closes). These are highly advanced and configurable security tools, although, RequestPolicy does require a bit of constant vigilance and maintenance on the users part for the web to be functional (and a lot of it is often guess work). But, when coupled together they will completely stop this kind of behavior.

Persistent “Flash cookies” are a whole other matter however. You will need something like Piriform’s Ccleaner on Windows or BleachBit on GNU/Linux to remove them easily.

You are still subject to standard user-agent and IP address logging and correlation as well. Which are much more persistent than the other tracking methods. So called “SuperCookies” and this appears to be the path Google are taking with their web tracking and advertising in the future.

With that said, Mozilla does not respect your privacy. They collect detailed and personally identifiable telemetry, usage and performance data about the browser (by default in some cases) and have repeatedly bowed to corporate advertising pressure and do not disable (by default) the third party cookies that makes this tracking possible. They also make all their monies from you performing Google searches, Google, who operates the largest advertising networks on the planet. Mozilla sends you right into the belly of the beast.

They’ve also repeatedly removed interface elements that novice users can actually see and use to protect their privacy, while leaving the code intact. Things like JavaScript and Image blocking in Preferences, as well as the delete history menu under the tool/preferences menus which can still be opened by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Delete… but only an advanced user knows these things.

The LightBeam piece is little more than an advertisement for FireFox OS and their tablet and mobile phone hardware ambitions.

I know I post pictures of me smoking, like, all the time. But it’s because I really like to smoke, so I do it all the time, and I like to take pictures so why not take pictures of me doing what I enjoy? I don’t worry about any future employers seeing it because there is absolutely no way to link my tumblr to me. I even made a whole other E-mail account for it. So when someone says ‘what about your future!?’ I can honestly say
“I feel safe with what I’m doing with myself and how I am portraying myself on the internet. Thank you for your concern, but it’s really none of your business.”

Or when people think I post them to look cool.
Just shut the fuck up, I’m sure were both past that stage in our lives. Please get over me.

Facebook’s privacy update may protect you from government spying.

With a new encryption option announced Monday, Facebook will allow users to opt in for encrypted PGP (“Pretty Good Privacy”) messages from the social network, meaning government agencies won’t be able to read password-reset emails or any other sensitive information Facebook sends to your inbox. Setting it up is easy.

Omegle is saving all of your conversations

According to security researcher Indrajeet Bhuyan, Omegle — a free online chat site where strangers are randomly paired for one-on-one chat sessions — is “not as anonymous as it claims.” Each chat log is saved in Omegle’s server after a user exits a conversation, Bhuyan said in an email. “People on Omegle often think their chats are private and chats get deleted once they disconnect from the conversation,” Bhuyan said. “Due to this false sense of security, people often share sensitive information on it.”

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2-factor authentication may be on its way out

Two-factor authentication keeps hackers out of your accounts by providing a unique code on your phone. But this security measure may not be as dependable as you think: It’s vulnerable to hijacking, and it doesn’t ensure that the person entering the code actually has the phone in hand. A hacker could still gain access to your accounts.

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Documents reveal the privacy tools that the NSA hates

In 2014, thanks to leaks from NSA contractor Edward Snowden, many Americans became aware for the first time of how little privacy they have from the Federal government.  The NSA sucks up virtually every email, text message, phone call, chat, and image sent from computers and cell phones, but there are measures you can take to defend your privacy. 

from Engadget:

It’s tempting to imagine that few online safeguards will stop NSA surveillance in its tracks, but that’s not true. A new leak from Edward Snowden’s files reveals that there’s a surprising number of ways to thwart these snoops, at least as of 2012. While you may already know that the NSA sees Tor’s anonymity network as a problem, it hates the heavy encryption on chat protocols like CSpace or Off-the-Record, internet calling systems like ZRTP or highly secure email systems like Zoho. Use two or more of these services in tandem and you may as well disappear completely – the NSA considers the combination a “near-total loss.”

So what are the easy pickings, then? For the most part, it’s relatively simple web encryption, such as what you get at loosely-protected chat and webmail sites. And while this is no longer a shocking revelation, many ostensibly secure virtual private networks aren’t that hard to crack. The good news is that the internet is getting more secure. Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and others have all introduced greater levels of encryption, so it’s less likely that surveillance agents will casually scoop up your conversations.

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The thing about the major tech companies like Google and Yahoo is that they scoop up all of your information on their own. They also have “back doors” that give access to government agencies when called upon. 

Report claims Facebook is tracking users who sign out and ask not to be followed

Somewhere, Obama is smiling and nodding in approval…

from Independent:

A new report claims that Facebook secretly installs tracking cookies on users’ computers, allowing them to follow users around the internet even after they’ve left the website, deleted their account and requested to be no longer followed.

Academic researchers said that the report showed that the company was breaking European law with its tracking policies. The law requires that users are told if their computers are receiving cookies except for specific circumstances.

Facebook’s tracking — which it does so that it can tailor advertising — involves putting cookies or small pieces of software on users’ computers, so that they can then be followed around the internet. Such technology is used by almost every website, but European law requires that users are told if they are being given cookies or being tracked. Companies don’t have to tell users if the cookies are required to connect to a service or if they are needed to give the user information that they have specifically requested.

But Facebook’s tracking policy allows it to track users if they have simply been to a page on the company’s domain, even if they weren’t logged in. That includes pages for brands or events, which users can see whether or not they have an account.

Facebook disputes the accusations of the report, it told The Independent.“This report contains factual inaccuracies,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “The authors have never contacted us, nor sought to clarify any assumptions upon which their report is based. Neither did they invite our comment on the report before making it public.

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Naturally, Facebook denies these allegations, but who are you going to believe?


Ever since I started looking online for baby shower gifts for a couple friends, every pregnancy product company has sent me coupons and catalogues galore. I arrived home today to a box of baby formula samples and nearly $20 in checks for Gerber merchandise.

It’s gotten beyond ridiculous, so I finally wrote into Gerber. Coupons are one thing, but wasting formula samples on someone simply doing internet searches when there are needy mothers with starving babies out there…

I have a local friend who needs this, and I’ll be bringing it to her shortly.


Auguste and Emery Talk About the Internet.