Two Pithy Quotes on Social Media & Democracy

How can worldwide social media companies ensure that their digital tools are not used to promote chaos?

Social media and the digital tools that we use every day have transported us into a strange new era. As we use these tools to work and play we tacitly  allow them to collect incredible amounts of our personal information — content that documents our lives, likes, loves, and dislikes —  and we become sitting ducks for sham news and fraudulent information. Those who possess our information, good guys or bad, can use impersonal algorithms to assess and use our data.  Read my post about using Duck, Duck Go.

Fast Company’ article, Alphabet’s Eric Schmidt On Fake News, Russia, And Information Warfare describes how Google and social media companies were caught off guard by the manipulation of their systems and the prevalence of divisive news. The October 29, 2017, article by Austin Carr contains two interesting comments by titans of digital industry, though neither of them testified at the Capitol Hill hearings.    Continue reading

Can Honesty With Security Questions Not Be the Best Policy?

Do your security question answers unlock too much information?

Do your security question answers unlock too much personal information?

We hear a lot of discussion about secure passwords, but now people are wondering whether we should pay more attention to the answers we give for security questions.

The article Why You Should Lie When Setting Up Password Security Questions, over at the Techlicious site, makes me wonder whether security questions — and the answers that we provide —  should be re-evaluated. The article emphasizes the lack of security and privacy in our lives, and notes that by giving answers to security questions that describe our personal lives we set ourselves up for potential identity theft problems when hacks do occur.

Continue reading

Are You Thinking Enough About Phone Apps & Personal Privacy?

childing-typing1It seems so simple when we install apps. Download, click agree and OK a few times, and use. But it’s not as simple as it seems because we may be unintentionally giving free access to lots of our data. When is the last time you read the user agreement before clicking “agree?” When was the last tune you made sure your 21st Century digital kid to read the agreement?  The app install process is not that simple a process after all, because your data is valuable, and not just for you.

To learn more about what apps are inclined to do when you install them, check out a terrific privacy video (below) produced by Silentcircle.com, a company that makes secure communication products.                                                                                     Continue reading

Quizzes? Fun, but Each Quiz Wants Your Information

If like me you get a kick out of taking Facebook quizzes and sharing your results with friends, it’s time to think a bit more about caution and privacy. Have you ever wondered why these quizzes pop up on your account? Parents, teachers, and students all need to understand that these quizzes have little to do with entertainment and lots to do with getting people to part with personal information.

What is an IP Address?

What is an IP Address?

If you do not know much about online quizzes, and you take them or are tempted by many of them, spend a few minutes  reading What You Need to Know About Online Quizzes and Surveys over at the Webroot website and Facebook Quizzes: What Happens to Your Data at the BBC. Essentially, when you take a quiz you freely give out your personal information — and it’s not just the answers you provide, but also the data you allow the quiz creator to access. You also give up a bit more of your personal privacy and may have a small app installed on your Facebook page.

Continue reading

How Much Privacy Do I Have? DuckDuckGo Gives More

book-dg3-150wAlthough I believed that I had taken significant steps to maintain a modicum of privacy in my 21st Century digital life, I was wrong.

I am less than halfway through Bruce Schneier’s book, Data and Goliath, all about the hidden methods of collecting our personal data, and already I am discovering that my personal privacy plan has many holes. I’m not that different from most adults. Privacy, however, is going away, and we collaborate in the process by not making any specific decisions and by going along with the ways the Internet tracks us. We do have choices, and we educators and parents need to learn a lot more about maintaining privacy and then share what we’ve learned with young people.

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 10.19.26 PM

Vanity Fair has 11 trackers and widgets.

In the book’s first chapters Schneier addresses data collection, how trackers get added to my computers and digital devices as little files called cookies. With a quick search II found over 1,000 cookies and cache files on my laptop, despite the fact that I only allow cookies from places that I visit (about 650 were cookies). Some of these are useful and don’t bother me — like the cookies for the several catalogs where I  regularly make purchases, the newspapers which I read, and the educational and musical organizations which I like. Read more about cache. Continue reading

Google Dashboard: A Connected-World Teaching Tool for All Ages

A screen show from the Google Dashboard.

A screen shot from the Google Dashboard.

If you use Google, take a few minutes to check out the Google Dashboard and look over a detailed digital footprint snapshot of your Google activities. Learning about digital footprints is an important 21st Century connected-world skill.

The Dashboard keeps track of everything — and I mean everything — that you do on Google. It’s a dynamic digital footprint collection. To sign in and examine your Gmail or Google Alerts is easy, and you can also check out the other features offered by Google such as Google Docs, Google Calendar, Blogger, or Google Reader (many more Google products are available and new ones become available on a regular basis).

Google Dashboard is an awesome connected-world teaching tool for 21st Century children at any age and for adults, because it makes a point — concretely — about the amount of information that Google accumulates on each of us. Many people are surprised, and a bit disconcerted, on a first visit, because the Dashboard depicts a good deal about each user.

Continue reading

Project Eavesdrop: NPR’s Story About Our Unintentional Sharing

detective-2

Picture courtesy of Ollie Olarte on Flickr. Click to visit his site.

Just what can our Internet activity tell about us, and who can find the information? What do we unintentionally share? We tell our children not to share specifics kinds of personal information, but much of that information is somewhere — in the digital ether — a result of our various digital footprints, searches, apps settings, and smartphone connections, and waiting to be discovered.

Given the news about the massive amount of data collected by the National Security Agency, NPR reporter Steve Henn set out to find out how much of our data “seeps” out, potentially allowing others to learn all kinds of personal information about a person. Henn used himself as a test subject.

He called his story Project Eavesdrop, and NPR featured a radio report and posted the story online during the second week of June 2014 (a time when so many of us, busy with the end of the school year or the beginning of summer activities, missed this story).   Continue reading