Do you need help using the Internet?

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coverI have a new book and it may just be the thing you have been looking for!  The name of the book is You’re Never Too Old to Surf:  A Senior’s Guide to Safe Internet Use. 

This book is for you if you have ever wanted to harness the power of the Internet, but haven’t been quite sure what that means or how to do it.  It is intended for the parents, grandparents and great-grandparents who want to use the wide range of tools that are available today on the Internet, from simply surfing the web to buying online, using email, blogs and even social networking sites.  You may have sought guidance from your child or children  only to be annoyed at their exasperated response to your questions.  Or, you may have tried it on your own, and gotten frustrated with the tools, or had some problem result from that use (or know someone who did).  You may be using the Internet, but just not feel very confident in what you are doing.  If you fall into any of those categories, I wrote this book for YOU!  Of course, if you are the child or grandchild and are having trouble explaining things to your elders, this book could help you too.

The book is available from Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.  Your local bookstore can order it too.  It is published through CreateSpace, ISBN 978-1506163857.

Please give it a try and let me know how you like it.

 

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Think Twice about what You Post

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Today I read a post in Facecrooks (which by the way is a positive site to help you protect yourself, despite the name) about a man whose posts lead to negative consequences.  The post started with:

According to police in Philadelphia, a 19-year-old man was targeted by three robbers after he posted on Facebook and Instagram about an inheritance of jewelry he had just received.

The three robbers kicked down the door of the victim’s home at 2:30 a.m. Saturday morning, making off with a Rolex watch, several gold chains and mobile phones. Thankfully no one in the home was hurt, but the robbers have not yet been caught.

According to the Hickory Record, the robbers were caught and during the questioning, they mentioned they had heard about the inheritance.  Clearly the young man who received the inheritance never intended for strangers to know about his good luck.

This is a case of not having Facebook privacy controls set appropriately.  To check YOUR settings, go to the small arrow at the far end of the blue border at the top of your Facebook page.  Click the arrow and select “Settings” as shown below.

Checking Facebook Settings

Checking Facebook Settings

At that point,select “Privacy” from the left menu.  You will see a screen that begins with “Who can see my Stuff.”  If you have not already set it, this probably says “everyone.”  If so, edit it and and select the “custom” button.  You might want to set that to just your friends, or friends of friends.  Or, you can set it so that only specific people can view what you post.

If you have something valuable, such as the jewelry inheritance, you want the post to be sent only to your friends, and maybe not even all of them.  You can use your lists of people to narrow the group further.  If you have it set as “everyone,” not only can everyone who happens on your page read it, but they can also share it with everyone they know.  With this kind of visibility, it is not surprising that the bad guys got the news.

You need not adjust those settings the same for everyone.  But, for valuables or for photos of children (especially with other information), it is best to limit the range of people who see your post.

Facebook and Email

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Last week Facebook decided to replace everyone’s default email address with a Facebook email address for everyone.  For example, they changed my email address to vicki.sauter@facebook.com.  I never saw an explanation for why they made this change, but I heard a lot of the discussion of the problems that it caused.

First, this change impacted how people could search for friends.    We all know you can search by putting a name in the box at the top of the screen labeled “search for people, places, and things.”  However you can also put in an email address there.  Suppose, for example, you were looking for John Smith.  There are a large number of John Smiths from which to choose and maybe your friend doesn’t have a photo, or is using a photo of his children, dog, or an interesting plane as a profile photo.  It may be impossible to know which John Smith is actually your friend.  However, if you search for his email address, let’s say jlsmith1234@yahoo.com, you will find him directly.  Once Facebook changed everyone’s email addresses, they hid real email addresses, so that this kind of search was no longer possible, thereby making searching difficult.

Second, there is no facebook.com email agent.  Yes, you can check messages by clicking on the globe icon on the left top of your facebook screen.  Not all messages sent via email seem to have been put there, however.  You also need to look in your “other messages” file;  I’ll bet you didn’t know there was an “other messages” file!  To get to these messages, click on the word “messages” on the left hand menu when looking at your newsfeed.  This click should show a another file called “other messages.”  I have not yet discovered how Facebook decides to deliver messages between your message folder and your other message folder.  However, you should check both.

Third, many people have smart phones and other smart devices that try to keep all of your contacts from different programs consistent.  If you have one of these, you should check your contacts and their email addresses.  Some devices replaced known email addresses with the facebook.com email address for all contacts.  This meant that you lost the real email address, which might cause problems for you if you need to actually email them.

Other devices decided that the contacts with these new email addresses at facebook.com were new contacts and therefore created a new profile for them in the contact/phone book list.  If you have a lot of connections between the your Facebook and phone book list, this can cause a lot of confusion.

What can you do?  Go to your “home” page (not your newsfeed) and click on “info.”  Scroll down to “contact” information and see if the accounts you want to be active are active. If you still have an email address at facebook.com, you can change it here.  (If you instead have the Timeline, click on “about” and edit your contact information.)

 

Facebook Privacy

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If you use Facebook regularly, you probably have seen the following in the last couple of days:

PRIVACY NOTICE: Warning – any person and/or institution and/or Agent and/or Agency of any governmental structure including but not limited to the United States Federal Government also using or monitoring/using this website or any of its associated websites, you do NOT have my permission to utilize any of my profile information nor any of the content contained herein including, but not limited to my photos, and/or the comments made about my photos or any other “picture” art posted on my profile.

You are hereby notified that you are strictly prohibited from disclosing, copying, distributing, disseminating, or taking any other action against me with regard to this profile and the contents herein. The foregoing prohibitions also apply to your employee , agent , student or any personnel under your direction or control.

The contents of this profile are private and legally privileged and confidential information, and the violation of my personal privacy is punishable by law. UCC 1-103 1-308 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED WITHOUT PREJUDICE

Ignore it, it is one of many hoaxes that appear on Facebook.   As I understand it, the law cited has to do with commercial law, and does not address anything about privacy in Facebook or otherwise.

BUT, the hoax does remind us of an important topic, Facebook Privacy.  Your privacy in Facebook is controlled by you through your privacy settings.   To find your privacy settings, look for the small arrow on the top right hand portion of your Facebook page, circled in the image below.   If you click on it you should get a listing of pages you own and some options.

 

From this menu, select “Privacy Settings,”  and you will get a menu of your various Facebook settings like:

 

These are the items that you can control.  Clicking on the blue “Edit Settings” will allow you to control the items in those categories.  So, if you select “edit settings” in “How you connect” you see a menu such as the one below:

 

 

This literally shows who can see you and request friendship or send messages.  In my case, I have left these settings open.  I have provided no telephone numbers, so there is nothing to see.  If I provided phone numbers, though, I would make sure only “Friends” could see the numbers.  By leaving open the email address, this allows people to find me by searching on the email.

I do know people who have limited who can send friend requests to only friends of friends.  It does limit the number of times you get friend requests, but it does limit your network to people in certain categories of your life.  If that is what you want, then button it down.

The second category is what people can post in the profiles or how Facebook controls tagging.

As you can see from the drop down box, in each case you can show the information to everyone (who has a Facebook account), to Friends of Friends, or just Friends.  In addition, you can limit it to people on certain lists, or even specify the friends using custom.  For example, I have limited who can post to or see my wall to Friends.  Although little of what I post on Facebook is too personal, I do not want everyone in the world being able to read it.   Limiting it to my friends does give me some control.

Now, what if you want to limit a specific post or photo?  Facebook does give you the ability to do that individually through the inline audience selector.  When you are posting, there is a blue menu at the bottom of the post as shown below.

 

Using the small arrow, you can select who can see the post to limit it to only some people, all your friends or everyone.  This gives you individual control.

A WORD OF WARNING:  While it is important to control your privacy settings so that unintended people do not get control of your personal information, you need to remember that once something is posted, you lose control of that information.  People who can see your post can easily re-post it or save it and post it somewhere else.  This is not a case of “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”  Rather, it is a case of “it is on the Internet FOREVER.”  Before you post, think carefully about how much of a problem you might have if the information ended up with your boss or co-workers, a potential boss, members of your family or whatever.  It might not be a problem today, but if it stays there forever, you might find it to be a problem later.

Facebook Privacy — Vote Now

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Social networking sites pose a threat to the privacy of every individual.  We love the sites because they allow us to share information and photos easily with our friends and family.  Many people also learn to hate the sites because their information suddenly is used in ways that the individual did not know could happen.  I have written before about the need to lock down your privacy in social networking sites, especially in Facebook.

Facebook is about to change their privacy settings — and they are allowing users to help them decide what to do.  In May Facebook proposed privacy changes and included a statement,

Opportunity to comment and vote Unless we make a change for legal or administrative reasons, or to correct an inaccurate statement, we will give you seven (7) days to provide us with comments on the change. If we receive more than 7000 comments concerning a particular change, we will put the change up for a vote. The vote will be binding on us if more than 30% of all active registered users as of the date of the notice vote.

That 30% hurdle is pretty significant, but you should voice your opinion by voting on the referendum by June 8 at 9:00pm (PDT).  To do this, go to https://www.facebook.com/fbsitegovernance/app_130362963766777.  When you come upon that page, there are four documents to consider, the current Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (SRR), the current  Data Use Policy, the proposed Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (SRR), and the proposed Data Use Policy.   Clearly, the proposed documents do not tighten the scope with which they protect data.  Instead the documents outline how Facebook will increasingly use more of your data in ways you did not intend.

While it is not clear that voting will make a difference, I suggest you vote BEFORE June 8.  I voted to keep the current documents and hope you will too.

A Sobering View of the Absence of Privacy

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It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and so it is with a view of privacy.   There has been much discussion in the press of late about the change in Google’s privacy policy and how that will impact Google’s ability to track everything about us.  That all by itself is troubling.  But, it is not only Google who wants to know how you search — so too do other organizations with which you do business.  To learn just how much of my behavior is being recorded, I installed the new add-on to Firefox called Collusion.  The whole purpose  of Collusion is to help you track who is tracking you in real time.  According to their website,  Collusion “shows, in real time, how that data creates a spider-web of interaction between companies and other trackers.”

There are two handy tools they provide, wonderful visualizations (as we will discuss in a moment) and an audio clue whenever information is being shared about your surfing.  The audio clue is a clicking sound that resembles the sound of a typewriter key hitting the paper.  I recommend you turn it on for a while because it quickly helps you become very aware of just how much information is being shared.   The constant clicking when you select a link — and even clicking when you are not using your browser if you have a page open and it refreshes — helps to sensitize you to the amount of information being shared.  After a while, it gets annoying, so remember how to turn it off too!

Now for the visuals.  I downloaded the application and began to do some surfing.  The map of the information sharing is shown below.

The visualization is interesting.  The circles with the halos represent places that you have visited during your surfing, while the circles in gray are ones you have not visited.  An arrow from one to the other indicates that the first site has sent third party cookies to the other site.  I recognize some of the icons like Blogger, LinkedIn, Adobe, Facebook, MSNBC, and Northwestern University.  Others have no icons or they are not ones familiar to me.

If you hover over any of the circles, you will get the URL for the site (for example as I hover over the Facebook logo, I see facebook.com).  In addition, it will highlight all of the connections to and from that site.  So, I see that Facebook sent third party cookies to bit.ly, cbs.com, and reference.com.  I also see that cbs.com sent third party cookies to facebook.com.

I was surprised by the number of hits and the links between the hits because I am careful about not accepting cookies from sites that I do not know.  So, I decided to clean out all of my cookies  and surfed some more.  The number of hits reduced for a while as shown below.

Another View of Surfing Behavior with Collusion

Things were a little better, but notice how much information is being shared even without the cookies.  That is because the websites use third party applications to collect the data and share the data.

After a few hours of surfing by my husband or myself, the map looked like:

A Map of Surfing for a Few Hours using Collusion

And, after an entire weekend, the map looked like:

The Data Collection from A Weekend of Surfing with Collusion

If you did not think people were watching your behavior before, you certainly should be convinced with this image.  Further, the links between the sites, where they now have joint data begins to paint a picture of who you are and what they might do to get or keep your business, or how they can sell your data to others who want to market to you.

The creators of Collusion recognize that the tool is a work-in-progress.  The website says they are working on adding more features, such as the ability to click on any node in the graph and tell Firefox to block third-party cookies to that site, and visualizing other methods of tracking besides third-party cookies.

Using Collusion was an eye-opening experience.  I am looking forward to that add-on that allows us to block these third-party cookies.  What I do is private, right?

How Private are your Facebook Posts?

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There were  two disturbing stories in the press today, both of which involve Facebook and how others use your data.  The first was in Forbes, and asks What Employers Are Thinking When They Look At Your Facebook Page.  Many people who looked at that story were amazed to learn that employers were looking at their Facebook pages at all, and even more amazed to learn they use the information in hiring decisions.  Potential employers are looking at your Facebook page to decide what type of person you are and whether you would fit into the culture of their organization.  According to the article, potential employers will look at the page, including photos, posts, status updates, conversations, causes and games and rate individuals on their levels of extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to new experiences.   As I look at postings, I ask what potential employers learn when someone posts every time he or she has a spat with a significant other, says unpleasant things about sports teams, spends significant time playing games, spells poorly, uses bad grammar or slang, and/or has many negative conversations.  If you look at your postings, are you the type of person with whom you would like to work?

I agree that you can learn many things about a person by reading their Facebook page and it might just provide insights into whether the person will be successful at certain companies.  However, what I fear is all that information taken out of context.  I remember when I first started teaching students how to design web pages and one of my students provided a link to “Bare Naked Ladies.”  I was taken aback until I realized that it was a band.   Today I frequently am confused with posts that refer to music I have never heard or television shows I do not watch.  I have committed more than a few faux pas commenting when I thought I understood the context, but was totally wrong.  While I try hard to think about context, I have found myself misunderstanding the meaning of posts by good friends and even my son.  The key here is that Itry to think about context before making an opinion …. what are the odds that overworked HR staff will cut the applicants the same slack?

This article was troubling enough until I read Govt. agencies, colleges demand applicants’ Facebook passwords.  Yes, you read that correctly, demand passwords, and access to all of the postings on one’s Facebook page.  Thanks to the ACLU, they do not get the passwords, but now expect people to log in and allow the interviewer to watch as they click on every link, photo, conversation, etc.  Campus athletes too must provide administrators access to their social networking sites  and allow them to monitor what is said to ensure the athletes are not saying negative things about the program.  What is next?  Will the bank administrator demand to see what I tweet and post before deciding on giving me a mortgage?  Will the government decide whether or not I am an undesirable by looking at my Facebook posts?

For the record here, I will note that personally I leave most of my posts open on Facebook because I post items that I want people to share, such as about this article. Hence I am not bringing this to your attention because I am concerned about what people will think of me.  Instead, I am bringing it to your attention for two reasons.  First, everyone needs to take responsibility for what is on his or her social networking sites and what is visible.  If you have things you do not want a prospective employer or college recruiter to see, then make sure your security settings prohibit them from seeing that material.   Put yourself in their place and see if the image you get is what you want them to have, and adjust your settings, friends and postings accordingly.

Second, I am posting this because I think we have lost the line between due diligence and invasion of privacy.  The post-9/11 world has brought increasing invasions of our privacy because we have let it happen.  If we are going to give up the right of privacy as a society, I think we should do it consciously.  The fact that information is in digital form does not make it any less private.  We need a dialog about what is happening and  the cultural implications of what is happening.  I am hoping we start it today.

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