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.

Digital Citizenship: the 9P’s students need to know, from @Edutopia

I’ve been concerned about the future repercussions students may have from studying with us (Blyth, 2011; and Blyth, 2015; at publications). Then Edutopia.org publishes this lovely, succinct, info graphic that is easily accessible by students and teachers. Now, there’s no excuse for low-internet literacy. Also, a special thanks to Edutopia for letting me repost their info graphic (post), from their original Twitter post, and their blog post with lots more information. Maybe it’s time I get a graphic artist to turn my key concepts into an info graphic, too.

Digital citizenship from Edutopia.Org. http://www.edutopia.org/blog/digital-citizenship-need-to-know-vicki-davis?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=socialflow

Digital citizenship from Edutopia.Org. http://www.edutopia.org/blog/digital-citizenship-need-to-know-vicki-davis?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=socialflow

Future of privacy and safety on the internet

It is widely understood by about 90% of the population that the future of our societies will be internet based. Companies are talking of an “Internet of Things”, which means a lot of our devices will be connected to the internet, and thus allowing us to control them remotely. Imagine being able to run a hot bath whilst you’re on your way home from work, and being able to turn on a heater to warm your place before your arrival in the depths of winter. Already, people have pet cams, that allow them to monitor their pets, whilst they’re at work.

However, there is an atavistic, Luddite reaction to the internet. They, politicians and company managers, clearly do not understand what they are proposing, and the consequences. For instance, currently in the UK some politicians are proposing to ban encryption (Wikipedia). Such a ban would make all of your communications vulnerable to access by anyone. All your phone and computer access to people, to websites, information, and even your contacts, photos, videos, and documents. It’s like banning locks and walls on houses, allowing only windows and open spaces.

Already now, internet literacy is important, but sadly, it seems many Japanese adults are clueless about this (Murray and Blyth, 2011). Here are two websites that talk about privacy on the internet, and how to protect yourself from online bullies, online gangsters, and intrusive governments: New Matilda, and Edutopia. In short, they say these things, among others (see the original sources for details).

CC Renee Aquirre, 2013, https://flic.kr/p/gwF5CH

CC Renee Aquirre, 2013, https://flic.kr/p/gwF5CH

Passwords: Have a unique password, and a unique one for each website. The password can be broken by a computer trying multiple combinations often starting with easy (dictionary words) to more difficult keyboard combinations, so a ‘strong’ password is a must. For example, choose your favourite movie quote, use only the first letters of it, and your lucky number (not your date of birth, or house number), and the first letter of the website you use, like Twitter. For instance, “Frankly, my dear. I don’t give a damn” from Gone with the Wind (1939), would be: FMDIDGAD8T. So, you could use this for most of your websites, and it will be a little unique to each website. However, this is not a foolproof method. So invent your own system.

Internet browsing: Use something like Firefox. It is far safer than Windows Internet Explorer, and you should set it to never remember your passwords, and to clear your browsing history automatically after closing it. It’s also faster, and lets you install security features like HTTPS Everywhere (EFF). Also use Blur to block tracking. There are companies and other groups that want to know what websites you are looking at, and the information you send and receive. If you’re really worried, use TOR for slow, but safe internet browsing (Wikipedia).

Personal information: Only share it face to face, never over the internet. Where possible, don’t use your real name, but a pseudonym. Facebook might seem alluring, but don’t over-share things. There are parents out there who already prohibit people from sharing photos, and even the names of their children on Facebook and other SNS (Blyth, 2015). Only store your credit card information on the most reputable websites (like Amazon), but still expect that Amazon will one day lose control of this information.

Photographs: Say no to selfies. Don’t post them on websites willy-nilly, simply because current face recognition software exists, is good, and is used by Facebook and Google+ (Blyth, 2015). I avoid sharing my photo anywhere, unless I really must. Otherwise, I use degraded versions, or avatar-like photos. All your photographs should be listed as “Copyright”, so people cannot use them as they like. If you take photos of friends, classmates, or family, and really want them to be Creative Commons, ask permission first; and if you’re asked, look at the photo and choose wisely.

Webcam shot. CC paul.klintworth, 2008. https://flic.kr/p/4TpERP

Webcam shot. CC paul.klintworth, 2008. https://flic.kr/p/4TpERP

Hardware: Disconnect things you don’t need like your webcam and microphone when you don’t need them. There is software that can remotely easily turn on your webcam  and record what you are doing in your bedroom (Google Search).

Online chats: Don’t use Skype, as it can be easily hacked into. Anything you say over the mic, or show over the webcamera, can be viewed and recorded by a third (unknown) person. So use Signal, or CryptoCat. Also consider using Virtual Private Networks (VPN; Wikipedia).

Free apps are not free: It’s true. If you are using a free app on your phone or tablet, then the app maker is making money from you (The Guardian). How? They gather information from you, like your contacts list, browsing history, the products you click on on Amazon, and so on. They then sell this information to advertisers. Ever wondered why you suddenly started to get spam for home insurance, not long after you Googled “Home Insurance”? Or how about memory pills after you messaged something about “exams” to a friend. You are being spied on by companies who want to sell you things. Only use apps you pay for, and only from reputable makers.

Get Educated: The Australian minister for parliament, Scott Ludlum, says that we should “get educated” regarding how to safeguard ourselves. The technology is always changing, and so we need to keep upto date. For more information, take a look at Fried.com/Privacy/, Privacy Tools, and EFF Twitter feed.