28th Jan is Data Privacy Day

I didn’t know there was such a thing called “Data Privacy Day” until I got an email from the CEO from Tresorit, sent to all his service’s users. What is interesting is that privacy’s such an important concept that ensures freedom of speech and democracy, but Data Privacy Day has never been talked about in the media, at least, I’ve never seen it in the media, and so today was the first time I’ve heard of it.

Why is data protection and privacy important? It protects journalists who wish to report on corrupt politicians, or wish to inform the public of the illicit deals politicians make. It protects journalists and allows them to inform us of significant events that affect the quality of our democracy. And it’s not just journalists who need protection, it’s us too.

HackNY Spring 2013 Student Hackathon. CC Matylda Czarnecka 2013. https://flic.kr/p/edufZT

HackNY Spring 2013 Student Hackathon. CC Matylda Czarnecka 2013. https://flic.kr/p/edufZT

George Bush junior used the phrase that if you’ve done nothing wrong, then you’ve got nothing to hide. An American friend of mine echoes this saying, “I’ve got nothing to hide, so if it helps to catch terrorists, then great”. However, not one single terrorist has ever been caught from a dragnet mass surveillance programme. Not one single terrorist plot, we know of, has ever been prevented. We see that terrorist groups are still able to recruit members openly on the internet and spread their propaganda. We see journalists and their sources arrested. Instead of an erosion of our enemies, we see an erosion of our freedoms and democracies (see The Guardian, The Hill, Wired). So, safe, secure access to information and communication is important.

It’s not just an issue with a belligerent government; criminal groups do exploit unsecured communications. Consider your Amazon account, your bank’s online access, your eBay account, too. I’d like to bet you use an email service like Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo and the like, or even the Apple iCloud system. All of which have been hacked, and passwords obtained and identities stolen (BBC, The Guardian). Thus allowing the criminals to spend your money, or just steal information that may be damaging to your reputation. Consequently, a secure internet is important.

Credit Card Theft, CC Don Hankins 2007, https://flic.kr/p/3qTLZW

Credit Card Theft, CC Don Hankins 2007, https://flic.kr/p/3qTLZW

How can the internet be secured? http://fried.com/privacy/ has a long list of over 150 tools you can use to secure your interaction with the internet and keep you safe. In short, you really must have at least these:

  • Encrypted email (like ProtonMail), especially to protect your SNS passwords
  • Encrypted cloud storage (like Tresorit, TeamDrive)
  • Encrypted messaging service (like Threema or CryptoCat)
  • Avoid Facebook
  • Use Firefox with Blur and HTTPS Everywhere (I think not all of these are compatible with each other).
  • A Virtual Private Network (VPN)
  • Avoid using your real name on most social networks like Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and others.

Why avoid FaceBook? I’ve written before that it’s just the most creepy organisation there is. The CEO of Tresorit reminds us of this with this simple quote (https://tresorit.com/data-privacy-day):

Facebook conducted a massive psychological experiment on 689,003 users, manipulating their news feeds to assess the effects on their emotions. – Forbes, 2014

I hope you don’t want to be controlled in the future. They also see your data to companies, which results in targeted advertising.

Essential tech tools for students

Welcome to a new academic year. Below are some important tools for students. Employers will expect their new recruits to have technology knowledge and skills. Your first year on the job should be about how to do your job the best, and be first for a promotion. Instead, many new recruits struggle in their first year learning how to do their job, and learning how to use a computer. Elementary, junior, and senior high school students in Australia, the UK, the US, and many other countries learn using computers, but not Japanese students. Really, you must have technology skills to help you do well in university, and for your career. Here is a simple list to get you started.

A Microsoft Surface 2 tablet, in front of an Apple. CC Kārlis Dambrāns 2014, https://flic.kr/p/kEAMZk

A Microsoft Surface 2 tablet, in front of an Apple. CC Kārlis Dambrāns

1. A real computer

What: Get a cheap laptop or Windows Surface tablet. An Apple iPad is a toy, but a laptop is a tool, get the right device.

Why: I use my three computers many times every day. You will need to:

  • Access the university website at home
  • Work on assignments
  • Do research for your assignments
  • To communicate with classmates and project members

2. A real email address

What: Use Gmail, Live, or ProtonMail.

Why: Never rely on mobile phone email addresses. Never share an email account with friends or family members; email is your personal private communication. You would never share your smartphone with your parents? Never share your email account either. Use an online company like those above, because you can access your email on your smartphone, any tablet, and on any internet connected computer.  Don’t use Yahoo, because it will share all your personal information and content with other governments. Note, ProtonMail is the safest and most secure email service in the world, and it will protect your privacy.

Data storage options, USB memory sticks and a cloud service like DropBox. (c) Andrew Blyth 2015, Winjeel.Com

Data storage options, USB memory sticks and a cloud service like DropBox. (c) Andrew Blyth 2015, Winjeel.Com

3. Storage

What: use Cloud like Dropbox (the most popular), or safest and most secure are TeamDrive (free) and Tresorit (free, safest, most recommended).

Why: One day, you will lose or damage your hard work. You also will use computers on campus and at home. Your files will need to travel with you. So, use both a USB Memory Stick and Cloud; get a USB memory stick from any convenience store, but you could lose it. Note, Tresorit is the safest and most secure cloud storage in the world.

4. Software

What: Use either Microsoft Office (Word), or Word on Office 365 (online), or Open Office (free download).

Why: To write your essays, assignments, job applications, etc.

For presentations, I already have a lot of options here at Presentations. Some presentation options are online, and so you can work with group members simultaneously.

5. Security & Safety

I’m surprised at how little Japanese people know about security and safety on the internet. It’s actually easy to do. You need these things, a good password, and protection for your computer.

Password: Easy to remember, but hard for computers to break. Example, choose your favourite words from a song you like, Katy Perry’s Firework, “Drifting Through The Wind, Wanting To Start Again?“, and take the first letters, add puncuation, and a number: Dttwwtsa?1 It’s almost impossible to break, but easy to remember. Then add the name of the service you’re using, like “Nanzan” > nanDttwwtsa?1, or DropBox > droDttwwtsa?1, so you have a password that is unique to a service, and easy to remember. It’s not the safest or best, but it’s better than “password123”.

Protect your computer: Use anti-virus and anti-spyware like ESET and S&D Spybot. Don’t use Microsoft Internet Explorer, it’s actually dangerous, use Firefox or Chrome, and add HTTPS Everywhere and Blur to protect your privacy. Also, never store your passwords in the browser or on your computer. Finally, don’t use Google Search, as it stores your search data, use DuckDuckGo.com for private searches.

For more advice on good safety, see Privacy Tools on the Internet.

Person on Apple Laptop. CC 2014, https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-apple-laptop-notebook-1171/

Person on Apple Laptop. CC 2014, https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-apple-laptop-notebook-1171/

Bonus. Websites

These websites are now really useful, and you should be using them. Visit these and press Ctl D to save them in your browser. More websites will be added later.

And more to come.